Do These 7 Things Now if B-School is in Your Future

from college to MBATake a look into that proverbial crystal ball…Do you see yourself one day launching your own company, leading a global team of diverse individuals, and rocking some mad professional skills? If that’s the case, you’re probably considering the ways in which an MBA degree would help you reach those goals.

You may still be in college, but it’s never too early to begin investing your time and energy into areas that will pay off big time down the line. Take a look at seven things you can do right now as an undergrad to strengthen your MBA candidacy.

Cultivate leadership—B-schools groom the future leaders of the business world, and MBA admissions committees want to see that you already possess some leadership experience by the time you apply. But don’t freak out about this key requirement, as leadership doesn’t necessarily have to happen in a workplace context.

Your own leadership experience may come from an extracurricular activity, and a solid background that includes teamwork and collaboration demonstrates maturity and those all-important people skills. Can you show that you launched initiatives, programs or ventures of some kind?

Perhaps you’ve started a small business while in school, led a nonprofit, founded and led a club, or spearheaded a major fundraiser. All of that’s good stuff in the eyes of the admissions committee; it’s not about the scale of your achievements—it’s the fact that you made your mark.

Seek internships leading to growth, new skills—Internships allow you to try a new career on for size and help lay the foundation for a strong professional network. This can be especially helpful for applicants who have had a lighter quant background in college and need to demonstrate they can also handle the rigorous academics of an MBA program.

You’ll acquire new skills, crystallize your career goals, and have a better idea of whether the degree is the next logical step. Future employers and graduate programs alike appreciate the educational value a quality internship provides.

Show emotional maturity—College is a time of tremendous growth, from your personal values to your view of the world at large. You’ll want to bring a rich assortment of life experiences to the table when applying to business school, so start finding ways to grow wiser now.

The ability to show humility and gratitude, keep long-term commitments, strengthen character, and seek continual self-improvement will serve you immensely in whatever path your future takes.

Clean up your social media profile—As digital natives, you probably already have a significant online presence across several platforms. Whether you’re applying for an internship, job, or for grad school, your evaluator will likely perform a quick online search of your profile to see if the persona you’ve presented formally matches with the “real” you. Remember last year, when Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to ten students who had posted offensive memes in a private Facebook group?

You don’t have to have such an extreme case of closet skeletons for a cleanup job to be in order. Pics of drunken revelry, controversial political or religious posts, or anything that could possibly be considered poor taste should get 86’d—stat. Subject it all to the grandma test: if you wouldn’t want Nana to see it, just get rid of it.

Boost volunteering efforts— The MBA experience is about leveraging all facets of your life to help your classmates learn. Top-ranked MBA programs aren’t looking for number-crunching robots to fill their seats – they seek multidimensional candidates who have shown a commitment to serving their community in some meaningful way.

There’s no time like the present to deepen or establish your involvement with a volunteer organization. If you have been involved with outside activities over the last couple of years, consider stepping up your participation a notch. Consider roles that will allow you to take a leadership position and create real impact.

Talk to current MBA students and alumni—Take advantage of your proximity to the business school at your university. Talk to students to find out about their own decision-making process, learn more about the MBA student experience, and ask alumni how the degree has impacted their career. Getting the 411 from current and former students with similar professional aspirations will go a long way toward informing your ultimate decision to apply.

Finally, you may be wondering whether there’s such a thing as a “right time” to go for an MBA. SBC clients frequently ask if they’re too young to apply to some of the world’s top business schools. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, many b-school hopefuls consider pursuing an MBA straight out of undergrad or with limited work experience a no-brainer, as they avoid putting their lives on hold for two years—and forgoing a potentially significant salary to do so.

Candidates should talk with family, friends, and mentors—and potentially an MBA admissions consultant—early in the application process to determine where they are in the so-called “window” for business school. The exact timing is unique for each person, but whenever ends up being right for you, getting a head start in these seven aspects will serve you well.

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