5 Tips for Getting a Head Start on Application Season

If you’re applying to business school in the fall, there’s no time like the present for ramping up the research and application preparation in advance of the autumn crunch.

1. Do your Research
Before you start researching programs, it will be helpful to understand your own criteria and preferences to take your school selection past the level of rankings.  Do you want to be in the city or in a rural setting?  What type of coursework are you most interested in?  Do you prefer a close-knit class or a large network?  Do you need to be near a particular location for personal or professional reasons? Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s now time to study up on each school’s curriculum offerings, career services, and alumni network.

2. Plan a Campus Visit
The best way to determine whether a school’s culture is a good fit with your needs is to experience the campus firsthand. For many, summer is the perfect moment to visit if taking time off during the rest of the year is difficult. Though you may not be able to sit in on a class, you will be able to meet with admissions and explore the campus and city. Those who are able to visit before applying will likely get a better sense of the program and the campus, and be more convinced—and more convincing within your application—about your fit.

3. Attend School Events
If you are far away or short on time, admissions events are another way to have an in-person touch point with your chosen schools during the summer months. Admissions officers travel all over the world to conduct information sessions with prospective students, often including alumni who can answer your questions about culture and career options. Check the schools’ websites for sign-up information and availability.

4. Use Your Network
In addition to the formal admissions-sponsored methods, utilizing your own network of MBA alumni is a great way to learn more about your schools.  If you aren’t part of a typical MBA profession you can ask around at work and among your family and friends to see if anyone knows an alum of your target programs.  Once you have some contact names, reach out to see if you can ask a few questions.  Following networking best practices like asking for additional contacts and sending thank you notes after every meeting is a great way to expand your learning and establish a network of support for your process.

5. Take Stock and Strategize
Perhaps the most important item on your to-do list should be self-reflection. A thorough understanding your goals, motivations, strengths and weaknesses is the best foundation for crafting a successful MBA application. Use the pre-crunch time these next few months to analyze your career goals, resume and GPA. Enrolling in a summer class, or taking on a leadership role at work or in your extracurricular activities can provide a real boost to your application. And it never hurts to start studying early for the GMAT.

While you should make time for fun and relaxation this summer, remember that it’s also an ideal time to take those steps that will help you later in the year with your MBA applications.

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