7 Ways to Get Ready for MBA Application Season

Follow these seven steps recommended by MBA Prep School to improve your chances of being accepted by a top program when it comes time for your MBA Application.

mba application process

1. Order Your Undergraduate Transcripts

If there are red flags in your academic history, the sooner you know about them the better. We suggest that you order your academic transcripts and review them carefully long before the application deadlines. If you wait until it is time to apply, you might discover too late that the 3.1 GPA you remember graduating with was actually a 2.9 – or that you repressed the memory of the “D” you earned in Introduction to Psychology

If you know about problem grades ahead of time, you can take steps to address poor academic performance with additional coursework and/or by tackling professional or non-work projects that require the skills that you might have struggled to master during your university days. Many candidates will try to explain away low grades by claiming that they were immature or did not apply themselves. By taking additional classes and doing well you will have concrete evidence to present that you can handle the academic rigor of an MBA environment, even if your undergraduate grades raise some doubts.

2. Finish Your Standardized Tests

Don’t procrastinate when it comes to taking the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). You want to have the GMAT and other standardized tests that might be required, such as the TOEFL exam, completed long before application season because you don’t want to have to worry about studying for and taking standardized tests in the final months before the deadlines. As the deadlines approach, you will be holding down a full-time job and devoting serious hours to your essays; there won’t be enough time to study for the GMAT as well.

3. Limber Up Your Writing Muscles

We recommend that you start a daily journal in the period leading up to the MBA applications. By doing so, you will develop content for your future essays and limber up your "writing muscles" for the MBA application essay-writing marathon ahead.

What should you write about? To create an outstanding application, you will need a clear understanding of your strengths and most significant accomplishments. If an admissions officer were to ask you right now what you’re most passionate about, what your three greatest strengths are, and what accomplishment you are most proud of, would you have an answer ready? Probably not; so those are exactly the kinds of questions you should try to tackle in the safe confines of your Application Journal.

4. Address Your MBA Application Weaknesses

Pretend you are an admission officer reviewing your future MBA application. What weaknesses in your profile would you point to as reasons not to accept you: Poor grades? A spotty resume? A lack of community service leadership?

Don’t just write yourself off for a top-tier MBA program because you have a few shortcomings in your profile. Instead, take steps now to address potential weaknesses: Poor grades? Take a college level course. A spotty resume? Push yourself harder at work. No community service leadership? Find an organization today and volunteer to help them address an unmet need and then recruit others to join your team.

5. Begin Career Planning & Research

Just about every school you apply to is going to ask you about your career goals; so you’ll want to start your career planning work long before it’s time to sit down to write your career goals essays. If your short-term and long-term career goals are already clear to you, great! If not, start your career planning work well in advance of the application period.

Reading magazines and surfing the internet is a great way to explore new career paths, but the best way is to reach out to MBAs in a field you are interested in to ask them about the path they followed. You will learn a great deal about what it will take to succeed and be much better prepared when it comes time to write the career goals essay that most MBA applications require.

6. Build Relationships With Potential References

Relationship building is another step in the application process that needs to start long before it is time to ask for reference letters. Most schools will require you to submit two or three recommendation letters from people you have worked for directly. Can you name three people right now who would happily write a letter to a business school professing that you’re in the top 10% of all of the people they have ever managed?

If you want to go to a top-tier school, you’re going to need two to three reference letters that say exactly that. Our belief is that if you start thinking about building these relationships with your superiors now, you’ll have had the opportunity to be of service to the people you want to write your recommendation letters long before you ask them to be of help to you.

7. Visit Target Schools

If you plan to apply in Round 1, then you should visit your target schools in the academic year prior to applying so you can visit the MBA programs while students are in session.

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To learn more about what you can do to strengthen your candidacy and increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter from a top business school, please visit MBA Prep School. MBA Prep School has a suite of powerful on-demand videos and web-based tools that will help you build an outstanding application and realize your dream of attending one of the top business schools.

Excerpted from How to Apply for an MBA by Tyler Cormney and Christopher Aitken of MBA Prep School September 13, 2011

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