I am writing you from the trenches, amid the chaos that is Round 1! Once October/November comes around, it’s high time to put the final touches on your application as you prepare to submit then. Though challenging, balancing this major undertaking with work, extracurriculars and social engagements has been a major learning opportunity for me.
Here are some of my personal takeaways as I go through the process:
- Start Early: This one is probably the most important! By doing your research early and fully prepping yourself for the process, you ensure that you’ll have a smoother time going through the applications. Once R1 season starts, it is a continuous event, with applications due days apart, week after week. Starting early will help reduce any of those last-minute jams and allow you to fully prepare the best possible application. Most business schools release their essay prompts towards the end of summer (July-ish) and often times will reuse prompts from years previous. Look through these early for all of the schools that you want to apply to and, even if you don’t start working on them right away, have them on the backburner so that you can start jotting down ideas as they come to you.
- Figure out a game plan early: As part of starting early, the earlier you start your business school research, the better. Really invest time in figuring out what you are looking for in your MBA experience and what kind of environment/program you’d really blossom in and go from there. The sooner you start to form your “short list”, the more time you have to devoting to these programs and applications. Also, it’s important to be realistic. Originally, I had planned on applying to about handful of schools, most of which I wanted to do in R1. After working through the first essay set, I realized that it would be a squeeze to get all the applications ready in time. I decided that I’d rather fully develop/polish good applications and spread them out between R1 and R2, then rush. In retrospect, that flexibility saved me a lot of headache!
- Give your recommenders time: Your recommenders are busy people too! I approached my recommenders probably a month and a half before the first of my applications were due just to see if they would be on board in supporting me by writing a LOR. With two “yes’s” in hand, I then started putting together some information that I thought would be helpful for them to have – the most current drafts of my essays (especially the one that outlines my future goals), a copy of my resume, short descriptions of why I wanted to go to each school. Some business schools post up the questions that they will pose to your recommenders as well! About a month before the first application due date, I sat down with my recommenders and talk through your experiences and brainstorm examples/experiences to highlight. After that, it’s all up to them!
- Give your essays time: Remember those good old college days where you’d sit down at your computer to start your 10-page paper at 10pm, the night before it was due? That strategy definitely won’t work here! Give yourself ample time to work on your essays, especially the first set of essays that you take on. While a lot of the schools will have similar essay topics, the prompts are never exactly the same, so even if you’ve written a very similar essay for another school, you will still need to spend the time to rework your essay for each of the schools. Personally, it took me about a 4 weeks to nail down my first set of essays, and then about 2-3 weeks for each school following. Have a lot of people review and provide feedback, both people that you know well and those that you don’t.
This is not professional advice of course, but definitely things that I worked for me as I went through the process. Hope it’s helpful!
See you on the other side of R1! :)