As a new year arrives, it brings a fresh start —an opportunity to seize the day and transform your future. For many, it’s a time to make resolutions to change, grow, choose a new direction, and maybe even reinvent yourself.
If your goal for 2024 is to apply to an MBA program, congratulations! This is an investment in yourself that will certainly pay off in your career. It’s also the start of a journey that will lead to immense personal growth, perhaps in ways you can’t even envision yet.
Like any goal-oriented resolution, whether it’s losing weight, exercising more, or learning a new language, getting into the MBA program of your dreams doesn’t happen overnight. It takes focus, persistence, planning, and an organized approach.
Fortuna’s MBA admissions experts recommend these steps you should be taking right now and over the next few months to make your goal of getting accepted to an MBA program a reality. To lay a really good foundation for your application, you should first focus on:
- Defining your goals
- Deciding which MBA format is right for you
- Researching schools and programs
- Locking in stellar test scores
- Buffing up your credentials
1) Define your goals
Before you can get into an MBA program, you need to have a clear idea of what you want out of it. Are you looking to change careers? Put yourself on the path for a leadership role? Flesh out your idea for a new venture in an entrepreneurship-focused program? Gain exposure to global business? Your goals will define which MBA program is right for you.
An MBA is a valuable credential, but it’s also a journey that requires a great deal of time, energy, hard work, and sacrifice —not to mention significant expense— and it’s not a journey to be undertaken without a good sense of your destination. MBA Admissions committees will look for evidence that you have a well-thought-out career vision and goal, and that your goal is a good fit for their program. Defining your goals takes serious self-reflection that sets the foundation for the rest of your application process. For guidance, see Fortuna’s advice on how to craft short- and long-term career goals and a career vision.
2) Which MBA?
The MBA has morphed into a dazzling array of formats and specialties: part-time programs offered in evenings or weekends, executive MBA programs for more experienced business professionals, online or hybrid virtual/in-person programs, joint degrees, and specialty-focused programs.
For example, Wharton offers more than 15 different MBA options when counting all the possible joint degree options. Top-ranked Chicago Booth just launched a Master of Finance degree and a Master in Management, an accelerated 10-month program that offers a choice of five specializations: analytics, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, and strategic management.
This is where that key first step of defining your goals comes in. You may want a full-time, two-year MBA to maximize your learning experiences, leadership opportunities, career search opportunities, and networking. You may gain the skills you need more efficiently in a one-year MBA or a specialty master’s program. With a little research, you may even decide a few targeted microcredential courses will build the skills you need to get where you’re going. (Learn more about choosing the program that’s right for you.)
3) Do your research
MBA programs all offer a sound grounding in the core disciplines of business management — but no two MBA programs are exactly alike. Each program has strengths, specialties, and specific requirements, and each school has a unique culture and community that will shape your learning experience. Schools feature specialized academic centers on everything from entrepreneurship to climate change that enhance and expand your experiences, and each has a network that will support you and shape your future opportunities.
Start now to dig in and learn as much as you can about schools that interest you. Learn about their offerings, look at their admitted class profile, talk to students and alumni, and if at all possible, visit the campus if you can. (Learn more about how to research schools here.)
4) Lock in stellar test scores
Figure out when you will take the GMAT or GRE if you haven’t already done so. Both tests changed their format in late 2023, and the new tests will be your only option for the 2024-25 admissions cycle.
Schools look at much more than your GMAT, but scores do matter, because they correlate with academic success in B-school. Average scores of admitted candidates have been rising steadily for 15 years, so it’s important to prepare efficiently and perform well. We strongly recommend doing some test prep to familiarize yourself with the format and content and learn where your weaknesses are.
Start early, to allow yourself plenty of time to retake the test if needed, or to take some supplemental courses to build your knowledge in areas where you may be a bit weak.
5) Buff up your credentials
MBA admissions committees want to know who you are and what you will contribute to the admitted class. They look for evidence of leadership and impact. Now is the time to burnish your resume and your personal brand.
If possible, show initiative by taking on a new project at work or put yourself forward for a new role or experience. Suggest new ideas or process improvements and push them forward. Look for opportunities to demonstrate that you are an inclusive leader who can inspire and motivate a team.
At the same time, consider your activities outside of work. Business schools seek well-rounded individuals and look for evidence that you have outside interests and are engaged in your community. Hobbies, sports, volunteering, and activism are also arenas where you can demonstrate your character, commitment, and impact, so review your profile to see what your activities say about you. It’s a good time to ramp up your engagement in the things that bring you joy and fulfillment – but be aware that schools can be skeptical of a sudden uptick in activity in the months before you apply, especially if it’s something you haven’t been involved in before.
Let’s Get You Admitted
If all this sounds overwhelming, remember: every journey of self-improvement and reinvention starts with a single step. Also, you don’t have to make the journey alone. Fortuna’s team of caring and dedicated former MBA admissions professionals have the knowledge to guide you every step of the way. We help you create a tailored application strategy and manage your time efficiently to stay on track throughout the process. We make sure you put your best self forward in your applications and prepare you to shine in interviews.
Sign up now for a free consultation to learn how our coaches can support you on your journey.