MBA Preparation Spring Clean Up – Seven Tips for April

Now that spring is here, time to do some cleaning up! Take a moment in-between dusting and vacuuming to organize your MBA applications as well.
1. Articulate Why MBA? And Why Now?

Earning an MBA should be a transformational experience. For two years, you grow your skills, knowledge and relationships to take your career to the next level. But WHY do you want an MBA? And WHY is NOW the right time to get one? Just because your friends are getting MBAs doesn’t mean that you need one too.

Last year, I worked with a client who wasn’t admitted to the two top tier schools she applied to. BUT, she was grateful for her work with Stratus because she came to understand that she didn’t NEED an MBA to reach her short-term goal. She simply transitioned to her dream post-MBA job without having incurred debt and given up a salary for two years. That’s a win!

If you can reach your goals without an MBA, now may not be the right time to apply.

2. Take the GMAT/GRE – Re-assess

Before you spend too much time researching MBA programs, it is important to know where you stand in terms of your competitiveness on standardized tests. Get a first pass at either the GMAT or GRE in the books this month. If you hit your target score, congratulations! Now you can focus on other areas. If not, take the time to re-assess. Perhaps you might switch tests.

Alternatively, you may want to investigate additional support, such as a formal test preparation class or even a tutor to provide focused guidance. DON’T WAIT! Trust me. You do NOT want to be working on essays while studying for a standardized test.

3. Visit several programs while still in session

Spring is a great time to visit MBA programs. Many second years have lined up post-MBA jobs, and first years know what they will be doing this summer.

Take time to observe the established culture, sit in on classes, and engage with students. Perhaps even attend a conference or other event that showcases a program’s strength in a functional or industry area.

4. Identify resources you will leverage to reach YOUR goals

While there are many great MBA programs, you need to find the ones that offer the resources that will move you towards YOUR goals. Investigate course offerings in your intended field and identify specific classes or professors you hope to learn from.

Outside of the classroom, think about which clubs, conferences and experiential learning opportunities will allow you to enhance your career. Think beyond just the business school; are there university-wide initiatives that support your interests? Perhaps an entrepreneurship center that brings together students from business, law, engineering, healthcare and public policy.

5. Maintain contact with recommenders

At this point, you should have a short list of individuals who you might ask to write your recommendations. Keep in touch. Tell them about why you want an MBA and what you have learned about yourself and different programs through self-reflection and school visits. Let them know about projects you are engaged with in your day job as well as outside of the office.

6. Remain committed at work

Now is NOT the time to take your foot off the gas. Use the next few months to focus on addressing any weaknesses or gaps in your work. Has someone senior to you given you constructive feedback? Respond to it. Step up to lead a team. Ask for an assignment in which you can develop new skills or knowledge.

Your manager will likely be writing a recommendation and your actions will be reflected in what he/she shares with admissions committee.

7. Start with busy work

There is no Common App for business school, so you need to create a centralized repository of all of the ‘standard’ materials that you will use across multiple applications. Put together a spreadsheet that captures the extracurricular activities you were involved in as an undergrad. Include the organization, dates involved, leadership roles held, responsibilities, time commitment and a summary of your accomplishments.

Start now, so you will have one less thing to worry about when you are on the last stretch.

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