Okay, so you’ve decided you want to apply to business school for this upcoming application cycle. You’ve been doing some research and asked around enough to know how absurdly low acceptance rates at your dream business schools. Which might make you a bit nervous.
But there's still a few weeks until the MBA applications are out for the round, so you can take some time before you actually get started, right? I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong - and it's for your own benefit.
If you’re thinking about applying to business school this year, now is the time to stop talking/worrying about it and start acting. And by that I mean build an action plan, set goals, and follow through that plan in multiple steps. You want to act now in order to put yourself in the best position to be successful in the upcoming MBA application season. Or if you don’t want to see yourself regretting as you pull all-nighters before the looming deadlines.
Not convinced enough? Here are four reasons why you should start acting NOW in order to optimize your MBA candidacy.
[Click to download for free: MBA Application Calendar Template 2016.]
1. It’s tough to improve your candidacy during application season
Once application season starts (~June/July for many schools), it’s very difficult to make a significant impact on your candidacy. By the time you apply, you are who you are. If you wait too long, you won’t have time to improve your weaknesses and your strategy becomes “hope” (Hope only works for President Obama as a strategy).
So before it gets too late, get a candid assessment of your MBA candidacy (Admit.me’s free profile evaluation is a good place to start). Once you know where you stand, give yourself time to proactively address your weaknesses or you will likely find yourself on the wrong side of the admissions decision.
While it is true that you can update your application after submitting, I can only think of a handful of candidates who’ve had a positive experience after trying to mitigate weaknesses post-submission.
2. “Application Season” should be about the application
I’ll tell you a secret (if you don’t know it yet): In the world of MBA admissions, it’s the best application that wins, not necessarily the best applicants. Once applications come out, you are in a big race for the application deadlines. So obviously, you want to commit enough time and effort to perfect your application in the most effective way possible.
Make application season be what it’s meant for - focus on executing your applications including your essays, interviews, resume, and overall application strategy. Taking supplemental classes after work, searching for schools, requesting transcripts, or trying to re-take your standardized tests in an effort to improve your weaknesses should be near completion, or at least be well underway before that.
You might have to tweak your strategy and timeline here and there depending on your particular situation, but try your best to take care of these tasks prior to application season and you’ll appreciate the additional time you’ve freed up to work on the actual applications during application season.
Don’t waste your sprint on the first part of the race, or you won’t have any left for the end where it counts.
Pace yourself..so you can win the full race!
3. Deadlines will creep up on you
Trust me, the application process takes longer than you think. Most candidates hem and haw about whether they should even apply to business school. Maybe you’re gungho about applying, then get an unexpected promotion and start drinking the corporate Kool-Aid again until you come back to reality 45 days before the deadline!
Whatever it is, don’t be your own worst enemy. Make a decision now and go with it. Either way, you’re likely at least a year away from matriculating, so if you apply and want to stay at your current job, you can make that decision later; if you don’t apply, you won’t have any options.
Life happens - you could be relocated, get married, change jobs, or hurt your ankle in a company softball game. Understand that unexpected things will happen to you from your family, work, and personal life, and build that into the plan.
Life happens. Always.
4. The application process is a lot of work
If you are working a typical full-time job, you should build in a solid 40-60 dedicated hours, or at least 3 months of your time for the application process. This is assuming that you’re going to put together 6-8 applications, which is an average number for most applicants.
Below are typical tasks involved in the entire application process and the estimated time commitment required for each (listed in the general order of implementation):
Test Prep (2-3 months; could be longer if you’re self-pacing)
School search & research (1-2 weeks if you’re efficient)
Visiting schools, & tours (2-3 months, but can be done concurrently with applications)
Networking, follow-up and general brown-nosing (should be done throughout the application process)
Prepping recommenders (2 weeks)
Applications & essays (2-3 months - could be more or less depending on your focus)
Interviews (2 weeks of prep + time for interviews and travel)
The application process takes a lot of work, so the more time you have, the better. I strongly suggest setting up a formalized schedule on your calendar to create a timeline - and most importantly, follow through with your own goals. Feel free to use our MBA Application Calendar Template 2016 [download] or check out admissions-specific tools like Admit.me's interactive application calendar to manage your own deadlines for multiple applications.
If you’re reading this article later in the year, don’t panic if you are short on time (we have a client who got into Stanford GSB and I helped him with his application in 6 days), but be realistic with yourself. Instead of getting a late start on this application season, maybe you’re just getting an early start on next application season - you'll thank yourself.
Do you have something that motivates you to get started on your application? Comment below!