This is the first of a series of posts which aim to share my approach to the MBA application process. Please note this is not admission advice, but simply a summary of the approach I have taken. (Full explanation in this post). If you are not planning to apply to an MBA program, or are not curious about the long-winded road that led me to Stanford, you can stop reading here!
The application process is extremely time-consuming, and demanding on an emotional/intellectual level. In my case, the whole process took a year. Starting early made things slightly easier for me. I had enough time to understand the nuances of how my profile could match what I thought my target schools were looking for, and to discuss the application with some friends that had already gone through the process. Confidence increased along the way.
This is the progression of the steps which I followed:
0) Understand the application process and how all the parts fit together;
1) Prepare for the GMAT and do my absolute best on test day;
1b) Prepare for and take the TOEFL, since it was required in my case. (As I will describe, it was a walk in the park after doing well at the GMAT, but preparation was key anyway);
2) Build my profile. I’ll explain in details what I mean by this;
3) Do a thorough school research, including a visit, on each program that could represent a good fit for me;
4) Write the essays. Sounds easy enough, but it took months to refine, especially with the strict word limits;
5) Make my resume as punchy as possible;
6) Let a few selected friends comment on my essays and resume;
7) Mull over their comments for a few weeks, and enhance both parts of the application;
8) Break the news of my MBA application to my recommenders (i.e. my boss and another trusted colleague);
9) Discuss with them a structure and some compelling stories for the recommendations;
10) Fill out the long online application, which requires the completion of several forms;
11) Gently remind my recommenders about the deadline every week;
12) Print out the complete online application and review it several times;
13) Click on “Submit” and start crossing my fingers;
14) After getting an interview invitation, start preparing for it: get to know the inside-outs of my profile, school research, essays and resume;
15) Have a close friend (and/or if possible, someone who got into an MBA before) do a mock-up interview;
16) Rock at the interview, mostly by being myself;
17) Go back home, relax, and start crossing fingers again;
18) Celebrate after making into your desired school.(If the outcome had been different, be proud of my hard work in any case.)
I read a few books on the application process, but I would highly recommend one in particular: “Your MBA Game Plan“, by Omari Bouknight and Scott Shrum (Harvard and Kellogg MBA graduates, respectively). It is well structured, easy to read, and includes several sample profiles/essays/resumes, and a useful section about the unique attributes of each school.
One last comment about the remaining (and important!) element of the application: the GPA during undergraduate school (and Master program since I took one in Finance). Unfortunately, that is a data point that no applicant has any more influence on: what’s done is done! However, in my case, it was a starting point to assess where I thought I might stand. My GPA was almost flawless, so I knew that, couple with a good GMAT score, the numbers would look great to start with. If anything it was a small, initial confidence booster.