As many aspiring MBA students are wrapping up Round 1 applications or anxiously awaiting a coveted interview invite, perhaps you are wondering where to begin! Do not worry. If you use your time wisely, you can complete several applications to submit before January deadlines. Here is what you need to be doing in October to ensure you get there.
Looking for a game plan? Join me for 90 Days Until MBA Round 2 Deadlines: What You Should Be Doing Week by Week on Monday, October 4, 12:00 p.m. ET.
1. Create a Test Plan
If you already have a GMAT or GRE score that you are happy with, congratulations! If not, standardized testing could be your most important focus this month—or maybe not. As the pandemic persists in certain regions, some schools are offering test waivers. If you are considering foregoing the exam, your first task must be to find out if your chosen programs require a standardized test score so you can prepare accordingly. Next, determine if it is in your best interest to skip the test. See 5 Reasons to Take an MBA Admissions Test (Even if It’s Not Required) for guidance. If you do go the testing route, use this month to decide which test you will take—such as the GMAT, GRE, or EA (Executive Assessment)—and schedule your test date. If English is not your native language, check each MBA program’s requirements for the TOEFL or other test of English language proficiency. Create a study plan that you can execute, and study!
2. Establish Your Strategy
Every MBA program wants to know why you want an MBA and what you plan to do post-MBA. Take time for self-reflection. Relax. Forget that you are considering getting an MBA. Instead, think about your proudest moments. Which landmark experiences have shaped who you are? What really motivates you? What do you love to do? What do you want to do in the future? Dream big! Your immediate post-MBA goal should be ambitious but achievable based on your experience to date. Your answers to these questions should inform why you need an MBA and what your goals are post-MBA.
3. Initiate School Exploration
Identify MBA programs that have resources that will address your areas for development and move you toward your goals. Sign up for newsletters. Register for webinars. Create a short list of MBA programs that align with your needs and goals. Schedule virtual campus tours and reach out to current students or alumni so you can connect and dig deeper.
4. Nurture Potential Recommenders
Beyond your current immediate supervisor, who will go to bat for you? Identify several people to serve as an additional recommender. Although it may be difficult or impossible to invite them to lunch, go for a run, or play a round of golf on the weekend, that does not mean you cannot nurture the relationship. Ask your recommender to join you for a virtual meeting (and each bring a cup of coffee!). Share your goals and get a sense of whether they will support you in your quest to get an MBA. Read our 4 Tips to a 5 Star Recommendation for more insight.
5. Research and Attend Targeted Events/Weekends
Many MBA programs host special events for groups of potential MBA students they are looking to attract, such as women, military, LGBTQ, and under-represented minorities. There are also events that bring together multiple MBA programs under the same roof such as ROMBA’s (Reaching Out MBA) Thriving Together LGBT+ MBA Conference, a virtual conference on October 7–9. Do your research.
6. Get Busy Work Done
In between thinking deeply and studying for your standardized test, give your brain a break and do some of the busy work. There is no Common App for MBA programs, so you need to create your own. Gather your transcripts. Make a list of your activities during undergrad. Write down the honors and awards you have received since you started college. This material will come in handy when you complete applications and rework your business school resume.
7. Forget About Essays—For Now
Although MBA programs have released their essay prompts, do not let those distract you now. Focus on your high-level strategy and the narrative you want to share with the admissions committee. Once you have nailed down your strategy and done your research on MBA programs, you need to approach each set of essays (and short answers) individually. There is no “personal statement” for business school applications, so don’t attempt to write one essay and rework it for different essay prompts. Trust me—it will not turn out well.
October is the month to lay the groundwork for successful MBA applications. Create your plan and strategy, and then start executing! Come Thanksgiving, you will be grateful for the time well spent.