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Your 9-step guide to MBA applications

Your 9-step guide to MBA applications

The MBA application process is long and time-consuming. It takes months of committed effort to create a strong application to increase your chances of getting into the business school of your choice. If you have just started to consider an MBA and don’t know where to start, read through our step by step breakdown on what goes into a good MBA application.

Step 1: Test prep

For those of you who have just started studying for your GMAT, make sure you set aside enough time to understand the concepts and take practice tests before you sit for your GMAT. If you feel that you are prepared, then schedule a date and get it out of the way as soon as you can. Some business schools may also require you to take the TOEFL, even if the majority of your education is in English, so make sure to check this requirement. If you are well versed with English, this test should be fairly simple, so schedule a date soon.

Step 2: Further research your schools

You may already have a fair idea of where you would like to apply, but it’s always good to narrow your options and focus on a few key schools. Go beyond rankings and word-of-mouth to find a program that aligns with your goals and career objectives. Along with this, look at factors, such as student life, class size, faculty and the alumni network to make a more informed decision. Your choice of school will not only dictate the next year or two of your life, but will also shape your career after the program is over, so choose wisely. Also keep in mind that the more schools you apply to, the more time you are going to need to dedicate to your applications.

Step 3: Write down your goals

Why do you want to do an MBA? What do you hope to get out of the MBA? What are your strengths and passions? What are your weaknesses? Can you achieve your goals without the MBA? You may have already thought of these questions, but now it’s time to make sure that your articulate them properly. This forms the main part of your application and needs to be clear.

Step 4: Fine-tune your resume

Most business schools require you to submit a resume, usually a page long. Take your current resume as a starting point and update it with what your position and roles will be at the time you start sending out your applications. Applying to business school is different from applying for a job, so the resume needs to be different too. Make sure to show how you’ve created an impact and to keep technical jargon to a minimum. Next, go through your past work experiences and think about your responsibilities which may not be on your resume, but may be relevant to the program you are applying to. This will also help you when you think about what to highlight in your essays.

Step 5: Solicit your recommendations

Recommendations are a way for the admissions officer to recheck the claims you have made in your application. It also gives them a window into your professional life and understand you a little more, so choose your recommenders wisely. A direct supervisor is always a preferred recommender as they know your working style well. Your business school will provide detailed instructions as to what these letters should contain, so sit down with your recommenders and discuss these points in detail. Stress on your achievements and offer them support while they are writing your letters. Remember, your recommenders will take some time to work on your letters, so start reaching out to them as soon as you can. Sometimes a recommender will ask you to draft the letter and they will sign it. Read our blog article to understand why this is not a good strategy.

Step 6: Flesh out your stories

Essays are the cornerstone of every application, but they should not be your entire life story. They are your chance to highlight your personality, interests and motivations to the admissions committee. Before you start, think about what you want to convey through each essay. Introspect on the personal and professional experiences that have defined you. Brainstorm with a peer, an alumnus or an education consultant to understand what works best for each topic. At The Red Pen, we offer a `storyboarding session that helps a candidate to identify these stories and chart good essays.

Step 7: Write your essays

Now that the stories have been finalised, it’s time to start the essay editing process. Remember that an admissions officer spends about an average of 90 seconds on your essays, so this is where you really need to create an impact. Make sure that your essay has a good structure, with an introduction, body and conclusion. After you have completed your first draft, show it to a few people, like a trusted friend or colleague, who will provide an unbiased feedback and rework it as many times as necessary to make sure it is a strong essay. We find that on average MBA essays usually goes through around five drafts before it can be submitted.

Step 8: Work on the forms

Once the application forms are available online, start working on them as soon as you can. Filling out each form is time-consuming, so make sure not to leave this for the last minute. The application form should be completed with the same rigour and attention to detail as your essays; simply copying lines or bullet points is not enough. Keep your application form ready so that as soon you have everything in place, you can submit it before the deadline.

Step 9: Prepare for the interviews

After you’ve submitted your applications, take some time off before starting to prep for the interviews. Practice some mock questions and prepare mock interviews with friends or colleagues that have gone through the MBA process. For more information, read our MBA interview prep guidelines here.

The MBA application is a very intensive but rewarding process. And like any other process, it needs a fair amount of dedicated time commitment. While there is no set time period for an application, it is advisable to dedicate at least eight to 10 weeks to your application. While planning is important, so is timing. Apply when you feel you have a good application as a strong application in Round 2 is better than a rushed one in Round 1.

If you need further guidance on your MBA applications, get in touch with us.

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