Tag Archives: Application Strategy

5 Reasons to Consider an MBA Degree

Before you start the process of preparing to apply for an MBA, take a critical look at your reasons for pursuing an MBA and make sure it’s the right decision for you.

Every spring, many prospective MBA applicants start seriously considering whether this is the year to apply for business school. Before deciding what type of program you will attend, selecting your school, and determining your application strategy, you need to make the crucial decision of whether an MBA is the right next step for your life and career. Think about the reasons why you want an MBA, and what your alternatives are.

Reasons for Pursuing an MBA

Are you seeking an MBA for career advancement, personal development, or a career switch? While your MBA could be a transformational experience changing everything about your life, it’s more typically a tool to polish existing skills, build your network or expose you to new industries.

1. You’ve learned as much as you can in your current role and crave something more. If you find yourself stagnating in your present role or that you’ve plateaued in your job and there’s no room for upward mobility, an MBA can help you navigate and leverage your next career step. The business school experience will show you how to integrate your skills, passions and goals against the backdrop of current global market conditions.

2. You have a new professional goal. Ask yourself what you plan to accomplish after your MBA. If you know what your long-term goal is, that’s a great way to start. What do you need to know to accomplish that goal? How does your resume need to look? What skills do you need to build? And who do you need to know? Think about the aspects of that future that will be developed through your MBA and your short-term post MBA career.

If you are not someone with a clear long-term goal, critically consider what you think the MBA will do for you. Business school offers clear skill building in teamwork, leadership and practical skills like accounting and finance. There is also a strong professional network you will build with classmates and alumni.

3. You need the degree to move up the ladder. If you are seeking advancement in a career where an MBA is valued, it may be an important next step. If you are simply looking for a larger salary or a change of pace, make sure that an MBA is the right professional degree for you to pursue. Applying for business school is an expensive and time consuming activity, and that’s before you even start school! Dedication and passion for the path you are embarking upon are crucial.

4. You’re missing key skills that an MBA program can provide. Business school provides a safe space to experiment and hone those skills in a variety of situations. For applicants with strong technical expertise but who are light on general management skills or anyone looking to bridge the gap between the liberal arts and business, an MBA will catapult you to the next level.

5. You want to significantly expand your professional network. Your alumni network helps you stay connected to the university and to countless professional opportunities beyond graduation. While the quality of the education at the most elite programs is guaranteed across the board, when you’re spending two years of your life and paying more than $100K, keep in mind the network of contacts you build during your MBA experience truly is priceless.

Having a Plan B

While considering your reasons for pursuing an MBA, it will be useful to consider a common b-school interview question: “What will you do if you are not admitted this year?”

Sometimes the answer to the “Plan B” question can be revealing. If you think that you would give up your pursuit of an MBA and either return to a prior career path or pursue a completely different goal, it may not be time for you to dedicate this spring and summer to applying to MBA programs.

When you consider plan B and you find yourself answering that you will spend the year preparing to reapply and continuing to develop yourself for your future career, you are likely a dedicated prospective MBA. If you were not admitted, you might find yourself thinking that you would volunteer more, and build your knowledge and skill set in your chosen career path.

Once you have decided to pursue an MBA, the next steps are to consider your school options, develop your strategy and refine your goals as you plan for beginning your essays in a few months.

Photo credit: Eric at Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Fit the GMAT Into Overall MBA Application Strategy

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com Just about every MBA candidate needs to submit a GMAT or GRE score as part of their business school admission package, but not …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

Just about every MBA candidate needs to submit a GMAT or GRE score as part of their business school admission package, but not everyone has a clear grasp on when and how the exam fits within the context of the whole application process.

In an ideal world, you would take the test just coming out of college, while you’re still in study and test mode as a recent student. Since both GMAT and GRE scores are valid for five years, getting the exams out of the way years in advance would free you to focus on all of the other elements of the application.

If, like most applicants, you didn’t have the foresight to take the exam right after college, the next best step is to plan your application strategy so that the GMAT is finished before you finalize your list of schools. Your score isn’t everything, but it is an important part of the admissions equation.

If you bomb the exam and can’t improve your score, you may need to reassess your target schools to include less-competitive options. Conversely, you may be able to add one more reach school if the score was higher than expected.

Round one of business school admissions is about four months away at many schools, and if you still need to take the GMAT, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Unless you’re a natural at taking standardized tests, you’ll need to train your brain to get it back into test-taking form.

Most applicants devote at least 100 hours to test preparation, and depending on where you are in the process, you may have to take a prep class and perhaps take the test more than once. If this is the case, the first round may not be a realistic option unless you’re able and prepared to completely immerse yourself in the process.

One client, Tasha, came to us just five weeks before the round she was targeting with some idea of her school choices and a GMAT score she wanted to improve. With her limited time she needed to schedule the GMAT for two weeks before her application deadlines. That meant she did not have the luxury of focused studying for the GMAT in all of her free time.

To help Tasha manage her time, we wrote down all of her tasks, including the number of essay iterations we expected her to go through, and then we worked backward from her deadlines to see how many days she had to work. Tasha then started alternating essay writing and GMAT study until the day she took the test.

