A successful business school application requires exemplary preparation because you will be competing against hundreds of other applicants. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Plan everything meticulously and then your uniqueness, professionalism, past achievements, potential and authenticity will stand out throughout. Getting caught unprepared somewhere along the way is the worst scenario.
Below are five steps you can, and should, take in order to submit an exceptional MBA application.
Register and prepare for the GMAT
One of the first steps in the business school application process is to prepare for the GMAT exam because most students require three to six months of careful groundwork to get a good score. Practicing GMAT test questions from previous years, with a reduced self-imposed time limit, is a very good preparatory tool for cracking the GMAT exam. This process will keep your mind sharp and in the groove to answer these types of questions in a shorter time period. This means that when you face the real GMAT test, you will not be under any time pressure, which is one of the greatest killers in these kinds of competitive exams. Once you find that time is short, you will begin to panic, and panic will, in turn, hinder your sharpness and clarity of mind.
Check out: Breaking Down the MBA Application Timeline
Know yourself, warts and all
Dig deep. Invest some time thinking about your career to date. Review the directions you have taken and decisions you have made. Remember all your strengths and unique experiences. You might discover strengths which you never knew you had! Try to connect the dots between who you are as a person, what you studied as an undergraduate, where you chose to work and what you like doing in your spare time.
Now, try to list all your qualities together with examples that underline them. These will be the basis for your MBA application. For example: try to find examples of your ability to communicate lucidly (both verbally and in writing) with individuals as well as groups. This is a soft skill much prized in business schools and one that can also elevate you above candidates who may be technically superior.
Reach out to potential recommenders
You must connect with possible recommenders well in advance of the application deadlines to reinforce relationships and ensure that they know you well. This is vital in order for them to provide you with the strongest possible write-up. It is imperative that your chosen recommenders give you a glowing reference. Avoid certain individuals – irrespective of their titles or qualifications – if you harbor any suspicion that their endorsement may be less than wholehearted. Additionally, you are advised to choose recommenders with whom you have worked over those who know you vaguely. In other words, always choose your boss, and not your boss’s boss, even though the latter may be senior. Give your contacts four to six weeks to complete the tedious online recommendation forms from all the different schools you are applying to because they will have to spend a lot of time answering various questions about you, in writing, from different admissions’ committee members. You may be required to select two referees; one should have known you in an academic environment and the other from a work/professional situation, who has had an opportunity to appraise your ability to work in teams as well as individually.
Research properly and adequately
It’s important to research as fully as possible the specifics of the course for which you are applying. Admissions’ committees are particularly wary of students who have shunned basic research and just “copy and paste” their applications from school to school. Successful candidates are proactive and target clear goals post-graduation. They aren’t just looking to study for 12 or 18 months but prize a specific business school as the best possible place to learn, grow and help them on the path towards reaching their short and long-term career goals.
Stay relevant and fill any gaps in your resume
One of the most common oversights in applications is a lack of relevance in skills and experience cited on forms and CVs. Admissions’ committees want to see evidence of financial acumen and, ideally, work experience in a commercial or business environment. Even if you have only been an intern or a volunteer, they want to know what you’ve learnt and how this attests to your eagerness to work in a business. Ideally, schools would like to “understand” their applicants and the decisions they have made over the years. For example: a great application would be from a candidate who learnt his undergraduate degree in hospitality. Throughout university, the candidate worked as a waiter. Post-graduation, the candidate took 6 months off, and flew to Japan to explore Japanese cooking and hospitality. Later, the candidate became a shift manager in a large chain of restaurants, and a year later he was promoted to restaurant manager. He is now considering an MBA to fulfill his dream of opening a chain of restaurants.