If you want to maximize your chances of admission to top MBA programs, you should begin preparing your application as far in advance as possible.
Not only will early preparation give you a head start over other candidates, but it will allow you to develop an application that best represents your personality and ambitions.
You can use the tips described here to get you started on your business school admissions journey, while learning about the many benefits of starting your MBA application early.
Improve your GMAT With Less Stress
The GMAT is a basic, crucial component of your MBA application, and even for natural test-takers, it can take tens of hours of study—and multiple attempts—to earn a competitive score.
For more why MBA admissions committees care so much about the GMAT, see Is My GMAT Score Good Enough?. In short, it’s about the rankings.
David White, founding partner of Menlo Coaching, says that not having enough time to improve a low GMAT score can handicap otherwise strong applicants:
We see a large number of people who come in only a few months before the deadlines. Great profiles, great work experience, but the GMAT scores may not be where they need to be in order to win admission, because schools are always very picky on this. And if you just don’t have time to focus on the GMAT, trying to study and simultaneously write applications rarely works well.
In order to avoid this situation, plan ahead and begin working on your GMAT score well in advance of the rest of your application materials. If you begin early, you have time to learn the basics through a GMAT prep course, which is usually much faster than self-study, and also more affordable than private tutoring. The applicants who most frequently turn to private tutors are the ones who need to raise their score ASAP because they began their study too close to the deadlines.
Remember: there are so many other important parts of the application that take time and intellectual effort; you don’t want to be cramming for the GMAT while trying to write killer admissions essays at the same time!
Due Diligence Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Starting your MBA application early will also give you more time to conduct research on your target programs, a vital step in preparing a winning application.
After all, MBA AdComs want to see that you have taken the time to research exactly what a given program has to offer—and more importantly, how these offerings match your professional and personal interests.
By giving yourself enough time to compile thorough research on each of your target MBA programs, you will be able to impress admissions officers with a depth of knowledge about their school that distinguishes your profile from other candidates.
Start by visiting the schools’ webpages to understand the courses, programs and career support they offer, and then ask yourself questions such as:
- What unique offerings do your target MBA programs have that will help you achieve your goals? Even if your target MBA program’s resources are not literally unique, you can make your application more compelling by showing how those programs map to your development needs.
- What can you meaningfully contribute to that program and how? For example, can you bring guest speakers to campus, train classmates to interview in your industry, or make some other valuable contribution?
Build Bridges with the Schools
Networking doesn’t have to wait until your MBA application is in its draft stage. In fact, it shouldn’t!
Like school research, having a network of contacts with connections to your target schools is worth the time it takes to develop. A strong network will allow you to demonstrate to admissions officers that you have made the effort to seek out and speak with current and former students from their program. This will show your dedication, and will give you a more detailed understanding of the program than what you’d get from the school’s website alone.
So, how do you go about it?
The ultimate way to connect with the school is by visiting campus. In the current situation, most schools will host virtual admissions events too, so it’s wise to register and officially attend these. There are also great MBA events hosted by third parties that give you a chance to speak with representatives from several schools.
Additionally, most schools have “student ambassador” programs in which current MBA students volunteer to be an admissions liaison; you can speak with this person about their business school experience and ask questions about the school, the MBA curriculum, student life, and anything else about the admissions process.
Lastly, LinkedIn is a great resource for exploring personal connections who possibly have ties to your target MBA program. Typically, alumni are pretty open about sharing their experiences at business school, and many will claim that their time as MBA candidates was “the best two years of their lives!”
You Need Time to Reflect
At the end of the day, the application process asks that you reflect deeply on your personal and professional motivations for receiving an MBA. If you don’t give yourself the space to reflect on the answers to these prompts, you can’t expect to tell a convincing story in your written materials.
Consider this observation by Expert MBA Consultant, Yaron Dahan:
The clients who come up with the best MBA application stories start working even an entire year ahead of the application due dates. And in that time they can do outreach and network—and even just introspect. They can think about who they really are and how to show it through their MBA application.
Take Yaron’s advice seriously, along with the rest of the information covered in this article, and get a head start on your MBA application—at the end of the process, you’ll find it was worth your time.