What to Expect When Applying to Business School

What to Expect When Applying to Business School - mbaMissionIf you are considering applying to a leading MBA program, start by ensuring that you have the right mind-set so that you are mentally prepared for the process and are positioned for success. Here is what you can expect the experience to be:

Many applicants are surprised by how time-consuming the application process truly is—not just the bigger elements, such as writing essays and studying for and taking tests, but also the smaller demands of the application. To get a sense of how much time you will likely need and the many steps required, read this article: The Ideal MBA Application Timeline. Make sure you have thought through when you will be able to set aside time to dedicate to the process, whether that is after work, on the weekends, or early in the morning before your workday begins. You need to make this commitment to yourself to be sure you are giving your application the proper focus. An MBA admissions consultant can help keep you on track and serve as an accountability partner.

To effectively answer the MBA application questions, you will need to be clear on your career goals—both short-term and long-term aspirations—and why you need an MBA to achieve them. Assessing new career paths, networking, and speaking to individuals in your (potential) desired future field might demand additional time. Many schools’ essay questions also require that you reflect on your personal values, your life experiences to date and what you have learned from them, and what makes you uniquely you. Ample time should be devoted to contemplating these key topics. For advice on answering the notoriously challenging, self-reflective questions posed by Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), watch our YouTube videos (HBS, Stanford GSB) and review our book (60% off for a limited time).

Given how time intensive each application is, you must thoroughly think through what is most important to you in an MBA program and refine your list of target schools accordingly. Going beyond the rankings to learn about a program in depth is essential to ensure that it is a good fit for your personal goals, learning style, and personality. mbaMission’s business school Insider’s Guides recommend considering eight different criteria when evaluating a school and provide a comprehensive look at all eight for today’s leading MBA programs. And our YouTube channel also provides a plethora of helpful school-specific information.

Key questions to ask yourself and reflect on include the following: Do you prefer a case study or traditional lecture-based teaching style? How important is experiential learning to you? Would you rather have a core curriculum set for you in the first year of the program or the flexibility to select electives from day one? Do you thrive in an urban setting or prefer a small, more intimate college town? Do the school’s academic specialization(s) and recruiting focus align with your career goals? Is a traditional two-year program right for you, or should you consider a one-year, part-time, or even executive MBA instead? Should you work for another year or two before applying? How does your personal profile align with the school’s class profile?

You also need to define your personal “tipping point.” What do you consider the “best” school that you would actually not attend if you were to be admitted to it? Some people believe that the commitment and opportunity cost an MBA program requires are only worthwhile if they are accepted to certain schools. Others are convinced of the value of an MBA in achieving their goals, regardless of the specific program. This is a very personal decision but one you must make early on because you should apply only to schools that you would confidently and proudly attend if you received a letter of acceptance. An mbaMission consultant can help you effectively navigate the school-selection process based on your personal profile, goals, and interests. Simply schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

The decision to attend a top-tier business school is a significant one, especially given the arduous application process. However, having the right perspective and being aware of the reality of everything involved will set you up for a successful and more enjoyable experience.

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