Last-Minute Tips for Round 1 MBA Applicants
Deadlines are coming up soon at several programs, and we have some last-minute tips for Round 1 MBA applicants. If you’re one of the thousands scrambling to put the finishing details on your application over the next few weeks, congratulations! You’re almost over a critical hurdle. That means soon you can take at least a day or two to relax and revel in your accomplishment.
Until then, here are four tips to consider as you check off items on your To-Do List. After that, you can jump-start the next phase of the process: interview prep.
1. If your best-possible application is ready, applying in Round 1 may be a safer bet than waiting until Round 2.
Every seat in the class and every scholarship dollar is available in Round 1. In recent years, the Round 2 applicant pool has become larger and more competitive. For international students who need more time to process visas and find housing, it’s smart to apply to your target MBA programs as early as possible.
As the Tuck School of Business notes, “it is to your advantage to apply as early as you’re ready to do so. We can’t predict the quality of the applicant pool in future rounds, so are inclined admit more applicants in earlier rounds. Naturally, the process also becomes more competitive as the season goes on because we have fewer ‘seats’ left in the class.”
2. Submit clear, evocative essays that adhere to the stated word limits.
Essay writing is a funny thing. Before you dive into your MBA applications, 400 or 500 words can seem like the equivalent of a doorstop-size Russian novel. But once you really get going on your first drafts, you quickly realize just how little space you have to work with. Admissions committees want to see focused essays; respecting the word limit guidance demonstrates you can follow directions.
Also, make sure to avoid careless and easily preventable mistakes. You’ve spent months writing drafts, seeking feedback from friends and family, and constantly tweaking your essays. Don’t just “accept all changes” and upload your essay documents. Make sure you have cut and pasted your essays into an entirely new document that was not used for drafting.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of your resume.
MBA applicants should submit resumes that are clear, concise, and scrubbed of all industry jargon. Think of the resume as the “movie trailer” for your life, and ensure you’re sharing the most compelling, demonstrative details.
As the Michigan Ross School of Business admissions team recently explained, “Make sure that your resume clearly states the progression that you have made over the years. You should highlight your personal successes as well as your contributions to your company’s success. Keep in mind we are not just looking at the number of years of work experience, but more importantly the impact you have had in those years.”
4. Forget all about trying to be the traditional or “ideal” business school applicant.
Avoid trying to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. You’ll differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool simply by allowing your individual personality to shine through.
“In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice,” notes the AdCom team at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams. There is no ‘right answer’ to these questions — the best answer is the one that is truest for you.”
5. If you’re invited to interview at the b-school of your dreams, prep and practice will help ease any interview performance concerns you may have.
Now that you’ve read our last-minute tips for Round 1 MBA applicants, it’s time to turn to the next phase in the process. If it’s been a few weeks since you submitted, get back into the MBA applicant mindset by reviewing your overall application strategy.
The next step in your interview prep process is to review some typical questions. This is easy to do since many candidates post their experiences online. Write out some bullet points to outline what you would say in response to your practice questions. Finally, practice, practice, practice! Enlist the help of family and friends, and ask them to provide constructive feedback.
For more on interview prep, check out: B-Schooled Podcast Episode #77: Interview Prep Do’s and Don’ts.
The most crucial advice we can offer is to have fun and try not to let the process stress you out too much. While MBA applications are exhausting, time-consuming, and a heck of a lot of work, in the end, it will all be worth it.