I guess this is an indispensable part of every MBA-related blog:) I’ll try to summarize the key points of my MBA application process with few suggestions that I hope you’ll find helpful:
1. The Choice of B-School: crucial point in the whole process. There are fundamental differences between the top b-schools and you need to make sure the one(s) you apply to are a good fit for you and you’ll be a good fit for them. With acceptance rates in the high single/low double digit figures best bet is to do your homework beforehand:) Increase your chances by thoroughly studying each school’s profile. Apply only to those, that you genuinely feel excited about and it would mean the world to you if you got accepted. Don’t even bother spending your time for ‘in case’ choices.
In terms of # of schools to apply to – you’ll probably hear different guidelines & strategies. I applied to 3 and the applications workload was pretty massive.
2. GMAT. be smart & use the best resources: I started preparing for GMAT with this book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0307945650 and honestly it is a good resource if you have NO CLUE about the GMAT at all. If you want to get your 700+ though, it is not enough. For that purpose I would encourage you to sign up for http://www.gmatpill.com/home-alt/ and follow Zeke Lee’s online learning platform, supporting yourself with these 2 books:
If you spend quality time studying from those 3 sources, you’re good to go.
3. TOEFL. is required if you do not have undergraduate and/or graduate degree from a college or university where instruction was provided in English – which was my case. TOEFL is relatively easy – just make sure that you run few practice tests to feel comfortable with all the sections and get your timing right (especially for the talking part). Google it.
4. Writing essays will take the most time in your application. I started my first drafts in September and finished my last one on Christmas Eve. Of course if you’re a good writer, you might be done with your first or second draft. I just encourage everyone to start early enough, to understand if you’re as good as you think..or not;) The process is pretty straight forward – you write, reach out to alumni and current students to feedback / critique, get the feedback that feels like a punch in the stomach, go to a gym to get your frustration out, come back, sit down and re-write:D I guess just like with all writing assigmnets, it starts awful and gets more and more bearable with time, up until a point when you actually are happy to put down the final touches and press ‘send’. That last – ‘ok, i like it, no more comments’ from your reviewers feels magnificent…and always calls for a celebration:D
5. Letters of reference make a difference. In my case this was the second most time consuming part of the process. Smartly your recommenders choose (says Yoda:)). Make sure they are the people that know you VERY WELL and have EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD (or even better) writing skills. The process of getting a strong recommendation will differ by recommender: some will ask you to provide them with very detailed resume / info about your accomplishments, others will want to talk several times for few hours to get that ‘image of you’ in their heads before putting it down on a sheet of paper. There might also be cases when recommenders will ask you to write the reco and send them for final check. Whichever way, make sure it is the most comfortable for the recommender. You can imagine how much relies on his/hers attitude towards the process – so he/she better be excited:)
Let them know about the school (if they’re not alumns), talk about why you want to pursue an MBA there. If you have it already, share drafts of your essays. In general they should be happy to write the reco – at the end of the day majority (ideally all) of them wish you well and will be proud to say (when you graduate): i worked with / managed a guy that is now a Stanford GSB graduate:)…we’re all (a bit) vain, aren’t we? 😛
6. Interviews. be confident, sell your story: once your application made it pass the initial screening, last thing standing between you and your dream school is a talk with an Alumn or Admission Officer. Remember – you’re not in yet, but close:) So prepare well, scan the net for commonly asked questions and relax. you’ve got a great story to tell. you will kill it!
7. Other: I highly encourage you also to check out few other blogs from MBA Alumni and Candidates. IMHO backinthebay2015 and mbaover30 have both done a fantastic job in getting into a lot of details on dos & donts of the application process.
all the best!