MBA Application: The Three Part-Plan For Getting Into Business School In 2017
Ex-Harvard admissions expert reveals all
By Chioma Isiadinso
If you're serious about getting into business school in 2017, this three-part action plan will help you make it happen:
To prepare an effective MBA application, approach it the same way you would tackle a challenging project at work, or a new business case to solve. Start by gathering information and developing your resources.
- Define your personal brand. What sets you apart? What do you bring to the b-school community you hope to join? Your career is a part of it, but it isn't everything. What's your story?
- Decide where you want to be. What do you want your career – and life – to look like after you graduate? Why is business school the best way to accomplish those goals? Adcoms want the answers to these questions, and the sooner you start thinking them through, the more honest and thorough your answers will be.
- Once you've clarified your goals and values, you can start looking at specific MBA programs that would be a good fit for you. Rankings and prestige can be important considerations, but don't let them outweigh program suitability in terms of teaching style, post-graduation employment in your industry, location, and cost.
- Start prepping for your admissions exam. The earlier the better! The GMAT is still the better choice for candidates who need to establish their quantitative bonafides, but overall both the GMAT and the GRE are acceptable to all top MBA programs.
One of the great draws of business school is its ability to rapidly expand your network. Making a conscious effort to build strong relationships now will pay off in valuable connections by the end of the year.
- Identify possible recommenders early. Don't worry about reaching out to them with an actual recommendation request until you're much closer to the application process, but now's the time to start thinking about who has good insight into your skills and your work. Conversely, you may want to identify people who you'd like to tap for mentorship or closer working relationship so they'll feel comfortable recommending you down the line. Begin building a list (which you'll continue throughout the year) of projects, tasks, and accomplishments that showcase your strengths and leadership skills.
- Seek out informational interviews with people in your current (or intended) industry who have been to business school. Once you have a sense of your target schools, try to get interviews with alumni of those schools. Arrive prepared for your interviews with a sense of your interviewee's background, and a list of specific questions and advice you're seeking. Follow up with the people you've spoken to as you get further along in the application process, and thank them for their help once you've been accepted.
- Make every effort to attend recruitment events for your top choice schools, either in your own area or (if at all possible) on campus. Some schools, like NYU Stern, Tuck, and Haas, have a strong preference for applicants to visit their campus, and all admissions committees are happy to see applicants who are actively engaging with the school.
The final part of your MBA preparation plan is one you should begin as soon as you finish reading this article (if you haven't already). It's one you will continue throughout business school and, ideally, for the remainder of your employed life. It is the act of creating an engaged, fulfilling career, where you regularly take on new projects that challenge and excite you, and strive to build the career you've always wanted to lead. In the short term, this will pay off with a resume that adcoms will love and a wealth of experiences you can draw on for your MBA essays and interviews. In the long term, it will pay off in a life well lived.
She's also a former Harvard Business School admissions officer and the author of the Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets.
Chioma publishes on the topics of personal branding, leadership development and business school admissions for college students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and executives.