If you are a professional seeking to fast track your career to your midterm goal and believe an MBA program is your next step, then you have come to the right place!
Here are some pointers from my own experience with the MBA application process as well as useful tips that helped me get into the MBA school of my choice:
Tip #1 – Set your end goal
There are many false notions on how business schools are a great way to turbocharge your career. This may be true, however, the caveat is that it depends on what your end goal is and how an MBA could help you achieve it. For example, individuals interested in growing in one specific area (such as supply chain or accounting) may be more suited to pursuing a specialized master’s degree in accounting or technology instead of a two-year MBA.
Takeaway: Assess your current skill set and areas of interests and gauge how a master’s program would take you closer to achieving your midterm goal.
Tip #2 – Take the GMAT ahead of time
Once you have decided on pursuing an MBA, it is best to take the GMAT as early as possible. I actually took the test a year prior to my expected entrance into an MBA program, which really helped in providing me with peace of mind. Since I took the test early, I knew that I would have the option to re-take the test for a higher score.
Takeaway: Figure out when the deadlines for your schools of interest are and work backward. Give yourself enough time to re-take the test if you are not satisfied with your first score.
Tip #3 – Narrow down your schools of interest
When faced with the question of which schools I wanted to apply to, some of the factors I considered when making this choice were based on each school’s ranking and reputation, strength of the program in my area of interest, class size, location and climatic preferences, available scholarships and financial aid, full-time versus part-time curriculum, and most importantly, school culture.
Takeaway: Do your homework and research schools; evaluate your fit with the school culture and curriculum.
Tip #4 – Stay in touch with former employers or request current ones for recommendations
Letters of recommendation are required for your MBA application. Make sure to reconnect with former employers and colleagues ahead of the application deadlines so that you can discuss concrete examples of your leadership qualities, skills, and professional strengths. These qualities and skills should also be iterated in your MBA essay.
In my case, I contacted my former employers and colleagues around six weeks before the deadline to give them sufficient time to go through any required forms.
Takeaway: Inform your former employers or colleagues well in advance and provide them with items such as your résumé, statement of purpose, talking points (for example, projects you managed, work achievements, and so on as reminders), your list of schools and deadlines, a list of instructions on how to submit the recommendation (whether by the business school’s online system or by mail), and a thank you note for doing you this favor.
Tip #5 – Get your international bachelor’s degree transcripts evaluated
Since educational systems vary from country to country, it is recommended to contact the Admissions Office of the school you are interested in ahead of time. This will help you understand which educational records you should submit at the time of application and how these would be evaluated.
Most of the schools I applied to mandated I have my bachelor’s degree transcript evaluated by World Education Services (WES) to have my score stated in U.S. equivalent terms. In general, it is best to write to the Admissions Office at least 6 months in advance to clearly understand the requirements and to be sure that all documents are submitted and evaluated in time for admission, visa application, and arrival.
Takeaway: Reach out to the Admissions Office well in advance to understand the process and requirements.
Tip #6 – Build your résumé
Your MBA résumé will give the Admissions Committee (adcom) the crucial first impression of you as a business leader, employee, and potential student, so it is very important to create a dynamic and compelling résuméwhich is clear, concise, and engaging.
I personally used the STAR approach (situation, task, action, result) model for bullet items on my résumé and ensured it was only one page in length.
Takeaway: Make sure your résumé is clear, concise, and includes any skills, strengths, and attributes you would like the adcom to know about.
Tip #7 – Network and reach out
Additionally, reach out to current students and alumni from the schools you are interested in. They are generally known for helping, hiring, mentoring, and taking care of each other. Connecting with alumni helps to build your own network and gain valuable insight into the program to help you evaluate if the school is a good match for you and your career plans.
Takeaway: Contact and connect with alumni from schools you are interested in to determine if the school fits you and your future career. Good luck!