Five reasons why it's never too early to start working on your MBA application
Updated: Mar 20
If you're the typical MBA applicant you're probably planning on starting your application in summer. For most people, the thought is: summer: GMAT/GRE prepping and then fall: working on the actual applications itself. However, if you want to give yourself the best chance for the M7 or even the top 20 American programs, I recommend start working on the application as early as possible.
Here's 5 reasons why:
1) Getting the best possible GMAT/GRE score
Let's be real, no matter who you are, how well you've done academically or at work, international or domestic, the GMAT/GRE is one of the biggest stressors of an MBA application. GMAT/GRE prepping time is incredibly underestimated and most people end up studying for it much longer than anticipated. Many will put it off to summer assuming that they can study for 3 months until they hit 700 thinking that that's the magical number. However for most, these 3 months end up being 6 months or even a year -- thus leading to a very stressed fall. Furthermore, competition is increasing so it's crucial to try and get the best possible score and in that case, that's 800. So how does one get an 800 (or even 700)? By giving themselves time to study. Since GMAT/GRE scores are valid for 5 years, this is something that one can start early on, even if it's far in advance. Whether you're taking classes, working with a tutor, or studying on your own, giving yourself more time to prep for the GMAT/GRE will always be beneficial. That way when the time comes to work on the actual application you only have to focus on crafting a story for your essays, and on that note...reason #2
2) Crafting a story for the application takes time
While International MBAs tend to focus on work experience, American MBAs love getting to know an applicant on a deeper level and thus essays are a crucial portion of the application. They want to understand who you are, how your experiences have shaped you, and how you'll be an emotionally intelligent leader; in short, they want a story. It has to have depth, showing (vs. telling) reflection and self-awareness, while connecting with the reader. For most applicants this takes time as not only are you forced to delve deep into yourself, but you have to be able to communicate it in an eloquent and persuasive manner, through a written medium. For almost all of my clients this was a process that took months. As we worked together on the essays more, we'd discover and unpack aspects that they weren't aware, which made their story deeper. And thus those that worked with me earlier on tended to be more successful in their applications, especially those that considered Round 1...
3) Taking advantage of Round 1 or even Early Decision
With most applicant's aiming to use summer time to work on GRE/GMAT (with this usually extending itself into fall), inevitably many end up applying for Round 2. While there's nothing wrong with applying for Round 2, Round 1 or even Early Decision typically yields the best results. This isn't just opinion : data has shown that the acceptance rate is slightly higher for R1 -- especially for the most prestigious programs. Additionally, some programs like Duke Fuqua even offer Early Decision which really boosts your chances as it shows you're committed to the school. By applying for Round 1, you also allow yourself a second chance by applying in Round 2, or if you're wait listed for R1, you're able to improve your application. Again, there's nothing wrong with applying for Round 2 but it is the most heavily applied cycle so competition is stiffer and since most applications are due around January, it does cause an extra stressor on an already stressful holiday period...
3) Avoiding the holiday crunch of Round 2
With Round 2 deadlines around early January, most people think that they can use their Christmas break/holiday to crunch out applications. But remember, holiday times are stressful! Between Christmas and NYE, time goes by a lot faster than one thinks, especially with family and social obligations. As an Admissions/higher education consultant my schedule gets slammed with clients trying to do 3 or even 5 applications within a month. For reference, I believe a good application with a good story (see #2) takes at least two weeks to a month. Whether you're working on your application alone or with a consultant, be aware that the month feels very demanding. You don't want to be the person on NYE working on your application, stressed out, while your friends are having fun...
5) Leave space for editing and other last minute stressors
Finally last minute stressors always come up. For some of my clients, they had issues submitting their scores, getting their academic records to the school, or realizing as they went to submit, there were still additional questions or parts to the application. For some, they sought out additional feedback too close to the deadline and realized they didn't have time to properly incorporate edits. By starting your application earlier, one is able to better plan for these things. My most successful clients would plan to submit a week in advance of a deadline, and by doing so they were able to avoid any issues and submit a strong cohesive application.
Applying for MBA is a process and as with all processes, things don't always go as planned. To prepare for things not going as planned, it's necessary to give yourself time to organize, pivot, and adjust; thus, it's never too early to work on your MBA application.
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