When you think about the MBA application timeline, the prize at the end is acceptance to your school of choice.
Of course, getting to the end is a long process that begins with studying for and taking the GMAT, with plenty of other steps along the way.
Let’s examine the MBA timeline, only do so working backwards.
The End of the MBA Timeline: Acceptance
At the end of your application journey is the stage in which you (hopefully) have offers of acceptance from one or more schools.
If you find that you’re fortunate enough to have multiple offers, this stage of the process can be quite fun. With the power in your hands, you can take time to revisit each school, study each programme in more depth, and get to know the faculty.
Make campus visits again too, if possible. Without the pressure of the application process looming over you, you can focus on other factors like discussing the programme with current students and exploring the campus and community in a more relaxed fashion.
Once you come to a decision about which school you’ll attend, make it a point to connect with your future classmates. In fact, spend the summer building bridges with classmates, faculty, and departmental staff. Doing so will make your business school experience a more fruitful one.
The interview is one of the most crucial components of this process. Granted, not everyone will be called for an interview, but if you are, make the most of it.
You will need to spend time preparing for your interview. This includes having talking points at the ready so you can communicate using specific examples why you would be an asset to the programme.
This can be achieved through practice, during which you not only work on your delivery of answers but in which you practice making eye contact, offering genuine insights, and perfecting your ability to listen intently to the questions being asked.
Additionally, come prepared with a few questions to ask of the interviewers. Being inquisitive about the programme and the school shows the curious nature that admissions representatives like to see in prospective students.
Submitting your application – which will have taken weeks to prepare – is likely to be a stressful process during which you worry about every detail being perfect. And though striving for perfection is admirable, remember that admissions representatives aren’t going to put you in the “no” pile for a typo here and there.
Also be aware of the deadlines for application submission. Don’t assume that because you’re in the Pacific time zone that the time indicated on the application also refers to the Pacific time zone. In other words, don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application; doing so only increases the chances of something going awry.
Working on the Application
The MBA application is more than simply filling out paperwork. Instead, it’s a multi-step process that requires you to do some due diligence and include both academic and personal information.
Step 1 – Examine the Application
Once the application to your targeted MBA programmes are released, thoroughly examine them for specific requirements. This includes application instructions, details on the essay requirements, and the procedure to follow for including letters of recommendation in your application. Also note the application deadlines so you have enough time to complete and submit your paperwork.
Step 2 – Request Letters of Recommendation
After reviewing the requirements for recommendations, it’s necessary to act swiftly and make requests for letters to give recommenders enough time to write them. The last thing you want is to ask for a letter of recommendation last-minute. Not only does that reflect poorly on you, but a letter written in a time crunch also likely won’t be as persuasive as one written with plenty of time.
Help your recommenders out even further by giving them a copy of your resume, a list of your selected schools, potential talking points, information regarding deadlines, and submission instructions as well.
Step 3 – Brainstorm Essay Ideas
Each year, MBA programmes release new essay topics. Though it might seem that writing an essay is a simple task, many MBA applicants find that this is one of the most difficult aspects of the process.
The goal of your essay is twofold: one, to fully answer the prompt, and two, to do so in a way that reflects positively on you and makes you stand out from other applicants.
That means that you need to consider how your response can be framed in a unique way that communicates who you are as a potential student and as a person. That requires you to be honest, open, and genuine in your response. In other words, don’t just focus on what you say; focus on how you say it as well.
Brainstorm ideas and start drafting the essay, giving yourself plenty of time for revisions along the way. Ask trusted advisors to offer their feedback on your writing and use their constructive feedback to improve the final result.
Step 4 – Complete the Application
With so much riding on your letters of recommendation and the essay component of the application, it’s easy for MBA applicants to wait until the last minute to fill out the actual application.
This is certainly a mistake, as the application should be filled out with the same careful consideration that’s used to address the other application tasks. This includes giving thought to each question – including short answers – and putting forth maximum effort to ensure your answers address each question fully.
Taking and Retaking the GMAT
According to US News & World Report, prospective MBA students should plan to take the GMAT at least six weeks prior to the application deadline. This helps ensure that results are reported in time.
However, since most students benefit from a second try, it’s advisable to schedule your GMAT in June and then take it again in July so your scores will be included with your application materials in August. You have to wait 30 days to retake the test, but doing so sooner rather than later ensures that your studying will still be fresh in your mind.
Since MBA programmes look only at the highest score, you don’t hurt yourself by taking the GMAT a second time. In fact, many MBA schools encourage applicants to take it multiple times to get the highest score possible.
The Beginning of the MBA Timeline: Start to Study
The first step in MBA timeline is to begin studying for the GMAT. Though it might seem like it can wait, studying now is the most prudent option because it allows you time to get prepared well before the June round of GMAT testing.
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Additionally, most MBA applications become available in June or July. By studying now and taking the GMAT in June, you will save yourself undue stress by getting the first two steps in the process out of the way before working on applications and participating in interviews.
Studying for the GMAT is not a process that should be taken lightly. It’s something that will require dozens and dozens of hours of studying and preparation, so starting now will ensure you’re well prepared come test day.