Posted on April 18, 2018

Getting Ready for Round 1 MBA Applications

The Round 1 deadlines for the MBA applications are a little over five months away. So if you are planning to apply to Business school this year, NOW is the time to get started. Some MBA hopefuls I have talked to have already aced the GMAT and are in the process of researching schools. Year after year, I have seen that my most successful students have been the ones who had started their preparation ahead of time- about 6-8 months before Fall deadlines. This proves that by planning ahead and starting early, you can make the application process rewarding as well as enjoyable.

Here is the step- by- step plan you can follow:

Beat the GMAT/GRE: First and foremost, get this biggest hurdle in your journey out of your way. GMAT is the biggest parameter you will need to make a list of your target schools. If you take your GMAT now and do not get your desired score, you will still have some time to retake it before you begin focusing on other parts of the application package (school selection, résumé, essays, and recommendation letters). Dealing with GMAT preparation as well as essays, recommendation letters, resumes with deadlines drawing close, and that too with professional commitments will put you under tremendous pressure, making it extremely challenging for you to produce quality work. I have worked with candidates who started the process pretty late (1 month before the deadlines) and then simultaneously worked on essays and GMAT prep, along with their demanding professional and personal commitments. They found it too stressful as they were not able to give their hundred percent to essays. I now advise them to first get the GMAT out of their way before beginning to work with me on their application. By allowing yourself sufficient time, you can avoid this unnecessary stress and enjoy the application process.

Begin School Selection Process: After getting the GMAT out of your way by earning your desired score ( I recommend 730+), begin researching your target schools. Selecting your schools is again an extremely time-consuming process. To be a successful applicant, you must be able to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the MBA program to which you are applying. With proper planning, research, and initiative, you can pick out schools that will align with your credentials and aspirations, but give yourself significant time in researching and selecting your schools. For selecting the right B school, you will have to consider many factors e.g. geographical location, loans, scholarships, key projects/courses, employment reports, and companies that are regular recruiters over the years. Do your research and decide on which schools are the best ‘fit’ for your credentials and aspirations. You should research faculty, curriculum, student groups, clubs, and organizations that match your interests and goals. Try to find answers to the questions: “Will this school help me meet my objectives (in the areas of education, networking, and career)?"

Along with your research, you should also start reaching out to people with MBA experience: colleagues, friends, current students, and alumni, etc. Their feedback will help you determine if their perspectives and experiences align with your findings or not. In addition, make sure to attend MBA fairs and school information sessions; this will provide you relevant information on your shortlisted schools. If possible, visit the schools- attend a class or two, meet with a faculty, talk to students, and take a tour of the campus. All these steps should enable you to identify three schools that are your dream schools, three that are your reach schools, and three that are your safe schools.

Build Your Resume: Now that you are ready with your list of target schools, it’s time to work on constructing your résumé. MBA résumé is very different from a job résumé, so you will need a significant amount of time and effort in building it. MBA résumés are brief and concise stories of your skills, interests, experience, and key accomplishments. I would like to quote Ross Admission Director Soojin Kwon, “For me, the résumé is just as important as your essays. Think of it as a trailer of the movie about you.” By making an engaging trailer (résumé), you are building Ad Com’s interest in your movie (essays and recommendation letters).

Contact Your Recommenders: It’s also time to reach out to your recommenders. Please note the best recommenders are not just those individuals who agree to write a letter or you; they are people who know you well and are interested in your future goals. Once you have chosen your recommenders, start having conversations with them regarding your plans to apply to B schools. It is important to make sure that your recommenders get enough time to write the recommendation letters. They are busy people, so you may want to apprise them of this favor that you would expect from them in the near future. I would encourage you to request a meeting with each of them to discuss the key themes you would like to showcase in your application.

Brainstorm Stories for Essays: After having accomplished all this, you may be wondering “My target schools have still not released essay questions. What do I do now?” Well, before B-school roll out their essay questions, begin thinking about your story! Everyone has a unique story; spend the time now to think about yours. Even though B-schools change their essay topics from one year to another, there are going to be concepts that are the same among business schools. For instance, all schools will expect you to write your goals essay, so take your time to identify your short term and long term goals. Make sure your goals are realistic as well as ambitious. Also, start thinking of your greatest leadership experiences, accomplishments, your background, life experiences, your greatest strengths (and weaknesses, too), and how these will help you add value to your target school.

Some of the most common themes you can organize your thoughts on are:

  • Why do you want to pursue an MBA?
  • What is your career goal post-MBA?
  • Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?
  • How will you contribute to MBA classroom?
  • Why are you interested in the program?

By establishing your stories in advance, you will already have some raw material in hand which you can develop, edit and tailor to individual essays for specific programs. When the candidates sign up for my services in the summer, I require them to fill out a questionnaire of 25 questions pertaining to their goals, accomplishments, background, cultural experiences, strengths, and weaknesses, etc., so when the essays come out, we can use most of this material for specific essays for their target school.

Take Initiatives at Work: To strengthen your profile, take initiatives at work and look for opportunities to manage challenging projects or teams. Try to go above and beyond your regular job responsibilities and volunteer for leadership roles. For example, you may mentor a junior employee or organize a company-sponsored volunteer event. All of these steps will surely add value to your résumé and also give you extra material to write about in essays or discuss in an interview.

Get Involved in Extracurricular Activities: It’s true that business schools value academic background, professional experience, and career progression. But they also give significant weight to your extra-curricular and community service activities because top-ranked programs are looking for candidates who are not just focused on work but are well- rounded individuals who have other interests as well and who have shown a commitment to serving their community. So it is never too late to volunteer for new experiences at work and outside of work. Try to get involved in an activity you are passionate about. Whether it is practicing sports, singing in your church’s choir or volunteering in a temple or a Gurudwara, get involved on a regular basis and consider roles that will allow you to take a leadership position and create impact.

Thus, the key is- with proper planning and timing, you will not only reduce your stress of the MBA application process but will also make the process delightful and rewarding. Of course, you can tweak the above plan as per your individual needs, circumstances, and preferences, but make sure to commit enough time to put your 'best foot forward.’

Good luck with your MBA application.

Are you interested in conversations with some MER students who were accepted into multiple schools? If yes, click at the following links and learn about their MBA journey in their own words.

Nithish- Rice, Kelley, and Mays Admit with scholarships;

Sathish- Foster and ISB Admit;

Eduardo- Kellogg, Yale, and UCLA Admit with scholarships;

Carlos- Cornell, Richard Ivy, and Emory Admit with scholarship-

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.

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