The time is now!
This time of the year, we get a lot of questions around when candidates should get started and I can tell you without question that the time is now. Not just because I don’t have much to do right now but wait for emails about acceptances and shovel my driveway – now is a critical time to fill holes in your profile. Our Admit Advantage team is stellar but even we can’t fill holes in your profile weeks before applications are due. This post is going to give you a few suggestions for what you can do now if you have questions on your profile for the next application cycle:
When should I take my test scores?
Get your test scores out of the way now. Why? Almost every client we’ve ever had at Admit Advantage scores better on the practice tests than the actual test. If I had a $1 for every “I’ve been scoring in the mid 700s” that ends up in the 600s or lower, I would be independently wealthy. But alas, I’m not. A great deal of anxiety often happens on test day, so it’s a bit of a wild card. Study hard, take a class if you need to, and take it with plenty of time to re-take the test. People get busy during application season, so get this off your plate.
Is my test score good enough?
Standardized tests won’t get you into school, but they can keep you out of school. Don’t let your standardized test score keep you out. If you are in a competitive demographic (like Indian IT male) or have a particular weakness (especially GPA), you likely want to be above the test score mean. If you have strong W/E, recommendations, community service involvement, etc., you may be OK at or slightly below the mean. Once you get the score you want – stop. If you’re at the mean – an incremental 10 points on your GMAT is probably not worth it unless you have a low GPA or like torture.
I have a low GPA, what can I do?
You can’t go back to college despite my strong desire to do so (I ask Brown annually and they are stuck on “no”), but you can take several actions to help the committee get comfortable. The first thing you can do is take some additional coursework, specifically in quant areas like Finance, Accounting, Statistics, Calculus or Econ. Take courses in the best school you can that is convenient and reasonably priced. Online is OK if it’s a reputable school or offering. Also, the more the GPA stinks, the more work experience matters – they want you to be able to prove your value in a work environment to lessen the GPA blow. Finally, knock out the GMAT – try to do better than the mean to give them a signal of your ability to perform in business school.
I’m coming from a non-quantitative work environment – what do I need to do?
The key here is to get in front of it. You can’t hide from it – the admissions staff will identify this as a weakness, so don’t allow it to be an issue by being proactive. GMAT quant is important here as is GPA – they want to make sure you can handle the rigors of business school. Take a quantitative course (or two) – see above for guidelines. Breathe. You belong – you can do it! Schools just need an indication you can do it.
Do I have enough work experience?
That’s a tough question and is truly case-by-case. I applied after 3 yrs, but I had entrepreneurial and management experience at a relatively young age. Some applicants come directly from college and others have 5+ years of experience. It’s about going when you’re ready and when you have a compelling case to articulate to the admissions committee.
How can I find out more about the schools?
You have time before the application process, so if you can visit the school, now is the time. Schedule school visits for spring break, summer vacations, around work trips, etc. Whenever possible, try to get a formal visit scheduled where you can meet the admissions staff and visit a course. Also look into the MBA tours around the world. They provide a great platform for getting in front of schools and working on your elevator pitch for interview season. Get on www.admit.me – lots of information there and school pages coming soon.
What is the insider tip?
My #1 tip (thanks for reading) is to get involved in your community. Business is about leadership. Most candidates focus so much on GMAT/GRE score, GPA, work experience, etc. Those are requirements for getting in, but at the top schools, EVERYONE has that. People generally lack in the areas of community impact and leadership. Most people who have been in the workforce 3-5 yrs haven’t been managers or team leaders, but you can have an opportunity to lead in a community setting while demonstrating your unselfish leadership traits. It’s like an MBA ice cream sundae with a cherry on top! Get involved in something you’re passionate about, seek a leadership role and talk about it come application time.