MBA admissions deadlines for the world’s top business schools are rolling out for the class of 2021.
Harvard Business School’s R1 deadline is Wednesday, September 4, 2019. Second up is Chicago Booth’s R1 deadline of Thursday, September 26 and Wharton’s on September 17. This gives you roughly three months to apply for a top-notch MBA this fall.
Focusing on your application for two to three months can really make a difference between a strong application and a stand-out one. For all your efforts, where can you get the best return on investment? My colleagues at Fortuna Admissions share their 7-step approach on how to best prioritize your time in the coming weeks:
- SELF-REFLECTION AND INTROSPECTION
Schools want to understand your motives for the MBA (and specifically, why their program). The application is intended to inspire thoughtful analysis on your future potential, personal growth and short-long term goals. As such, considered self-reflection is the essential starting point. Introspection is most effective if you take some time away from your office (and devices) and really explore what motivates you for business school and why now. Also contemplate what makes you unique and solicit outside perspectives on your strengths and weaknesses. You want to develop a storyline that’s convincing, captivating and authentic for admissions committees.
- SCHOOL RESEARCH & NETWORKING
Each MBA program has a distinctive culture, identity and management curriculum so you MUST go beyond the MBA rankings when doing your research. Prestige matters, but so does a school’s alumni network, faculty, class size, recruitment prospects, community feel, and location – particularly when it comes to assessing fit. Admissions committees are practiced at discerning when a candidate has a strong attraction to their school and has done their research. Begin by following each schools’ admissions blogs and social media, and network with the school communities (online or in person) through research, campus visits and alumni outreach. The aim is to shortlist programs that best match your personal goals.
- LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE & EXTRACURRICULARS
Schools are looking for a track record of leadership – in the workplace and elsewhere as admissions committees want to understand what you’ll offer their community, alumni network and, ultimately, the world. Have you led a team project, mentored others, volunteered and made a positive impact? From now until the application deadlines, look for ways to enrich your profile through further community involvement or extracurriculars that naturally mirror your interests, or by taking more responsibility at work. It’s important to further investigate how to effectively position extracurriculars in your application and MBA resume.
- ACADEMIC HISTORY AND GMAT SCORE
Consider re-sitting the GMAT if you’ve already tested but scored below the average for your target schools – but only if you think you can significantly boost your score. Thoughtful GMAT prepcan elicit an incredible amount of time and stress, so carefully weigh the best use of energy. If you’re concerned your quant score isn’t going to improve, consider enrolling in an online course for accounting, finance or stats to showcase your academic skills and commitment. If your undergrad degree is short on quant courses and your GMAT quant is not strong, you’ll need to demonstrate you can handle the quant-heavy course load.
- LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
The recommenders you select should serve as your personal champions. As such, ensure they are people who can supply both detail and firsthand evidence of your current excellence and future potential in stellar letters of recommendation. Giving recommenders ample time – such as six weeks in advance – as well as some guidance to compose your letter to set them up for success. Speak to them in advance – and better yet, create a brief – to articulate your MBA plans, your motivations, what you feel have been your strengths and weaknesses. Include the school’s criteria as well.
- CAREER PLANS
Developing a powerful career visionis a vital part of your narrative as an MBA candidate. Conveying a clear picture of why an MBA, where you want to go, where you’ve been is essential for achieving your highest ambitions. As stated, business schools also want to see you’ve given careful thought to why their program will make the difference in executing your career goals.
- FINAL REVISIONS
After completing all elements of your application, take some time ‘off’ – perhaps a couple days – and then do another final review. With a clear mind and fresh eyes, you’re better positioned to catch typos, unintentional repetition or inconsistencies. It’s common that a missing piece becomes evident in your final review. Consider having a colleague or trusted friend do a final proofread.
Given all of the application elements (drafting and re-writing essays, resume revisions, filling out the online form, etc.), it’s most efficient and effective to create a workplan that outlines the key milestones and interdependencies leading up to your deadlines.
Finally, to honestly gauge if you are prepared to submit your best work in Round 1, give yourself an honest check-in two to three weeks ahead of your deadline. You’ll want to submit a thorough and refined application, instead of one that’s rushed and poorly conveyed. The most important thing between now and September: Optimize the ROI of your energy and time to submit an application that’s as brilliant and memorable as you are.
Fortuna Admissions is composed of senior admissions professionals from 12 of the top 15 business schools.