A good MBA application is more like a marathon than a sprint. While sprinters head for the finish line in one mad dash, marathon runners must pace themselves over a long and grueling course. They must plan out times and distances, and thoroughly understand their own strengths and limitations. And they must train well in advance.
If you are applying in the 2014-2015 admissions cycle, the starting gun has not gone off yet. But that does not mean that you should not be preparing. Like any conscientious marathon runner, you should be using your time to get ready for the race. It’s time to begin your training program.
Make a list of target schools
This list should include top-tier schools as well as one or two schools where you are fairly confident of admission. If you consider yourself fully committed to one school, I encourage you to keep an open mind, and research options at other institutions. There is no need to limit yourself at this stage, especially since there are many great programs available. The 2013 Financial Times Global MBA Rankings is a great place to begin.
When researching institutions, there are a few questions that you should consider:
- Are you interested in studying in a particular region?
- Would you like a one-year or a two-year program? Most European programs last only one year. While the majority of American programs are two years, there are a growing number of programs exploring one-year options.
- Are you interested in joint-degree programs, combining your study of business with law, healthcare, engineering, technology, or other full-time graduate schools?
- If you are interested in international study, what are the visa requirements for that country? Will you be able to meet these requirements?
- Which schools have programs that best fit your area of interest or expertise?
Determine how you will pay for your education
MBA expenses and total cost of living typically ranges from $120,000-$150,000, but can of course vary depending on your living situation and scholarship options. Now is the time to nail down financial specifics.
- Will you have any financial sponsors for your education, i.e. a current employer? If so, what requirements do you have to meet for that sponsorship? Talk to your employer if you are unsure about sponsorship opportunities.
- Will you be able to take on the entire cost of the MBA, or will you need scholarships and student loans? Scholarship deadlines typically arise early in the admissions cycle, so it is wise to begin researching specific opportunities.
- Will you lose health insurance if you forgo a job to study? Many top schools offer student health insurance as an alternative.
- What is the cost of living in the towns and cities that you are considering?
Begin developing your personal brand
If you begin our unique personal branding process now, you will have more time to develop a thorough, compelling and nuanced personal brand that will be a tremendous asset during the application process. Your personal brand will encompass a wide range of factors, from your professional goals and experience to your character, values, and formative experiences. Check out our blog posts on Four Keys to Successful Personal Branding, and review our options for personal brand development.
Taking these steps now will prepare you well for a hectic application season, and enable you to develop a smart, compelling and well-crafted application that can greatly enhance your chances of success.
If you are ready to start training for this particular marathon, you might be a good fit for our Go Getter program, which helps students like you get a head start on the application process. Take a look.