Since most universities won’t even release their essays until June/July, it’s natural to wonder if there’s anything to do in the admissions process that’s really worth your time right now. The answer? A resounding yes!
Here are the top 5 activities we recommend to applicants before they start building their essays:
1. Research and Connect with the MBA Programs You’re About to Apply To
Possibly the most common misstep applicants make during the admission process is not having enough of a deep understanding of the programs they’re applying to, which can translate into a host of issues, including more generic essays and weak interview performances. Now is an ideal time, if you haven’t already begun, to start diving into the program offerings and culture at the MBAs you’re interested in. You’ll find a wealth of information on their official websites concerning their structure, courses, professors, clubs, events, and much more. As you take in the information, try to establish links between what the MBA offers and your own experiences, strengths and weakness, and the requirements of your future professional objectives.
Also, don’t just learn by reading; interact with the MBA programs. Joining webinars, coffee chats and, when possible and prudent, visiting campuses not only will provide you with additional insights into the program that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere, but will also be tracked by the MBA programs you’re applying to and may be viewed as a positive sign of your interest and intent. Beyond interacting with the MBAs directly, you can also gain useful information and contacts by networking with current students and alumni.
2. Retake the GMAT/GRE
For this suggestion, we’re assuming you’ve already taken the GMAT or GRE (if you haven’t, taking one isn’t so much a recommendation as a necessity). As entrance exams still play an important role in the admissions process, it doesn’t hurt to consider whether your score can’t be improved upon. As a caveat, the exam score any particular individual really needs to enter the realm of consideration by an admissions committees varies based on a large host of factors that place you in a particular bucket (i.e., the people you’re competing against directly for a seat at a coveted MBA).
So, if you feel that either you could have done better on the examination or that your score is weak relative to what the MBA program would like to see from someone with your profile, there likely is a strong benefit in retaking the exam. Keep in mind, there is no penalty for resitting a GMAT or GRE exam and, statistically speaking, test takers just tend to do better the second time around (even without significant study). However, you need to weigh retaking the exam against your time constraints relative to the other admissions activities you could be working on.
3. Learn More about Your Post-MBA Employment Opportunities
Some people are completely sure about what they’d like to do professionally after graduating from their MBAs. However, we find a healthy majority are not quite certain about what they’d like to do or are, at the very least, pretty open to different opportunities. As application and interview processes often involves explaining, contextualizing or justifying your post-MBA career goals, it’s really imperative to have a strong grasp of everything from job requirements to potential career paths and exits. It also never hurts to start some light networking as you learn about potential employment opportunities.
And, remember, you’re not signing a legal contract when you mention that you’re going to be working in, say, strategy consulting after graduating; you can always change your career targets once you’re accepted to your dream school.
4. Work on Your Admissions Resume
The CV you used to apply for your most recent role is likely very different from the one admissions committees would like to see in your application. Since you’re undoubtedly going to have to send out your resume to each MBA you apply for, there’s no time like the present to start working on it. Keep in mind, this one-page piece of paper is going to play an oversized role in your admissions process, as it may be both the first and last document (following you all the way to the interview) that’s going to be seriously evaluated. So, put your heart into it.
You can get a better sense of the importance of your CV in this case study.
5. Start Connecting with Your Recommenders
Choosing your recommenders isn’t necessarily a cakewalk, as you have to identify the individuals who can best complement the content of your future application and can best support someone with your profile. While you don’t need to make your final choice months ahead of time, it is very much to your benefit to begin broaching the subject with potential recommenders for a lot of good reasons:
To start off, your recommenders will be with you on the journey for a longer period of time rather than feeling that they were a last-minute consideration, making them much more invested in advocating for you. Moreover, with deadlines often coming around heavy travel periods, reaching out early will allow you to manage your recommenders timelines to make sure that they can submit their letters promptly. And, this way, you can plan for backup recommenders, as there’s always a slight risk that someone you choose will go AWOL. One final important consideration is that there is a preference among MBA programs to have your current supervisor pen one of your recommendation letters, which can be a touchy subject for a lot of people; it could be valuable to have time to test the waters with a boss who you might be worried about revealing your plans for an MBA to.
If you’re unsure about how to best spend your time or you’re ready to jump into the application making process, take 30 minutes to connect with an Admissions Expert who will help you find the ideal strategy.