This post comes to us from Igor Khayet, founder of My Resume Shop.
When it comes to applying to MBA programs, the earlier you get in the game, the better. And it’s not just how much time you give yourself — it’s what you do with that time.
Let’s say you have six months (or more) until that application is due. Make sure that you use that precious time to address your weaknesses and highlight your strengths.
Here are five things you can do, right now, to increase the appeal of your application package.
1) Beef up your math
If you’re using a calculator to compute 3 x 5, it may be time for you to make sure that you have enough in your application to demonstrate high quantitative ability. While your GMAT score will provide some indication of your skills, the admissions committee will also look at your transcripts to predict your performance in quant-heavy courses. English major? Don’t fret; there are other ways to show your math chops. If you have enough lead-time, you can enroll in a statistics, accounting or finance class at your local university. This will not only demonstrate your interest, it will also make your life a whole lot easier on your first day of Corporate Finance as a new MBA.
2) Know where you want to go
We all got a copy of Dr. Suess’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! for graduation, but your essay has to say a little more about your future than “it’s going to be great.” Now is the time to begin thinking seriously and specifically about both your short and long-term career goals. Ideally the two should be linked, and your resume should show that you are planting the seeds for your future plans. If you are going to argue that you want to do Corporate Social Responsibility, you have to have something in your resume that demonstrates why b-school is a sensible next step for you. Make your goals legitimate by researching, volunteering, or writing a blog about the industry. B-school admissions officers want to see that you a) know where you want to go and b) know how to get there.
If you’ve read Kurt Vonnegut, you’ll know that re-search simply means look again. And again. And again. Take advantage of any slow times in your schedule to visit MBA programs and determine which ones seem best suited to your interests and candidacy. The summer is a particularly good time to tour schools and meet with admissions officers and professors, since there will be a greater chance of getting in some face time. Before you go on touring, take advantage of the online resources that the schools provide in order to target programs that align with your interests. If you are meeting with an admissions officer, review your facts about the school before you go in to show that you are taking them seriously.
4) Get out of the office
If your last community service activity was organizing a beer pong fundraiser in college, you might want to consider finding some new avenues to show you have a life outside of work. While many young professionals in high-paced industries work 80-odd hours a week, your application must demonstrate that you are a well-rounded candidate. It’s not too late! Take advantage of the next six months to get involved in your community. Teach a class through Junior Achievement, tutor kids for the SAT, or become a career mentor for low-income jobseekers. Pick organizations that offer potential leadership opportunities and try to do something you care about so you can talk about it on interview day.
5) Organize your thoughts
Though specific essay topics differ, at the heart of every business school admissions essay are a few questions: Why business school? Why now? What you are going to do when you’re done? You don’t need the application questions in front of you to start brainstorming the answers. The truth is you probably already know. It’s just a matter of constructing an essay and a resume that make sense of how this next step fits into your career trajectory. It takes more time than you think to come up with a good way of communicating this. Write an outline, experiment with structure, re-evaluate your resume and take advantage of online admissions blogs to get the wheels churning.
Igor Khayet is the President and Founder of My Resume Shop (www.myresumeshop.com). He is a former Admissions Interviewer for the Yale School of Management and a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. Connect with him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/myresumeshop) and Twitter (twitter.com/myresumeshop).