Six months may seem like a long lead time to prepare for applying to business school, but there is a LOT more than just writing essays that needs to be done between now and September submission deadlines.
If you weren’t following along last month, check out our February tips.
Think back to when you applied to college or university. Six months before your applications were due your parents and guidance counselor were hounding you to make sure you were doing all the right things – preparing for and taking standardized tests, lining up summer experiences or job opportunities, engaging with teachers who you would ask to write recommendations, arranging school visits, and getting good grades in challenging classes. Business school is much the same! But, chances are, your parents are no longer on your back and you don’t have a guidance counselor to ensure that you stay on track.
My clients often ask what they need to be doing NOW. Here are six things you should do in March!
1. Clarify your short-term goals
If you don’t know where you are headed, how do you know you need an MBA to get there? Take time to investigate post-MBA opportunities. Find a job description for your dream role. If possible, arrange informational interviews with individuals who are in that role and learn about their background and responsibilities. Based on your experience to date, will an MBA prepare you to take on this job?
2. Meet with your manager
You have just six months to build out your work experience. Now is the time to ask for assignments that will enable you to get exposure and develop new skills. Do you need global exposure? Perhaps there is a project you could be staffed on for a month in a different geography. Ask for constructive feedback and find an opportunity to address it in the short term. If possible, let your manager know that you are thinking about applying for an MBA, share your goals and ask if you with have his/her support.
3. Prepare for the GMAT/GRE
If you haven’t already done so, decide which test you will take. While most schools are test agnostic, some prefer the GMAT. If you intend to pursue a career in consulting, you should take the GMAT since recruiters will consider that score when selecting interns and full-time hires. Schedule a test date and create a plan and schedule to prepare. If you need assistance in preparing, don’t delay. Get help NOW.
4. Build a list of target programs
Once you clarify your goals, you can identify MBA programs that will provide the resources that you need to develop the knowledge, skills and relationships to move forward. Start with a list of about 12-15 schools. As you research and learn more about the culture and offerings, as well as your competitiveness based on the class profiles, whittle the list down to 6-9 schools.
5. Remain engaged in leadership and community activities
Now is not the time to take a sabbatical from your community activities. If you are in a leadership role, consider using this time to hone your leadership style, use innovative thinking to push new ideas in your areas of influence and build a team to carry the organization forward when you step away. If you haven’t been actively involved to date, look for opportunities to engage NOW. Admissions committees can see right through applicants who step up to do one day activities in the summer before they apply. Don’t be one of ‘those people.’
6. Connect informally with potential recommenders
Beyond your current immediate supervisor, who will go to bat for you? You should have several people in mind to serve as an additional recommender. Invite them to lunch, go for a run, grab a cup of coffee, or a play a round of golf on the weekend. Share your goals and get a sense of whether or not they will support you in your quest to get an MBA. If any of those on your list have an MBA, be sure to ask why they chose the program they attended, what they loved about it, what they wish they had done differently and what advice they would share with someone considering an MBA.