9 tips to Getting A Head Start On Your MBA Application

Even though June is very early to start thinking about applying to be part of the MBA Colleges, I’m sure there are many people out there anxiously waiting for the mid-summer release of the new application. While you’re waiting, here are some things that you CAN do right now:

1) Compile your undergraduate and graduate education history.
All schools will ask you to list all undergrad and grad schools that you’ve attended, what degree you received and when, what your major was, GPA, class rank, etc. Make sure you have all this information on hand so you don’t have to hunt it all down when you start the application. This step is very easy if you…

2) Order transcripts from all of the undergraduate and graduate schools you attended.
Having a copy on hand for your records will make applications much easier for you because it will give you all the information listed in #1 above. Also, some B-Schools give you the option of self-reporting your transcript instead of mailing in the official one when you apply. If you choose this option (which I did), you will have to fill out an Excel spreadsheet listing every class you took at each school and what grade you received. After you’re admitted, you then send an official transcript over to verify the data.

Most schools have several transcript ordering options, with the official one being the most expensive. I saved a little money by ordering an unofficial copy that was identical to the official one minus the snazzy official seal.

3) Retake the GMAT if you are unhappy with your score.
The general rule is that you want to get in the 80th percentile for each section. If you’ve achieved that, don’t fret too much about the difference between a 720 and an 800.

4) Compile your employment history.
If you think about it, applying to b-school is much like applying for a new job. Schools want to know everything about your employment history: who you’ve worked for, what dates you were employed there, what your job function was, in what city the company employed you, job title(s) you have had while at the company, beginning/ending base salary, bonuses, employer’s contact info. And if that’s not enough, they want you to describe important leadership/management responsibilities you have had or any major accomplishments you had with the company. Hopefully, you have all this information easily accessible to you. But if you don’t, now’s the time to start hunting it all down!

5) Make a list of all your extracurricular activities, both in college and post-college.
You don’t necessarily have to list every single activity that you participated in during and after college, but b-schools want to know that you have a life outside of school and work. They are particularly interested in activities where you took on some kind of leadership role. However, don’t be afraid to list an activity just because you were not the President of that particular club. B-schools also use this area of the application as a way to get to know your interests in addition to helping them gauge your leadership ability.

6) Make a list of all awards and honors you have received, both in college and post-college.
Don’t be alarmed if you don’t have a long list of awards to write about here. But if you have received any awards that you would like AdCom to know about, definitely include those in your app. Past awards are not something we think about on a daily basis so you may have to do a little research to get the exact names of the award(s) you’ve received. If you can’t remember, try calling your parents to see if they remember.

7) Gather info from your parents and/or spouse.
Many schools ask you to include info on your parents/spouse in your application. To make this easier, make sure you have on hand the following info about each parent and/or your spouse: their country of residence, country of birth, occupation, employer, education level, undergraduate/grad schools attended, degree(s) received. You may not need all of that info for every school, but that should cover most of what you need for most schools.

8) Start thinking about the “Why do I want to get an MBA at XXX school right now?” essay.
Even though the essay questions aren’t out yet, there’s one question that is asked every year so you can start drafting that now. You need to seriously think about why an MBA  would help you achieve your future career goals given where you are in your career now. If you can’t answer this question, you may want to rethink applying to business school. Knowing what you want to get out of your MBA will help you choose what you want to be involved in while at school. And if AdCom isn’t convinced that you need an MBA  now after reading your essay, your chances of getting in are pretty slim.

9) Select your recommenders.
Pick people who supervised you and know you well. There’s really a lot to say on this one, so it’ll be covered in a separate post, right here.