Late to the Game: Starting Late on Business School Applications
If it’s fall and you’re just deciding apply, it’s our job to tell you that you’re starting the MBA application process a little late.
We know your type — you call yourself the “just-in-time” champ. You take pride in walking directly from airport security to your gate directly on the plane (OK, that’s me)! You pre-order your food, get to church just in time to listen to the sermon, and get to the polls five minutes before they close. You like efficiency and don’t mind waiting until the last minute to get things done. It’s not surprising that you’ve waited until now to apply to graduate school.
Did we nail it? Yeah… we know our applicants :). The good news is, while you’re late, you’re not too late. There’s still time to get it all done and be enrolled in your perfect program this time next year. Here’s what you need to focus on to get things done.
Do I Have Enough Time to Apply to Business School?
The first thing you need to do when you’re applying for business school is figure out if the deadline is doable. Often times, the limiting factor in your timeline will be your test score (GRE / GMAT). Realistically, most MBA applicants need 6-8 weeks to effectively study for the GRE / GMAT, and if you take it multiple times, add another 30 days to that timeline (you can also retake the test in parallel with constructing your MBA application). Once you’ve gotten the test out of the way and you’re satisfied with your score, you’ll likely need at least four weeks to put together a compelling application; keep in mind, you can do it in less time, but it depends on your focus and availability to construct your MBA application. Finally, on average, it takes another week for each additional MBA application that you add to your submission portfolio, so add that into your timing calculation.
TL;DR Carve out approximately 10 weeks to finish your GMAT or GRE and put together a compelling application for at least one MBA program. Add another week for each additional school.
Make the Decision to Apply (Or Not) and Stick to It
MBA candidates often have good intentions about applying but get caught up procrastinating with taking the GRE / GMAT. If you decide you have enough time to build a compelling application, but you still need to take the GMAT or GRE, you need to commit to studying and taking the test. My first recommendation is to sign-up for a time to take the test – there is no better motivation than a deadline! If you don’t set a deadline, you’re likely to get caught in the middle of the process with one foot in the application process and another out.
Think about it this way – if you go after it this year and don’t make it, at least you have a huge jump on applying next year. If you decide not to go this year, don’t take too long to take the appropriate action for next year – round one deadlines will be here before you know it.
TL;DR You’re either in the MBA application process or you’re out of it. If you wait too long, the decision will be made for you.
6 Critical Things to Applying for Your MBA in a Tight Time-frame
Knock out the test – We’ve mentioned the importance of your GMAT / GRE in your MBA application timing. It’s important enough to mention again here. Get information about where you stand as quickly as possible. If you take the test and you’re significantly off your target score, it’s likely going to be an uphill battle for you and you may need to push to next year.
Build your brand – Spend time determining exactly what you bring to the table. Check out some of our blogs and videos on MBA brand building. It’s really important to spend the time upfront to think through the key character traits that differentiate you based on demonstrated events in your personal, professional, and community experiences. If you build a solid brand, it will streamline your essay development, provide your recommenders with insights, and improve your overall chances of admissions success.
Narrow your school list – It’s important to tighten your school list to a manageable level. Given the time constraints, you need a narrowed list of MBA programs where you can effectively research fit and apply in the timeframe you have remaining. This can be challenging to figure out, but critical because it drives your MBA recommendations and application efforts; you don’t have time to misstep here, so make it count!
Get your recommenders going – Recommenders are one of the few things completely out of your control. Once you have a brand identified, you can advise your recommenders on how to appropriately strengthen your application. I suggest giving your recommenders at least 30 days, but, ideally, 60 days, to put significant thought into your recommendations.
Run in parallel – You don’t have the luxury of running this process in sequence (e.g., finish GMAT, then do research, then start the application). Multi-task your test preparation, research, and application development simultaneously, to save yourself some time. You may want to shut down everything but test prep a week or so before you take the GMAT or GRE, but otherwise, run hard across all of your application requirements.
Be honest with yourself — Circumstances change throughout the MBA application process; your job is to continue to assess the situation. The GMAT or GRE could slow down your process and you may need to push your application to next year. There may also be items outside of your control including demands from your current job or market conditions that may change and affect your MBA considerations. Remember – a one year delay is not going to make a meaningful impact on your 40+ year career, so be thoughtful on whether you should “squeeze” in your MBA application this year or wait until next year. Either way, pick a direction and go with it. Time to get to work.