Get Ready for the New MBA Admissions Season

MBA admissions season

A new MBA admissions season is upon us, meaning it’s time for savvy applicants to get their heads in the game. Business schools have already started releasing their deadlines for the 2024-2025 application cycle. And while most haven’t posted their updated applications yet, you can expect to see those by the end of June.

Round 1 application deadlines hit in September through mid-October. That means you’ve got at least three solid months of application work ahead of you. But we’ve been working with some clients for months for this new MBA admissions season. By starting early, you can take control of your application process, strengthen your profile, and level the playing field. There’s a lot that applicants can do to enhance their chances if they start the process early enough.

Today, we will light a fire under anyone who plans to apply to B-school in the coming months but is unsure how to begin. Even if you’re a master crammer, we hope you don’t take that tack with your MBA application process. Every year, a flood of new clients approaches us at the last minute for a read-through of their materials, confident they have it in the bag.

We must then deliver the painful news that they should hold off until round 2 because their applications are not solid or polished enough. Don’t let that be you! Focus on maximizing this time before the new MBA admissions season.

SBC consultant Erika Olsen, a host of our popular B-Schooled podcast, shared this expert advice to prepare MBA applicants for the upcoming round 1 kickoff.

To-Do List for the New MBA Admissions Season

Take the GMAT/GRE.

Your admissions test is at the top of the to-do list for MBA aspirants. If you haven’t taken the GMAT or GRE yet or aren’t happy with your score, this is the first item of business to tackle. That’s especially true if you already know that your dream school’s average range of test scores skews higher than you’ve achieved thus far.

Some aspects of your MBA candidacy are already set in stone. You can’t change where you went to college, your GPA, your career choices to date, or how much extracurricular involvement you’ve had. That’s all in the past. Nonetheless, there are a few things that you can improve over the next few months, and your test score is one of them.

We always encourage people to retake the GRE or GMAT and raise their scores if needed. Remember, there’s almost always room for improvement. Thankfully, the admissions committee is fine with retakes. It’s not about where you start but how far you can go. After all, it shows self-awareness and dedication to improvement.

We have a terrific B-Schooled episode with SBC’s Director of Test Prep, Anthony Ritz, where he offers valuable insights into all things admission test-related. So, take advantage of that resource if you have a weakness to correct in that area.

Partner with Stacy Blackman’s best-in-class GMAT and GRE experts and increase your score significantly. Check out our test prep services here.  Request a free game plan chat with SBC’s lead test prep coach by emailing testprep@stacyblackman.com.

Beef up your leadership profile. 

Leadership activities offer the most significant opportunity for improvement before the new MBA admissions season. Now is the time to seek out new projects or teams to manage, especially if you’re light in this area.  You might know how to improve or streamline a process in your office or for a client. If so, take the initiative and work on it in your spare time. Remember, leadership is more than a title; it’s a mindset that you can develop and hone.

Three or four months is ample time to get more involved in a cause close to your heart. Taking an active role in a community organization or nonprofit is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition, especially if you’re in one of the more competitive buckets like consulting or financial services.

If you’ve volunteered for a group before, that’s the ideal place to start. See what else you can do for them that’s higher on their priority list right now. Also, find out if any open leadership roles would be a good fit.

If your manager knows about and supports your plans to return to school, ask what else you could take on to have more leadership examples for your resume. You could mentor a junior employee or organize a company-sponsored volunteer event this summer. These types of activities will likely bulk up your resume. Even if they don’t become resume-worthy, they might become great fodder for interview conversations or MBA essays.

Pro tip: Don’t stop doing these kinds of endeavors after you submit your application materials. That is a huge mistake. More and more applicants get waitlisted each year, and you’ll be in a much stronger position if you have new achievements to report to the admissions committee in a waitlist update letter.

Identify your recommenders.

Business schools prefer applicants’ recommendation letters from a current or former supervisor. That’s because these individuals have also overseen the work of many people at your level before. This experience gives them a good idea of how you and your achievements compare to others in your position. You’ll want to consider senior colleagues who know you well and can speak about your professional accomplishments and personal qualities.

While we recommend clients reach out to their potential recommenders in July, now is the time to brainstorm a list of possible people. Consider senior colleagues who know you well and can speak to your professional accomplishments and personal qualities. When you approach them, provide a brief overview of your MBA plans, your reasons for choosing them as a recommender, and any specific achievements or experiences you would like them to highlight in their letter.

Research your target business schools. 

Finding a business school that’s the right fit for you is vital. If you haven’t already, now is the time to do a deep dive into all your target schools’ websites. This research is crucial because it will help you tailor your application to each school’s unique offerings and values. Find out when virtual admissions events will take place and register for them. Next, jot down notes about any exciting courses, professors, conferences, or other unique parts of the curriculum that interest you or are relevant to your career goals.

Search your network for friends (or friends of friends) who went to your target schools and reach out to them. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a conversation about the program that sways or confirms your interest in that school.

Lay the groundwork to “MBA” your resume.

The MBA resume is a whole other animal from the standard curriculum vitae designed to land you a job. Instead, the resume you tailor specifically for business schools should offer a quick snapshot of your significant work experiences and accomplishments in areas that showcase MBA-relevant skills, such as leadership, communication skills, growth, and innovation.

Begin by starting a rolling document that includes all your accomplishments from college through your career.  Don’t worry about formatting or having more than one page at first. You might be able to pull some content from it for the application data form, which usually has fields required for every role you’ve had.

We explore this topic in-depth in our blog post, How to Sell Yourself with an MBA Resume, and on B-Schooled podcast episode #67, Powerful Resume Writing. Take advantage of these excellent resources to guide this process.

Reflect on your short and long-term career goals. 

Even if your dream schools haven’t communicated anything about this year’s application yet, it’s a safe bet that you’ll need to discuss what you envision for your career immediately upon graduation and in the long term.  (MIT Sloan School of Management is the only school that has never asked and doesn’t care about this.) So that’s something to start thinking about if you haven’t yet.

Applicants should start jotting down memories and stories from their past, thinking about what differentiates them. Your focus should be on nailing down what makes you tick, what you’re genuinely passionate about, and what you want to do in the future. But more importantly, think about the whys. Why does a particular sector, job, career, or cause speak to you?

How do you know you’d be happiest working in a specific field? If you think you want to start a company in the future or go into impact investing or private equity, or whatever it may be, you will have to communicate a lot more than, “I want to start a company.” Everybody and their brother has that goal. So, what will differentiate you from other applicants with a similar aim is the why.

Get ready. Get set. And…go!

As the curtains rise on the new MBA admissions season, the stage is set for ambitious applicants to embark on their B-School journey. The time to dive into preparation is now, and the roadmap to acceptance begins with strategic planning and proactive steps. From honing your test-taking skills to cultivating impactful leadership experiences, opportunities for enhancement abound.

Remember, the path to a standout application requires diligence, self-awareness, and a commitment to excellence. So, seize the moment, harness your potential, and embark on this transformative journey with confidence. With careful preparation and dedication, the doors to your dream business school await. Let the adventure begin.

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Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership and Interview Prep to hourly help with essay editing, resume review, and much more! Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

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