Early July is about two months before the first regular-decision MBA application deadlines, including HBS’s. You’re likely pretty overwhelmed by all there is to do, but it helps to lay out the tasks in steps to keep all the moving parts together. Here are some things you should do in July:
1. Revise Essay Outlines
Ideally, you began outlining your essays in June. It’s extremely helpful to outline essays before you tackle writing them in full sentences and paragraphs. Outlines allow you to determine if you’re on the right track before you get too far along wordsmith-ing if you’re off on a tangent.
For each school, put all essay prompts and your associated outlines in one document so you can see how they look all together. That’s how admissions committees look at essays. Make sure not to shove one school’s essay into another school’s prompt. Ad-coms can see through this and it doesn’t work!
2. Continue with School Research
Learn about specific classes at each program that can help you reach your goals. Which courses, both core and elective, will allow you to fill the gaps in your knowledge or skills base? What professors at that school are doing cutting-edge research in your field? What resources might there be at the university level, perhaps institutes or centers, that might be aligned with your goals, such as a Healthcare Center or a Leadership Institute?
3. Start Your Online Applications
This is busy work. You can start this now and save yourself a lot of annoyance later. There’s not a common app for business school, so for 4-7 schools you’ll have to fill in all your information, including all the jobs you’ve had as well as basic biographical information for each online application.
Start now by making a list of all the extracurricular activities you’ve engaged in dating back to college, including the roles you had in the organizations, a brief line about your responsibilities, and the dates you were involved. If online applications are available, take a break from the challenge of essays and enter your contact information along with any other information that won’t change.
4. Make Formal Ask for Recommendations
If you don’t work directly with one or both of your recommenders, ideally you’ve been staying in touch and keeping the relationship current with informal meetings, coffee, lunch, etc. July is the time to formally ask for your letter of recommendation, maybe before they go on a summer vacation. Share your goals and highlight your accomplishments at the organization.
5. Write First Draft of Essays
When you are pleased with your outlines for each school’s essay prompts, it’s time to start on the essays. Write a draft and share it with a trusted advisor who will give you honest feedback. For each school, get all the essays together in one document and compare against the short answers in the application to ensure there’s not too much overlap and the pieces complement one another.
6. Create or Update Your Resume
Admissions committees will likely review your resume for less than one minute but you can craft a resume that grabs their attention and makes a lasting impression. In that short time, they are getting an impression of you as a person, an employee and as a potential student at their school. Also, make sure to keep the resume short and sweet. MBA applicants typically have 3-6 years of work experience so there’s no need for your resume to be longer than one page.