The road to your MBA can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here’s a calendar of what b-school applicants should be doing, and when.

November – December

Don’t Forget: Round I decisions for many schools will be released in December and January. Be sure to check your email for interview invitations – and double-check to make sure your spam filter isn’t automatically routing b-school emails to your trash folder.

Round II deadlines for many of the top schools fall in early January.

GMAT:

  • If you’re applying this year but haven’t already taken the GMAT – or if you’ve taken it before but aren’t happy with your score – plan to take the test as soon as possible.

  • If you’re applying next year, start thinking about scheduling the test for next summer. For information on registering for and scheduling a test, visit the GMAC’s website (www.mba.com). You are also cordially invited to review our GMAT prep section.

  • Are you unsure if you need a GMAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) to discuss your situation. We’re here to help you!

School and Program Selection:

  • If you’re applying this year, you should already have been working from a well-defined list of your target schools. If you aren’t feeling confident about your Round I application outcomes, you might want to expand that list now to include some additional safety schools. That said, don’t apply to any school that you wouldn’t genuinely want to go to. You’d probably be wasting your time and money on the application, anyway. Nothing biases an admissions committee against an applicant more than a palpable lack of enthusiasm for their school. The number of schools you ultimately decide to apply to will depend upon how high you rank a safety school and the time and resources you have to work on applications.

  • Make plans to visit schools by this spring at the very latest, especially any that you have an active application at. If you’re going to have an admissions interview, try to combine your school visit with an on-campus interview.

  • If you’re applying next year, start thinking about what kind of program you want to apply for: full-time, part-time, or EMBA. If EMBA or part-time programs seem like a good fit for you, look into whether your employer will help pay for your tuition or otherwise support your studies. Make sure you understand what you would be expected to do in return. Most employers will ask you to commit to continue working for them for a minimum number of years.

Academics:

  • Winter and spring are good times to take non-credit college courses for an alternative transcript that can help mitigate a low GMAT score and/or a low undergraduate GPA. Try to find at least one course with an instructor who would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you.

Extracurriculars:

  • Think about what you do outside of work. Will those activities support your case for b-school admission? Would you benefit from increasing your level of commitment, or by getting involved in additional groups or activities? (If you are applying for admission this fall, however, beware of the perception of expediency that might arise if you begin new commitments now.)

Applications:

“It’s a good idea to create a grid in which you match your stories to the essay set for each school’s application. This gives you a visual tool to see if you’re properly communicating your positioning across the entirety of the application before you begin writing individual essays.”

– Senior Admissions Consultant Ed Anderson. Ed served on the MBA admissions committees at Stanford, UNC Chapel Hill and Duke.

  • Keep track of which schools you are applying to, in which rounds. Make sure that you will be able to meet the necessary deadlines while still leaving yourself enough time to prepare applications that clearly demonstrate a good fit with each school. Most likely, this will require considerable customization from one application to the next. Keep in mind the different tradeoffs at each school between applying early or applying with a more complete application.

  • Continue working on your story themes and developing your most potent ‘wow’ factors.

  • Take a moment to review your resume. Does anything need to be updated? Should any old items be taken out? In only rare instances should it exceed 2 pages and, more likely than not, it should be kept to one page. Could an admissions officer quickly skim your resume and understand the feasibility of your post-MBA career goals? Did you succinctly highlight your career progression? Remember that the target audience for this resume is likely far different than the recruiting audience for your industry. Accordingly, be sure your resume is prepared in accordance with a business school admission friendly format.

  • Touch base with your recommenders. Will you benefit from an additional, optional recommendation to substantiate a story theme or ‘wow’ factor, highlight your strengths, or, possibly, mitigate your weaknesses? Can your selected recommenders discuss your candidacy in adequate detail? Advise your recommenders on which points they need to make to best compliment your story. Writing up the points that you want them to discuss is often a good starting point.

Our MBA Admissions Timeline page will be updated on January 2.

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