Everywhere you look, MBA programs are opening up their applications to 2023 hopefuls, which signals that we’re entering the heart of the admissions season. To help in the early stages of your application journey, we’ve put together this list of 5 activities you should consider investing your time and energy into.
1. Do Thoroughly Learn About the MBAs You’re Targeting
A lot of times applicants will rely on research that only goes skin deep—sometimes, it doesn’t even go beyond looking at an MBA ranking. However, competitive MBA programs are (1) actively trying to weed out applicants that aren’t passionate about attending, hoping to keep their yields (the percentage of students that matriculate) high; and (2) assessing whether individuals understand how they fit professionally, academically and culturally into the program. If you don’t properly research the school, you won’t be able to articulate why it’s the best choice for you, either in the application or during an interview, not to mention you would perhaps risk choosing a program that’s doesn’t meet your objectives.
Ideally, you should take the time to understand everything from a school’s location, structure, methodology, courses and professors, to its events, student organizations and employment opportunities. Beyond just reading through the website, it could be invaluable to join some webinars and to reach out to current students and alumni. You don’t need to memorize everything on offer, but you should be able to identify a variety of tools and experiences that you’d be excited of taking advantage of and/or that would help you with your professional goals.
2. Do Understand Your Competition
It’s important to note what we mean by your competition. Your competition is not the average GMAT/GRE score and undergraduate GPA at a school; it’s your bucket—people with similar profiles in terms of education, work experience and personal background. You need to understand how successful applicants in your bucket worked to differentiate themselves beyond standard metrics. For instance, HBS is not just looking for a consultant with a high GMAT score and strong work experience, they’ll have multiple candidates applying with exactly that sort of background for a single seat, rather, the admissions committee wants to identify a unique enough consultant that he or she will both make a strong contribution to the class and fit their definition of an ‘HBS consultant‘. Without understanding your competition, you risk taking a shot in the dark.
3. Do Have a Clear Idea of Your Message
Building on the previous points, messaging in admissions is vital. Once you understand how you can fit in and differentiate yourself, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what the program can offer you, you’ll need to develop a clear, comprehensive and confident-sounding message. The resume, essays and recommendation letters need to be developed around this message, each complementing the other, while avoiding unnecessary redundancy. You want the adcom member reading your application to come away from it with a clear idea of who you are in concise terms and to be able to, in the best case, reference you by a central theme.
4. Do Understand the Time Requirements
Applications take more time than most people realize. Treat the application process as one of the more important pitches that you’ll be making in your life, as it will have an impact on the direction of your entire career. You can run across stories of applicants to the most competitive MBAs rewriting their essays 100s of times. While those are extreme examples, you should plan to spend a significant amount of time ideating, writing and editing content for the app. And, as you’re trying to develop a cohesive narrative, you have to also pay attention to how all of the elements play together. So, be prepared to consistently set time aside in front of your keyboard and to do so well in advance of the deadline. It would be even better if you can plan ahead to have some breaks in between your writing sessions in order to come back to the content with a fresh set of eyes.
5. Do Prepare Your Recommenders in Stages
One thing we see year after year is that recommenders can be a bit slow to produce, especially when they’re in time-intensive industries. So, we find the best way forward is to work with your recommenders in stages. Two months out from deadline, or as far out as you can, you want to start discussing your project with them and alert them to your interest in using them as a recommenders, which will help them become more invested in it. Once you’re about a month or two away from deadline, you’ll want to bring them more directly into the process by discussing with them your needs and the message you want to convey through their recommendations. Finally, make sure that they have access to the actual recommendation platforms for at least a month, so that they can set the proper time aside to work on the content, and then be sure to check in with them regularly. If you leave it up to chance, a recommender might only sit down to work on your letter the weekend before an app is due, which could impact quality and even set you back a round if they get delayed or have an emergency.
Looking to jumpstart your own application journey? Connect with us to find out how our Admissions Experts can maximize your chances and your time.