Some Important Tips for Business School Applicants
1. Prepare for the GMAT! Granted, this is no easy task but it's essential to your success. Some schools will accept you on the basis of the GRE alone but we highly suggest you keep all your doors open and don't settle for less. Don't push off studying until a few months before the exam. It's good to feel confident about your level of knowledge. At the same time, it may have been a while since you covered the material in you undergrad so give yourself ample time to bone up. The rule of thumb is that it's always best to give yourself as much time is possible - just in case the studying process takes you longer than you expected.
All great achievements require sacrifice. When the summer roles around expect to have to give up a lot of leisure time for study time. When your friends call you up and invite you out you'll inevitably respond with the classic GMAT student's refrain: "I can't, I have to study." Don't worry, eventually, they'll just stop calling.
2. Start developing a clear vision for your future. First and foremost decide where you would like to see yourself immediately after business school. If you're having trouble, then ask yourself these simple questions: "Why do I want to do an MBA?" and "How does my prior experience form a foundation for my future plans?" Answer honestly and these questions should help you lock something down. It's essential to plan ahead for a future that's coming up faster than you can imagine. Hey, at the very least this tip should make your parents happy.
3. Take any old 3-ring binder, fill it with some loose leaf paper and start carrying it around with you wherever you go. You never know when a brilliant application essay idea will strike and you'll want to be ready with pen and paper to capture it. If you're planning to do all the background work for your essay correctly, then you'll be chatting with current students, former students, other applicants, different experts in the MBA circle and with the employees and teachers of the school to which you'll be applying.
Take notes from every conversation and write down the best ideas. When you're ready to sit down and compose your essay just open up your binder that's already spilling over with inspiring insights and relevant information.
Your personal binder can have other uses as well. Say you're going to an April orientation at a school you're applying to. A couple of days before the event you may already start to think of questions you would want to ask while you're there. Write them down to keep track. There's nothing more annoying than forgetting something important you had to do or say. Now all you have to do is remember to bring the binder.
4. Make a list of what you want from your MBA experience. Make the list as comprehensive as possible. It's very simple. You have to know what you want in order to find the ideal school for you.
At the same time as you're compiling your list, learn as much as possible about the business schools you're considering. Try to take as many factors as possible into account. To use a basic example, if you hate the cold weather then it's quite likely that Cornell is not the school for you (winters upstate New York can be bitter cold). The word on Dartmouth is that the weather is also pretty nasty but at least there the first year classrooms are connected to both the dormitory and the dining room; you won't have to set a foot outside all winter, if you prefer. Every school has its little nuance which you'll discover when you dig a little.
5. Find mistakes in your application. It's true what they say, that one should always try to focus on the positives and not dwell on things that may bring you down. However, a positive attitude should not come at the expense of encountering your weaknesses honestly and constructively. Look at your application as objectively as you can and admit to its shortcomings. Everyone has them! The most important thing is your readiness to take steps to improve in those areas in which your performance is less than lackluster.
So don't be afraid to face up to those imperfections! It's the only way to improve. One thing that may help to get you over the editing jitters: As soon as you notice a potential flaw, take out a pen and paper and write down a few ideas on how to fix it. When you're finished, go back to the beginning and start to implement your ideas. Tinker away (and don't be afraid to ask for help!) until you're sure you're handing in your best quality work.
6. Seek advice and guidance from someone who's already made it through to the business school Promised Land. Your best bet is to get in touch with someone who either teaches or studies in the school you wish to attend. It could be an old friend or acquaintance but it doesn't have to be. Just as long as it's someone you trust. If they know what they're talking about, they'll be able to tell you exactly how prepare for the interview and charm the admissions committee.
But what if you don't know anyone in the school you'd like to attend, say for example, HBS?
Not a problem. Most times you'll find that first-year students are very agreeable when it comes to connecting with incumbents. Just do some research on facebook or other social networking sites and drop someone a line. Always be polite and try not to take up too much of their time. You don't want to get blacklisted even before you're accepted to the school. Communicate, never inundate. The more positive vibes you can generate between you and your contacts the better things will turn out for you.
7. Stay in touch with other applicants. As you make your way through the long and challenging application process you may find yourself in need of some friendly encouragement and a sympathetic ear. Your greatest possible support network is comprised of your fellow applicants. After all, they're suffering just the same as you.
On those late nights (or early mornings) when you feel drained and exhausted from studying for the GMAT or if you're struggling to find just the right wording for your essay, it's your co-applicants who you can turn to for the most constructive support. Not even your family and friends will be able to be as understanding and empathetic.
Luckily, you're going to be rubbing shoulders with fellow applicants at MBA fairs and orientation sessions. Use the opportunities to get to know your peers; some of them may eventually end up in your classes and, who knows, when the time comes some may even become part of your professional network. What better way to kick off you business school experience than by linking up to like-minded people who will motivate and help you to succeed. I believe Ringo said it best: "I get by with a little help from my friends."
8. Finally, save your money. By now I'm sure you know that applying to grad school may set you back a little. Aside from the normal application fees you also have to factor in such expenses as: transportation costs for visiting schools, money for hotel rooms, GMAT books and study tools, energy drink consumption, private tutors and the list goes on. Yes, these costs can amount to jaw-dropping proportions, but your future is worth the investment. Reasonably financed loans are also normally available to grad school applicants. Consult your local financial institutions or search online for the right plan for you should the need arise. You've come this far, give yourself every opportunity to succeed. It makes the most business sense.
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