Maybe you got busy with fall activities or took the GMAT or GRE a couple extra times, and now you suddenly find yourself just a few weeks away from Round 2 deadlines. You might be wondering, “Can I get my applications in on time, or do I have to delay my plans by a year?”
Let us reassure you that if you are committed to submitting your applications in Round 2 and can take ownership of doing so, you can get them done in time! Doing so will require some efficiency and planning, but we at mbaMission have seen many candidates complete strong applications within a compressed time frame.
What does “taking ownership” mean? Let us break it down.
First, it means you have to put in the necessary time. If you commit only a couple of hours a week to your applications, you are not likely to be able to complete more than one or two before the deadlines. We suggest dedicating approximately two hours on most weekdays and three to four hours each weekend day to work steadily on your applications.
Note that we recommend spreading your application work out across the week. If you save it all for the weekend, you will likely run out of steam, be less focused, and not leave yourself sufficient time to take a break from a particular essay so you can review it with fresh eyes and gain perspective on it. Steadily committing one or two hours each day is a far more effective strategy than saving everything for a marathon weekend session.
Second, you need to use your time strategically. Assess your personal work style and consider the type of tasks that need to be done. For example, creating a first draft of an essay or strategically planning out all your essay topics for one school requires focus and brainpower. If you are not a morning person, do not wake up early to tackle such a project; instead, dedicate 30 minutes in the morning to editing a couple of bullet points on your resume or filling in some of the short answers on the application itself. On the other hand, if you work best in the morning and start to fade at 9 p.m., set your alarm for an hour earlier, tackle your hardest projects before you start your day, and save the less intense work for the evening.
Third, you will want to take time to brainstorm. We know that simply diving into an essay and starting to write it is tempting, especially when you feel pressed for time, but pausing first to think through and plan out all the essays for a given school and how you will use them to keep the admissions committee learning about you is incredibly important. That extra bit of effort at the beginning will make for better-quality essays and save you rewriting time later.
Fourth, you must make sure your recommenders receive the necessary recommendation materials early. That way, they will be writing your recommendations while you are working on the rest of your materials. (We take a similar approach with our clients. We encourage them to send each essay draft to their consultant as soon as it is ready and start working on the next, rather than waiting until all the essays for a school are complete and sending them together. This way, they maximize effectiveness by having two people working on their essays simultaneously.)
Here are a few more helpful tips:
- Set fake deadlines for yourself that are a couple of days earlier than the actual application deadlines. This gives you a bit of breathing room and allows you to reread your material with fresh eyes, which can help you more easily catch typos and other mistakes
- Maximize your school selection. If you are very efficient and focused, you should be able to submit three or four high-quality applications, but finishing more than that with excellent quality might be challenging. So, rather than applying only to your stretch schools, swap in one or two safer options. Build a portfolio of choices: one or two stretch schools, one or two safer schools, and two or three in-between schools.
- If you still have not taken the GMAT or GRE, you have a bigger challenge with respect to your available time, but you can still benefit from the tips we have presented here thus far. Further, we suggest splitting the time you have outside of work 50-50 between preparing for the test and working on your applications—until the week before the exam. At that point, dedicate 80% of your time to test prep, saving the more tedious and less intense application work, such as editing your resume or completing short-answer questions, for when you just cannot study any more. Once the exam is behind you, you can devote your time fully to your applications.
Finally, you do have some options for extending the amount of time still available to you. Many non-U.S. schools, for example, have later deadlines, and some U.S. schools outside the top 20 have rolling admissions.
If you wonder which schools you would be competitive at or have questions about your application essays, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission consultant.