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When should you start your MBA application?

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

If you’re planning on making business school a part of your career path, it can be challenging to decide when to start the actual application process. How much time do you need to prepare for the GMAT? When should you ask people if they will write a recommendation letter for you? How long does it take to write a good MBA application essay?

Here’s the reality: if you know you want to go to business school, whether you’re planning on applying in the fall or just some time down the road, start working on your application now.

Don’t underestimate how much work is actually involved! Many, many applicants come to us after having been astonished by how much time it can truly take to create an effective MBA application, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while.

Choosing the right MBA program

Every successful project or event starts with a lot of very detailed planning. Creating an MBA application package is no exception.

When you decide to get serious about getting into business school, it’s time to starting thinking about your overall application strategy. How many schools do you want to apply to? Where do you want to go (geographically)? Which schools offer classes/ groups that will further your career?

You want to start this process as early as possible, so that you have plenty of time to do your research before you commit to applying. Talk to current students and program alumni. Look at the curriculum of the program – does it cover the areas you wish to pursue your career in? Does the school’s instruction methodology match the way you learn?

It’s also a good idea to physically visit the campus wherever possible. Is the school in a location where you can realistically imagine living for 1-2 years? If you have a family, will they be happy living nearby – or dealing with long distance?

Ultimately, most applicants should choose to apply to 5-6 different business schools, with a couple of “safe” schools, a couple of stretch schools, and a couple in the middle of that range.

Unless you’re very comfortable with the idea of being wait-listed or denied admission and having to reapply in the future, it’s best not to apply only to stretch schools.

Laying the groundwork for b-school admission

Even before applications are opened and essay prompts are released, there is a lot you can do to start preparing.

The best MBA essays use specific examples to illustrate your response, and to paint a compelling picture of how you’ll contribute to your cohort.

Even without knowing the specific essay prompt, you can start brainstorming ideas. Think about times you’ve demonstrated leadership, times you’ve overcome adversity, times you’ve dealt with negative feedback, etc.

You should also start thinking about your story – the personal brand that you want to present to the admissions committee.

Understanding the arc of your professional story helps you determine which anecdotes and examples from your career and your schooling will be most important, as well as how to frame your resume and what details you can pull from your life story to support your message.

If you haven’t yet taken the GMAT – or you don’t have a competitive score – you’ll need to plan out a GMAT study schedule. The more time you can give yourself, the more effective your studying will be, as you’ll be able to continually circle back and reinforce weak areas. It will also give you time to find a tutor or take a GMAT prep class if you determine you’d benefit from some outside help.

Starting your MBA application planning early also lets you mitigate any weaknesses in your candidacy.

For example, if you know your undergrad was light on the type of quantitative experience that your target schools like to see, you can find a way to take on more quant-based projects at work (also an excellent way to demonstrate leadership skills), or take some math and stats courses at a local college.

Get as much as you can out of the way now so you can avoid the application crunch that comes up as you approach the b-school deadline. Strengthen your relationships with the people who would be your most effective recommenders and get your resume up-to-date.

Taking the next step

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Wherever you are in the MBA application process, EXPARTUS can help you cut through the confusion and build an application package that paints you as the clear choice for admission.

We can help you get off on the right track, learn to mitigate your weaknesses, and help you develop a compelling personal brand. Get in touch with us today to get started.