This article on 6 Months Until R1: Are You Ready was written by Accepted.
If you’re planning to apply to business school in R1 — either as a first timer or as a reapplicant — it’s important that you keep on track. Staying organized and on schedule is key for admissions success.
The big question is: what should you be doing now to prepare for the upcoming application season? Here are the 6 steps to take in the next 6 months to be ready to submit your best application possible.
Step 1: Assess your qualifications
You need to examine your grades and your GMAT/GRE score to determine where you stand in comparison with your competition academically. Although these numbers don’t fully represent you, they are important in the competitive admissions process.
Average numbers vary according to school, as well as numbers within your demographic. You should examine each of these aspects and weigh the strengths and weaknesses in your application as you assess your competitiveness.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is one score low, but balanced by other higher numbers? Can you provide other evidence of academic ability?
- Did your overall GPA improve as you matured through the college experience?
- Do you have recommenders who will vouch for your abilities – especially ones that the numbers don’t reveal?
- Have you chosen schools that will view your scores as competitive?
- Have you taken additional college courses in an attempt to demonstrate your quant or verbal capabilities or to compensate for a lower GPA?
Step 2: Evaluate your work experience
Adcoms look at applicants’ work experience from 2 perspectives – qualitatively and qualitatively.
Your work experience shouldn’t just amount to X number of years, but should have a significant impact on your development as a person and on the organizations you’ve been a part of.. It should show you as a future business leader.
Most schools want a minimum of 2 years of full-time work experience. The work experience “sweet spot” for most business schools is between 3 and 6 years, with 8 years of full-time work experience serving as the upper end of normal.
When constructing your resume, and certainly when composing application essays, be sure to emphasize quality. Be sure to show off GIM – Growth, Impact, and Management Potential.
Step 3: Examine your leadership skills and personal traits
This part of your personal assessment is important when it comes to determining school fit. By evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses, you’ll get a better idea of which MBA programs are right or wrong for you.
Among the personality traits the adcoms will be looking for in your application is leadership. You will need to demonstrate a quantifiable impact that stems from your initiative and leadership.
Other important character traits you’ll want to highlight in your application include:
- Communication/teamwork skills
If, in these early months, you encounter an example of a trait you’d lie to highlight, jot it down – it may be of good use when it comes to sitting down and filling out your application.
Step 4: Determine your MBA goals
Once you’ve assessed who you are and what your skills are, you’ll need to determine why it is that you want an MBA.
Define your goal in terms of industry and job function. Include location if that is important to you.
What is an MBA goal?
An MBA goal is…
- …something specific that you want to DO (not just study) in a particular industry. Include enough detail to show that you’ve thoroughly thought through what you are looking to learn and how you plan on utilizing those skills post-MBA.
- …strong and focused enough to help you narrow down your school choices. Different schools offer different strengths and cater to different goals — you want a school that fits your strengths and goals.
- …realistic. If you develop a cogent plan for your career given your past experience and your goal for your MBA application, you will be able to do so again and again, as your goals and interests change both in business school and beyond.
Step 5: School research
Based on your goals and qualifications, you can now choose schools wisely. Look at specialty rankings for a quick start but don’t rely on them blindly. Go thoroughly through school websites. Read student blogs and social media pages. Talk to current students and recent alumni.
Generate a list of schools that fall into one of the following categories – reasonable reaches (or stretches), on-pars or safeties. It’s best to choose at least one school from each category—applying to 6 or 7 in total is average.
Here’s a breakdown of these 3 categories:
- Reasonable reach – Acceptance to your reasonable reach is a bit of a stretch, but not impossible. A strong application could make your reasonable reach a reality.
- On-par – You have a solid chance of getting into your on-pars with a good application. Your scores and experience make you a competitive candidate for these schools.
- Safety – You should have no trouble getting into any of the safety schools on your list. You still need to send in a complete, professional application, or you will find yourself rejected even from your safety schools.
Consider the following when determining into which category a particular school falls:
- How does your GPA and GMAT/GRE score measure up with the averages of your target schools?
- Are your skills and experiences particularly well matched with your target school?
- Are your goals in line with one school more than another?
Step 6: Visit schools
You will be a much better-informed applicant after you visit a school than before. You’ll know more about each school, its culture, and why that particular school appeals to you.
How to make the most of your visit:
- Visit when class is in session. You’ll get to see the learning in action.
- Take advantage of all visitor options – taking a tour, info sessions, etc.
- Come prepared with good questions for the adcom, students, and/or faculty.
- Learn as much as you can about the school before you land on campus.
- If you can’t visit the campus, be sure to attend info sessions held in your city.
Let’s get to work!
Applying to top MBA programs can be overwhelming. You want to gain acceptance to a leading MBA program that will prepare you for a successful life in business. When advising our MBA clients, we encourage them to reflect on who they are and what their priorities are. This leads to more successfully determining your goal and generating a realistic list of schools to apply to, as well as being better positioned for writing your application essays later on in the process.
Do you need help evaluating your unique situation and selecting the exact right b-school for you to apply to? Check out Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting Services for more information on how we can guide you to acceptance at your top choice schools.