You’ve logged long hours at work to keep clients happy, agonized over essays, juggled GMAT study sessions amid competing priorities, and exhausted loved ones with your near-obsessive commitment to perfecting your business school application.
Finally, you’ve hit submit. Now what?
First, congratulations – what an enormous accomplishment!
DO stop to celebrate this huge milestone, you deserve it! Take the night off. Heck, take two nights. Bask in the satisfaction of knowing you’ve given it your best.
But – please – DON’T sit back and just wait.
For one, it can be several long weeks before you hear from your programs about whether you are invited to interview. While you might feel an impulse to downshift and double-down on your work, there are several important things to do while you wait. As a expert coach at Fortuna, I’ve fielded countless queries from anxious clients eager for something to do other than compulsively refreshing email for word from their schools.
Here are my top six tips on how to continue enhancing your profile during this interim time, as well as to prepare for that potential interview invitation that’s coming in a few weeks.
1. Stay in touch with alumni and students.
It’s vital that you continue to show interest in the program and to reconnect with the contacts you’ve been cultivating, such as alumni and current students. If your essays mentioned specific students, which is common, know that admissions could reach out to them. When this happens, admissions might say to your contact, ‘hey, I see you’ve been talking to some prospective students,’ and you want to be front of mind if, and when, this happens. A brief follow-up email saying – many thanks for your time and invaluable advice, I’ve submitted my application and hope to share good news in the coming weeks – is a great starting point.
It’s also shrewd to contact a few new people and to build those relationships. Alums and students can be generous about sharing insight and advice on how they approached questions you could encounter in the interview. They might share some questions they received and how they answered them. Don’t miss the opportunity to ask.
2. Follow up with recommenders.
It’s valuable to reconnect with your recommenders, too, both to give them a heads up that you’ve submitted and to offer a sense of timeline. (I’m assuming, of course, that you’ve already sent a generous thank you note!) Also think about reviewing some of the points your recommenders deemed important in their letters, which could be useful as you’re preparing for the interview.
3. Continue to bulid your profile.
Stay motivated in your work and professional development. Same goes for your extracurriculars. Often you’ll get an interview question such as, ‘What’s different since you applied?’ Or, ‘Have you had any developments? Has anything changed?’ It’s ideal to reply confidently, ‘Yes, the board I’m involved with has been able to do X, Y and Z, and it’s been really fulfilling for me’ or ‘Indeed, I’ve been very involved in this leadership opportunity at the office or ‘I’ve continued to master Spanish to prepare for an upcoming trip.’ Whatever it is that you do, you want to stay engaged and build new stories to share.
It’s also important to stay active for having new information to share with… a waitlist committee. As much as we’d rather not envision the possibility, it’s real. So you want to continue nurturing other opportunities. Clearly, as you’ve applied for the MBA, you’re thinking about leaving your current position or firm. But while you’re there it’s wise to continue to feed yourself professionally and stay committed and as you wait to hear back from schools.
4. Know about developments at your schools.
Continue to monitor the goings-on of the programs that you’re targeting. You’ll want to know about any big news or developments that might happen, and continue to zero in on ‘why this school,’ which is a standard interview question as you get further into the process. Programs want to know that you’re knowledgeable and interested about what’s happening in their world. Staying connected to alumni and students and following them on social media will help you to prepare and practice those responses.
5. Make time to visit campus.
If you’re able to visit the schools you’ve applied to, it’s an excellent time to do so. Resources and time being factors, taking a day or weekend off before you hear about the interview to spend time on a campus is another way to build your familiarity with the school and its culture. Visiting the campus outside of formal campus tours and admissions meetings during the summer, on your own terms, has several benefits. You are more likely to experience the in-session culture, energy and overall vibe of the place, and you can audit a class. This can also help you feel more confident and comfortable as you prepare for the interview. And if you visit, it’s good to let your networking contacts in on your plans. Perhaps you can meet up in person with a current student with whom you’ve only spoken over the phone.
6. Get prepared for your interview.
In spite of the uncertainty, it’s critical for you to utilize this time to think through the MBA interview with each of your target schools. As you follow up with contacts, begin making notes on how you might tackle anticipated questions, such as ‘why business school, why now, why this school?’ and ‘walk me through your resume.’ These standard questions center around conveying your story, your unique goals and your career plan. In addition to the standard questions, learn more about the interview format at your target schools and kinds of questions they’re most likely to pose (e.g. behavioral examples or team interview activities). Practice is the key to success. You’ll want to start training yourself to give answers that are natural, informative and confident, and be ready to go in more depth on any topic. For more strategies and interview prep tips, check out this essential piece in P&Q by Fortuna’s Malvina Miller Complainville (6 Tips for Acing the MBA Interview).
Catherine Tuttle is a Fortuna expert coach and Duke Fuqua former Associate Director.
A version of this article was originally published on October 24, 2017 by Poets & Quants.