This abbreviated yet methodical time management system worked for her, and Tasha was able to improve her GMAT by 30 points and submit a strong application to her three target schools. She ultimately gained admission to Stanford Graduate School of Business and Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Tasha’s strategy won’t work for everybody, but we see applicants pull off the impossible every season.

I typically advise clients to plan for two attempts at the GMAT, leaving a buffer for a retake if needed. There’s no harm in taking the test two or even three times, and unless you score really well right out of the gate, you often will do better the second time. This is because you’ll have fewer nerves, more familiarity with the process and no big surprises. There is no such thing as a bad test, just opportunities to build on and learn from.

Average scores are creeping higher every year at the top MBA programs, making it hard to offset a bad GMAT score. It truly is a level playing field, and I often cringe when I read essays where people try to rationalize a low score.

What you can do, however, is acknowledge the score and say you don’t find it truly reflective of your abilities. Then show why you are actually strong in quant or going to excel academically by pointing to your college GPA, work experience or by encouraging your recommenders to focus heavily on your intellect.

Timing and planning are key to reducing the stress of the application process. I generally encourage applicants to not cram everything into too short of a timeline, but everyone has their own style and you need to figure out what makes the most sense for you, your goals and your schedule.

Posted in Application Tips, Test Prep Advice | Tagged , , , ,

Use Time Off Wisely

Next week, 2014 draws to a close. Less than two weeks from today marks the first Round 2 deadline. Are you ready? If you’re not a “list person,” it’s time to become one—at least until …

Next week, 2014 draws to a close. Less than two weeks from today marks the first Round 2 deadline. Are you ready? If you’re not a “list person,” it’s time to become one—at least until the rest of your applications are in.

We’ll help by giving you this outline for your Round 2 To-Do list:

  • Assuming your recommenders have not yet submitted their letters, touch base with them again if it’s been more than two weeks since you last checked in. Remind them that it would be great if they could upload their responses a few days before the deadlines to avoid any last-minute system-crash drama. And thank them again for their time!

Ensuring your recommenders are on-track is your top priority because this is a tough time of the year for people to be pulled away from family obligations. You know you’ll get everything in, but this isn’t consuming their lives like it is yours.

  • Make sure you have all of the documentation each school requires—things like test-score reports and undergraduate or exchange-program transcripts. If you’re missing something at this point, you’ll probably have to hustle to secure what you need.
  • Finalize your resume. Many schools have cut down on essay requirements, so resumes are playing a larger role in deciding prospective students’ fates. It’s critical that your resume tells the full story of your professional, educational and extracurricular achievements.
  • Complete the applications/data forms for each school. Why do this before working on your essays? Because when left to the ultimate last minute, applications fields are extremely easy to screw up. There’s no spellcheck available on these forms, and if you’re rushing through them you are likely to make a mistake. Don’t risk having the very first thing the adcomm sees be riddled with typos!
  • And now . . . the essays. We’ll be honest: we hope you aren’t just starting your essays this late in the game. But it certainly is possible to pull together quality responses within two weeks. Have a few friends or family members on standby to help you firm up your themes and cut down extra words.
  • Take a little time off to enjoy the holidays!

Remember:

TimeFlies

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want to stay on top of the application process with timely tips like these? Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter and you’ll receive our expert advice straight in your mailbox before it appears on the blog, plus special offers, promotions, discounts, invitations to events, and more.

Posted in General | Tagged , , ,

Should You Change Your Application Strategy?

If you applied to MBA programs in Round 1 and are continuing to submit materials to other schools in Round 2, you may be tempted to mix things up for a couple of applications—especially if …

If you applied to MBA programs in Round 1 and are continuing to submit materials to other schools in Round 2, you may be tempted to mix things up for a couple of applications—especially if you’ve already gotten a few dings.

But before you position yourself in an entirely new way, scrap your essays and embark upon a drastically different strategic course, you need to take an objective view of the materials you already submitted. Or better yet, ask someone else who’s familiar with the process to do so.

There are certain things that cannot be changed: where you went to college, what classes you took over those four years, what your GPA is, what your GMAT/GRE score is, where you’ve worked so far, what volunteer activities you’ve been involved with, and so on. If there are major red flags across those areas, you need to be honest with yourself that even the greatest essay set in the world may not be able to offset those issues.

In that case, if you thoroughly planned how to best position yourself with your Round 1 materials but have received dings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your strategy was faulty. It may just simply mean that you need to consider less competitive programs.

Actually, the same thing goes even if there are zero red flags across your materials. As we’ve pointed out before, a rejection does not mean you are not accomplished or deserving of a spot in School X’s incoming MBA class. It only means there wasn’t enough room to accept everyone, so perhaps you need to widen your net a bit more.

That’s why we recommend staying the course with your MBA application strategy between Round 1 and Round 2—unless you never actually created a strong plan in the first place. Then, by all means, reassess your efforts!

Remember:

energyandpersistence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want to stay on top of the application process with timely tips like these? Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter and you’ll receive our expert advice straight in your mailbox before it appears on the blog, plus special offers, promotions, discounts, invitations to events, and more.

Posted in Application Tips, General | Tagged , , , ,