Mapping Out Your MBA Application Timeline

MBA timelineOnce you’ve decided to pursue an MBA, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Applicants need to fit studying for the GMAT, visiting schools, and developing essays in with other personal and professional commitments.

If you’re planning to apply to business school in the fall, come up with a game plan for completing the admissions components within a schedule that doesn’t necessitate sleepless nights and a jumbo bottle of Maalox. The best way to do this is to put together your MBA application timeline several months before your target deadlines.

Community Involvement: Now is a great time to deepen or establish your involvement with a community organization. If you have been involved with outside activities over the last couple of years, consider stepping your activities up a notch. Consider roles that will allow you to take a leadership position and create real impact before September. Offering to organize an event is a great discrete activity that will allow you to work in a team, have an impact, and show results.

Allot time for essays and the GMAT: The amount of time MBA aspirants will spend on their applications will vary, depending on writing abilities and general work efficiency. That said, plan to spend between 40 and 60 hours preparing four to eight applications. Non-native English speakers will also likely need to allot more time on their applications, particularly on writing, revising, editing, proofing, formatting, and inputting essays.

The other piece of this puzzle is, of course, the GMAT. Have you completed the GMAT and are you satisfied with your score? If you still need to take the GMAT, you have a lot of work ahead of you, as applicants typically devote at least 100 hours to test preparation. Depending on where you are in the process, you may have to take a prep class and perhaps take the test more than once. The good news is, Round One is still nine months out so you have time if you get serious soon.

Bolster your quant profile: An undergrad GPA hovering around 3.5 is generally considered fine. If your GPA is a 3.2 or below, or you majored in liberal arts, you may want to consider taking quantitative classes to enhance your academic profile. The MBA canon generally consists of Calculus, Statistics and Microeconomics.

If you took any of those classes in undergrad and scored a C or below you should certainly re-take the classes now. Where you take the class is much less important than the course material and grade (aim for A’s!!). The local community college is a great option.

Structure your work sessions: Some people work most efficiently when they can break up tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, while others prefer to devote several hours to their writing in one sitting. MBA applicants should be aware of the way they work most effectively and structure their writing and editing sessions accordingly.

I typically recommend that candidates allocate two to three hours each time they sit down to work on their essays, particularly for the first few drafts. Essays should be approached holistically; you won’t have a compelling final product if you’ve only snatched 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there.

Conversely, most applicants should also avoid the “marathon session.” Few people are still sharp or creative eight hours into a writing and editing session. If you need to make up for lost time, try breaking it up with a session in the morning and another in the evening.

Allow some distance: Applicants should also build several weeks for reflection and feedback into their MBA timeline. If you can come back to your essays days later with fresh eyes, you’ll often think of a better example or more inspired language to illustrate a certain point. This won’t happen if you’re forced to work at warp speed.

Distributing your writing and editing over a reasonable period also makes it easier for friends, family, or colleagues to provide feedback. It’s unfair to ask someone to turn around comments in a 24-hour period, so provide them with a few days to give you their critiques. Leave yourself adequate time to reflect upon and incorporate their feedback.

The b-school application process is stressful, but careful planning will make the experience manageable and help you channel your energies into continually improving your candidacy until the moment you submit your applications.

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