While there are still seven months until next year’s first-round deadlines, there may in fact be less time to prepare than prospective applicants might imagine. Many candidates do not contemplate how daunting it can be to start the application process in September, especially those who have their eyes on October deadlines. Suddenly, you could face the task of tackling the GMAT, writing many different essays for five or six different schools, drafting a resume, selecting and managing recommenders and completing campus visits — all at once. If that is not enough, you will still have to continue with existing commitments to your employer, community and family. The difference between completing your ideal number of applications and a reduced, “manageable” number might be the difference between starting to prepare now and starting in the summer or fall.
GMAT – Complete by June
The GMAT is clearly the most stressful piece of the puzzle that can be taken care of at your discretion. The benefits of taking the GMAT soon are twofold: you will have a solid understanding of where you will be competitive and, again, the test is out of the way. Most candidates prepare for several months for the GMAT, and it is important to leave time to retake the test, just in case your score is not as high as you had hoped. The bottom line is that it is best to be studying for the GMAT in isolation — not while writing your essays. We recommend that candidates complete the GMAT by the end of June, which leaves April, May and June to study – get started.
Resume – Complete by July
Additionally, as you take breaks from your GMAT study or possibly between taking your test and the release of essay questions by your school of choice, it is wise to take the time to update your resume. Aside from the satisfaction that comes with completing this piece of the puzzle, your resume can be a solid starting point for brainstorming about your professional essays and considering your accomplishments in greater depth. Of course, your most recent entry for your existing job will need to be reviewed and possibly updated near the deadline, but, again, this is a small step in a much larger process that will ultimately relieve some pressure on you. Again, the goal is to only have essays to write as of July. (Resume drafting will be explored in greater depth as part of this series.)
Community Service – Start now
If you have not yet begun making a commitment to your community, now is certainly the time to get started. With seven months until the first-round deadline, you still have time to make a significant contribution to an organization and not run into the credibility problems that occur when you start volunteering two months before the deadline. Furthermore, you don’t want to be making up for lost time in your community, just as you are about to tackle five applications. Unfortunately, six months ago was a better time to start getting involved, but right now you are nearing the limit for what is suspicious with respect to next year. (Community service will be explored in greater depth as part of this series.)
Knowledge Gathering – Start now
Now is also the time to begin understanding the differences between the MBA programs. Even though some schools’ class visit programs have ended for the year, you can still learn about programs via rankings, school websites, message boards and, most importantly, by talking to current students and alumni. There are significant differences from program to program, as a result of pedagogy, class size, locations, strength of alumni base, professional specializations, facilities, professors and firms that recruit on campus. By educating yourself about each school’s unique offerings, you will be able to make a stronger case for yourself and your fit with a particular school. (Networking will be explored in greater depth as part of this series.)
Supplementary Classes – Complete by August (at the latest)
Start time and intensities of supplemental courses, such as calculus or financial accounting, vary according to the institution offering them. Thus, it is difficult to offer advice on a broad basis on how to time these classes. Preferably, you can take these classes in isolation, so that you can focus on the GMAT and essay writing exclusively and separately. However, if you cannot avoid some overlap, it is better to take a class while studying for the GMAT, as the increased numerical exposure could help improve your test score. While you may not be able to control the end dates of the class, it is best to have these classes completed before the essay questions are released, and if this is not possible, at the end of summer session (August) at the latest.
There is certainly no need to panic, but the clock is ticking. By taking some important steps now, you can reduce the pressure next fall and thus increase your chances of gaining admission to the school of your choice.
MBA Mission offers pre-application consulting services for those interested in charting a clear course to their MBA.