So you’ve decided that the coming year is going to be the year for you; when you finally take charge of your career and make it happen for yourself. If your New Year resolution is to get an MBA application (or two?) in next year, this article would be a good place to start.
If you went back to see if we wrote ‘next year‘, you saw it right the first time, planning and preparing for your MBA application has to be ideally a year-long thing; maybe even longer.
The post is an attempt to apprise MBA wannabes on when to do what as well as give a quick overview of the main components involved in the application.
Bear in mind that these are not all the ingredients that go into making a strong application but just the main components. The ingredients is a separate matter altogether best left for another day.
Without further ado, here’s how your list should ‘ideally’ look like for the coming year (and beyond).
Sample MBA Application Timetable
So there you have it. But now let’s have a slightly deeper look as some of these things might appear a bit counter-intuitive or confusing.
GMAT Study Planning [Feb – Apr (Attempt 1) | Jun – Jul (Attempt 2)]
Though we have made our suggestion, but this can really vary from candidate to candidate. While some might be able to crack it in a month’s time, some others may need 4+ months. But start early here.
The reason you see two bars on the time-chart is if in case you have to take another shot at it.
The score does set the tone for many reasons as it is one of the most controllable factors in your hands. You will find a lot of free tips/resources on our website on getting your GMAT study plan in good shape.
There still remain a handful of schools out there that insist on this even if majority of your education is in the English language. While you can try for a waiver, there are some that will not budge. The list keeps changing so you have to firm up your target list and then take this. It is not a difficult test at all if you are decently well versed with the language. Don’t fret over and it in many cases, just best to get done with it well in time.
Read this to get a basic overview of TOEFL Format and Preparation.
Post MBA Goals Finalization [Jan – Apr]
This ideally should be the basic motivator you are contemplating an MBA at the first place.
If you haven’t yet read it, pick up a copy of Beyond the MBA Hype to debunk some myths associated with the MBA.
Even after you have an idea of the goal, the articulation itself needs fair amount of research and thinking though.
Remember, this is the main component of your application (baring some top schools who have started omitting this question altogether of course) so make sure you know what you are aiming for and are also able to convince the ad-com that you can make it happen.
If in doubt, there is always the MBA MAP to help you out on this aspect.
Research and/or Visit Business School Campuses [Mar – Jun]
This one goes sort of hand-in-hand with your GMAT prep. If you are early enough, you could even utilize the five free schools you get to send the score to. But don’t try and over-optimize here.
Take your time as this will dictate not only your next 1-2 years, but the career thereafter. Make a LOT of effort in connecting with the school community.
If you can, visit your target school to (cliché alert) understand the school’s culture. We do not recommend making a trip just for this – the expense is just a bit too much frankly; but if you can maybe club it with a personal/professional trip, it is a great thing usually.
In today’s digital world, schools are putting a lot of effort in ensuring the geographic distance does not put international candidates at any disadvantage. That said, we are at least a few years away from getting there.
Writing your Essays [Aug – Oct ]
The MBA essays really are a window to the real you – both as a person and as a professional. This is really where the art comes in and it stops being purely plain old logic and analytical skills.
An often times frustrating experience, many candidates claim to have found their ‘inner self’ through this experience. While that may not happen to you, but be true to yourself here and leave at least 2 months before the application deadlines for this; R1 deadlines are mostly in Sept-Oct timeframe barring a few exceptions.
Once you’ve poured your heart out, make sure to get a second look on it from friends / family / MBA guide – the third is where we can come in.
Plan your Recommenders and Recommendations [Aug – Sep]
Recommendations are a way for the committee to check the veracity on some of the claims you may have made. It is also their chance to judge your potential and fit with respect to your strengths.
This process is fairly collaborative since most recommenders would be senior professionals; you will in many cases, need to hand-hold and help them along the process.
Once you have your basic story in place, that’s when you should start this process. Do not keep it for the end as some recommenders may take their own sweet time because of their time constraints.
Fill the Online MBA Application Form [Aug – Oct]
This should preferably be your first step of the application after the GMAT.
Do not rely on third party websites to get information on essays and other component. Always go to the mother source i.e. the school website.
There are many cases where schools have ‘hidden’ questions in the application forms which comes as a surprise to several candidates (and even MBA consultants).
In some cases, the forms are so detailed that the candidates run out of time and steam by the time they get to this.
Keep this ready in tandem with your essays so that you can hit that submit button well before the actual deadline date.
Interview Preparation [Nov – Jan]
Our stand on this could be a bit counter-intuitive. We do not recommend you start preparing for the interviews as soon as you’ve submitted the application. After the above gruesome process, it is fair to take some time off.
In most cases, it is ok even if you start preparing after getting an interview invite. This avoids any heartburn / frustration of wasted efforts and also ensures freshness of responses.
Do not overdo it – after all, rarely are these interviews a test of your ‘rocket science’ knowledge. A week or two is usually good enough for these, assuming you don’t have a serious hurdle to cross here (like interview phobia).
Planning for MBA Financing [Jan – Mar (current year) | Feb – Mar (next year)]
Like GMAT, this too has two legs, but unlike GMAT, those are a must do for financing. Many candidates end up applying without understanding the kind of money commitment an international MBA requires.
First get yourself acquainted with that. After that, do some basic fact finding on if you had to go without any financial assistance from the school, where will the funds come from.
Talk to a few financing agencies and have a high level plan in place even before you begin the application process. The real work on this begins after you’ve gotten an admit of course. This process can take time and that is another reason to try and target the R1 deadlines.
Planning for Round 2 (R2 Battle) [Nov – Jan]
If you started well in time, you hope that this is not something you have to do. But given the way results and interviews are structured, it becomes tough to wait for the outcome of R1 before beginning your R2 journey.
This should ideally begin soon after the R1 journey ends – maybe with a bit of a breather as mentioned above.
You may go down this track even if you are successful in R1 – one can always be more ambitious. This is also the reason why the process goes beyond the year really.