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MBA applications: FAQ regarding voluntary career breaks
Written by Sameer Kamat
Two questions that we get often get from aspiring MBA applicants regarding taking a career-break for completing their MBA application. As opposed to forced career breaks (lay-offs, redundancies, down-sizing), here candidates are talking about a voluntary break from their hectic jobs.
1) “I want to produce a high quality application as I am targeting some of the top tier schools. I need some time off to concentrate on my GMAT preparation and MBA applications. After that I would have to manage MBA essays, recommendations, prepare for interviews for multiple schools which would also be quite demanding. If I’m able to take a break (of around four months) from work I’m sure I’ll do a good job with my MBA application. Or if my managers and the HR team don’t agree, I don’t mind leaving my job to focus full-time on GMAT preparation and MBA applications. Would this break be justified?”
The period before your MBA application is quite precious as your fellow competitors might be toiling hard to get the maximum mileage from their current job so that all these achievements can add diversity and value to their profile. There may be others trying their luck at an overseas assignment or trying to take up leadership positions so that all this figures in their application and improves their chances of getting into the best possible school. The admissions committee (adcom) may wonder whether you willingly took the break or whether you were forced to. Either ways they’d want a justification. So you would have a tough time trying to explain the need for this break to the adcom.
An MBA program is quite a vigorous one, especially the time-management part being very tricky. This is more pronounced for a one-year program which tends to be more intense and requires juggling to meet multiple project (both individual as well as group projects) deadlines, attend social networking events (these events could be lead-generation venues for your future jobs or internship), attend lectures, seminars…in short you really ought to be efficient and maximise your output in the available period.
If you‘re feeling over-burdened about handling your MBA application along with your current job, this can raise doubts about your capacity to survive in a competitive b-school environment. Even though your application would be in perfect shape because of your devoted efforts, this career-break could be a setback for your application.
2) “But I have a high pressure job. I need to travel quite often. How will I get enough time for my GMAT prep and essays both of which need a concentrated effort? I would like to apply to my top priority schools in the first round itself as I would hold the maximum chances of getting in; so I would have multiple applications to manage. Doesn’t taking a break at this point sound logical?”
It is pretty common for Indian students to take a break while preparing for important targets (IAS, IIT, Miss World etc). But when it comes to international MBA applications, this practice would seem a little unusual for Adcoms that get strong profiles from across the world without this Indian tadka of career-breaks.
If you ask us, we’d recommend that you resist this temptation of taking this break. There are better ways to manage it. You can follow some of the ‘best practices’ (can’t help it, corporate buzzwords are omnipresent!) like beginning your B-school research early.
We have come across candidates who sort out their school-related queries on forums and are regular readers more than two years before their scheduled MBA plans. You can spend time on school websites and various MBA forums gathering information. You can set aside some time each day or maybe some devoted time on the weekends for the same.
As far as your GMAT preparation goes, you can get hold of some good GMAT books. Browse through them to get a feel of the kind of questions asked. If you think you can manage it on your own, that’s the best way forward. In case you wish to get some GMAT mentors, you can go in for coaching or one-on-one tutoring. Online coaching has made it possible to access study material even when you’re travelling.
Your GMAT scores are applicable for up to five years so once you’re done with that, you can focus solely on the essays. Take it one at a time and though the process might take slightly longer, you’ll be able to come up with a good quality application.
Once you’re convinced about being able to multi-task, go ahead with the time-frame allocation for each component, set milestones and focus towards achieving it. All the best with your efforts!
We have come across genuine cases where it would’ve been almost impossible to focus seriously on MBA related activities. But these are rare. In most cases, better planning can resolve the issues without having to resort to extreme measures like leaving your job.