April is the start of April showers and another MBA application season that will last until October. While October may seem awfully far away to begin the process, most successful candidates applying to the top business schools invariably start their submissions at least six months before they are due.
Here are seven steps you should take now to seed the best possible application:
Is it your intention to be in business school starting in Fall of 2017? This is the most important question you can answer. If the answer is yes, then get started today.
2. Answer the three whys
Once you commit, then start the process by answering these three questions: Why business school? Why now? Why this particular school? These questions will be there throughout the application process. Your answers to the three whys will lay the foundation for every aspect of your application going forward.
3. Put time to work for you
Take advantage of the time you have the time now to get organized. Identify and approach your recommenders. Have you taken the GMAT? The TOEFL? If not, schedule them now. Determine whether you need some help prepping for your tests, must complete a course or need a tutor? Addressing these items today will allow you to course correct along the way.
4. Find it, fix it
No candidate is perfect, so now’s the time to find what your imperfections are and address them. For example, if you don’t have a great quantitative background, consider taking a course. If your community involvement is thin, volunteer at a non-profit. If you lack leadership experience, how about taking on a new project at work? Nothing remains hidden at top MBA programs, so recognize your weaknesses and deal with them. This strategy will not only help you but will show business schools that you are self-reflective and will work to address your own weaknesses.
5. Start to choose
Finding the right school is more than just applying to the top 10 schools as if they are interchangeable. They are not. Successful candidates have well-thought-out reasons as to why a particular school fits them best. This process starts with the obvious places: rankings, books, school websites, other knowledgeable websites (like ours). But for victorious applicants, choosing a school is much more.
Communicating with people who either went to a school of interest or are attending now us key to understanding and choosing the school. They can provide you with a unique view that informs your understanding of the school, which will then filter into your application. We can’t repeat this enough, successful applicants show they understand the school and communicate why they are a good fit for it. Unsuccessful candidates, see every school as a commodity that gets the same essay. Open your rolodex, check the alumni database, work Facebook and LinkedIn and whatever else you can to get the “inside” story.
7. Make yourself known
At the end of the day, the admissions process is a human process. Admissions officers want to know you on the personal level because most people are different in person than they are on paper. Make a personal connection: go to recruiting events, visit the campus, see if admissions will set you up with a current or past student. Attend an event and chat with a junior member of admissions, get their email, ask them real questions. Don’t worry that they are “junior,” their voices around the table also count, and sometimes they may be your biggest champion.
April is the perfect time to start your business school application. You don’t need any late nights or “surprises” as that due date rolls around. Remember, one of your competitors for that last spot at the University of Perfect Business School has already started working on their application.