If you’ve clicked on this article, you’ve probably decided it’s time to get serious about applying to business school. I won’t sugar coat it: The admissions process is hard and does take a fair amount of time. But you can definitely be successful and get into your dream school, as long as you take all of the right steps and plan out your time.
I’ve written a lot on getting through this process, so I’ve gathered some of my best advice here into an ultimate guide to MBA admissions, walking you through everything from picking which schools to apply for to making your final decision once the acceptance letters start rolling in.
1. Take the GMAT
Unfortunately, there’s no way around this one—the GMAT is required for nearly every program out there. Signing up for a test date is the only way I was able to push myself to study, so I’d recommend picking a date and going for it.
Once you’ve signed up, follow my plan for picking a study strategy, actually making time to practice, and getting yourself to test day in the best shape possible. Depending on your background and your goal score, you can plan to study for roughly 8-10 weeks before the test.
2. Pick Your Schools
Deciding where to apply to school can be a little tricky just because each program is pretty distinct. As I detailed in my article on the subject, definitely take the time to dig into the culture, curriculum, and career placement statistics for each school you consider so that you don’t have any surprises later on in the process.
And if you can find the time and money, try to visit each campus you’re strongly considering—there’s really no better way to get a feel for the program. Once you plan your trips, here’s how to get the most out of your time there.
3. Do Your Homework
Besides doing some intense internet stalking on the schools you’re considering, keep tabs on what’s happening in the b-school world by following the websites that will give you the best information about the application process; I give some of my favorites here. If you only have so much time, I’d especially recommend checking out the blogs written by admissions directors and chat forums to hear about the experiences of actual applicants.
4. Knock Out Your Essays
Application essays can be tricky to write because the schools often don’t give much guidance other than a prompt and a word limit. But they’re so important—essays are the best way to tie your story together and give the admissions committee a sense of who you are as an applicant. So, it’s worth setting aside plenty of time for them (including time to put them away for a bit so that you can make your final edits with a fresh perspective). Try following my 10-day plan to getting them done.
5. Prep for Your Interview
It felt amazing when I clicked “submit” on my applications—until I realized that I had to prepare for interviews. And this is a major part of the process: During the interview stages, schools are especially concerned with deciding whether or not you’re the right fit for the program. Meaning? You should definitely take the time to review your work experience and why you applied to a particular school, as well as what the program will help you accomplish in the future. Here are six great ways to prepare for (and rock) your interview.
6. Assess Your Options
When you start hearing back from schools, it’s time to figure out what you are going to do next. Of course, if you get into your top choice (congratulations!) your decision is easy. If you didn’t get into your dream school, however, deciding what to do can be a little more complicated. Here’s a game plan for determining your next steps, but don’t be afraid to take the time you need and ask schools for an extension on the decision deadlines if you feel like you need more time to consider your options.
7. Get Ready to Go to School!
Once you’ve picked your program, it’s time to get ready for school. The few months before b-school are really fun, but I found that some administrative tasks I thought would be easy ended up taking a long time. So, I’d recommend trying to get these five things done before heading out in August.
Good luck with the application process—it’s going to be a long ride, but I’m here to help you with it. With some preparation, I know you’ll do well!
Photo of desktop courtesy of Shutterstock.