By now you should have:
- Taken the GMAT and scored about 700
- Taken the TOEFL and scored more than 265 (CBT)
- Done your research regarding the MBA programs and the MBA experience
- Picked some schools you want to try an apply to.
For each school you have chosen you need to know the deadlines for first, second and third rounds. Most schools don't care if you apply on the second round. Third round might be problematic. Note that some schools (such as Columbia) have rolling admissions process, meaning that "Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received and decisions can be rendered at any point during the review period. It is always to your benefit to apply before the posted deadline" (From the Columbia website). You should take into consideration deadlines for scholarships.
Prepare a schedule for all the schools you want to apply to, and optimally give yourself at least 4 days between each school - you will need it! Don't apply to more than 4 schools in each round. Apply for the schools you want best at the first round (but don't apply only to Top-10 schools - give yourself the option to choose a Top-20 or Top-30 school as well).
Remember that each application will cost you 200-300$, and you will have to be prepared with everything on time. That means that you should start no later than 3 month from the first application. 6 month would be great.
I heard about MBA students that only applied to only one school and got in. I heard about successful candidates that prepared their entire application in 2 weeks. If you think you can pull it off - go ahead. But most people (like me) simply need more time and more schools.
What do you need in the end?
This is a short checklist for the stuff you must send on-line or by mail prior to the deadline (if you don't send something important you might be postponed for the next round - contact the specific admissions office).
- On-line application form (Personal details, employment history, academic background, self reported GMAT and TOEFL scores, self reported undergraduate grades, additional essays)
- 2 or 3 Recommendations - should be sent on-line or by mail from the recommenders (or from you in a sealed envelope).
- Pay on-line
- Send official GMAT and TOEFL score reports to the school directly from the companies.
- Send official undergraduate grades, class-rank, and diploma in a sealed envelope (in English).
The last two can be arranged ahead of time - I suggest you take care of it as soon as possible.
Is it worth to use a consulting company?
There are consulting companies that help MBA candidates to prepare the application. They will not write anything for you, just help you decide what to write, come up with a promising strategy, fix your English, and give you comments on the essays. Those services are very expensive - starting from 60$ per hour (can reach 10-20K$). But, you might want to look at the overall cost (100K$ per year) and decide if additional 10K$ to spend in order to get in is not worth it. Those consulting companies can be helpful if you utilize them correctly. DON'T DO ANYTHING UNETHICALLY. You should write the essays. You should tell the truth. You should write about true events. Believe me - you have plenty. Those companies should only guide you based on their knowledge of the schools and the process - not do all the work for you (they won't).
Research your own background
Before you do anything, sit down and write everything you have done in your life after high school - at work, in school, in public service, military, and hobbies. Take a week to do it. Write all your accomplishments - anything that made you look good. Did you initiate? Did you help someone? Did you lead a team or a project? Did you try something innovative and it worked or did not work? Did you make the difference? Did you stand out in the crowd? Do you have something unique? Did you have a good idea or invent anything? Can you show good team work? Were you successful? Did you win any awards? Was your group better because of you? Are you a part of a winning team? Did you improve anything? Can you show progress in your work, and links between the things that you do? And so on.
This should be long!!! I had 9 pages, and I had to dig deep. It's not that I have such a unique background. On my day to day work it seems that I show some enthusiasm, initiative, drive, and maybe some of it can be connected to leadership later (this is from a retrospective point of view - I could not see all of it at first). I showed progress in my work and status throughout the years.
I wrote down everything. Some of it was not useful in the essays, but the things that I wanted to write about became more clear to me. For the first time in my life I could actually list my accomplishments (and my failures). I knew what I would want to avoid mentioning. I could perhaps see my weaknesses so I could address them later on. And most important I had examples for my strengthes and weaknesses - this would be extremely useful both in the essays, recommendations, and interviews.
You might want to discuss this with your close friends and family. They might be able to say things about you that you did not realize.
For each of the companies and organizations you worked for or took part of, do some research and find some impressive way to describe them - was your company #3 in manufacturing something in the world? Was your company a leader in your industry? Did your company earn 40% of the revenue of the entire industry? Things like that. Show that you were part of successful interesting organizations and projects.
Create your resume
Write a 1 page resume. It should be a brief summary of your background list. For each employment, degree or activity in your background pick out the 5 most important things you've done, and write them in 1 short sentence starting with an active verb. Pick the things that shows your leadership, teamwork, initiative and so on. It should look like a business CV, so format it in a similar way.
Some school require your resume, and some don't - but will not object if you ask to send one. This document is good to have, because it will help your focus on the essays.
Recommendations and Essays
I will write different posts about those. You should start them no later than 3 month before the first application. Because each school asks different questions you will have to work on each application seperately (but can re-use some of the work from previous applications).
You now know when to start preparing the application, how to create a schedule, and how to get yourself starting by creating a list of your background and your resume.
In the next posts I will describe in detail how to write the essays and how to get good recommendations.