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5 Ways to Get Ready for Fall Applications

Posted in Test Prep on May 4, 2011 by

It’s not too early to start putting the wheels in motion for your fall b-school apps. Here are a few things you can do, now, to ensure you’re in good shape when application deadlines roll around.

1. Decide if you plan to retake the GMAT.

Whether your goal is to break 700, join the “40/40” club or simply crack the median at your top-choice MBA program, it can be difficult to know what to do with a score that isn’t what you envisioned. If your work experience and your personal story are phenomenal, you might not want to worry about a score that’s 20 or 30 points below your target. If you are unsure of a number of areas in your application (your GPA or work experience, for example), the decision might be more complicated.

Regardless of whether you plan to retake or not, you want to decide as soon as possible. Nothing is more detrimental to overall admissions success than an application strategy that is poorly executed. If you are working full time, you probably have limited time and energy, so understand that continued study for the GMAT may mean less time to develop other aspects of your application.

2. Start thinking about your essays.

Most applications are not released until August, but you can predict what you’ll see. Here are some of the common questions: “How will you add to the culture of [insert business school here]? What are your greatest accomplishments? What are your long-term and short-term goals?” Given how compact the essays must be, you want to get the most mileage possible out of every line. Thick about how you will answer these questions meaningfully and concisely.

3. Decide who to ask for recommendations.

B-school apps can be completed in an evening’s worth of time — but that doesn’t mean they should be. Successful applications are generally the product of months and even years’ worth of work and reflection. At the last minute, you may find yourself in a jam with too many recommendation slots to fill and too few writers to fill them. So remember to look closely at the details and the fine print instructions on your application! For instance, some may require you to get a recommendation from “two work supervisors and a peer” as opposed to just anyone. It’s the sort of subtle distinction you could overlook today that might cause serious problems a few weeks before deadlines.

Decide whom you plan to ask now and have several “back-ups” in mind for each slot should someone say “no.” A word of advice: don’t expect everyone to say “yes” automatically. Apps can require as many as 3-4 pages from each recommender, so don’t ask a single person to write too many.

4. Get your work responsibilities in order.

Remember that work experience is the most important part of your application. While you shouldn’t sweat it if you haven’t received a promotion or a pay raise in awhile, any tangible sign that you are a star performer at work will enhance your application. So now is the time to kick your work ethic into high gear.

You should also start thinking about how you plan to connect the dots. Are you prepared to get the job you want straight out of the MBA? Are there any responsibilities you can take on at work that will help you get the opportunities you want out of your MBA? Remember: you will be expected to start looking for an internship almost as soon as you get to school.

5. Register for a summer class.

Halfway through the summer, it will be too late to register for an economics/finance/accounting/statistics course that began in June, so you should get your plans ironed out before then. Be realistic about the amount of time you can dedicate to additional coursework, especially if you have a demanding full-time job. You do want a little time to reflect and do some soul-searching.