Will you be applying to business school in the coming year? If you’ve resolved to take this significant step in your academic and professional career, why not get this year off to a great start by making (and sticking to) some b-school resolutions? To end, and start, the year on a good note, here are your Top 10 GMAT and application resolutions.
1. Plan ahead — way ahead: There is no such thing as starting your GMAT prep and application recon too far in advance. You’ll never have too much time on your hands, but you’ll almost surely have too little. You’re reading this now, why not do one thing that gets you closer to business school? It might be creating a study plan for the GMAT, starting to research schools, or as small as creating a to-do list. The most challenging part of applying to business school is starting.
2. Find an organization system and stick with it: No matter which way you organize your deadlines, required documents, recommendation process, or GMAT study, find a way that works for you and follow it religiously. When applying to multiple schools with multiple deadlines and requirements, items can slip by. Know what’s due when, and note that some items, like your GMAT score, will need to be ready before the earliest deadline.
3. Look beyond the rankings: There’s no doubt that the Top 10 or the M7 are fantastic institutions, but are they the right schools for you? Each ranking reflects different components of each school’s strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to look behind the curtain and see what’s going to resonate most in terms of your education and career goals. Are you interested in international business? Working with a nonprofit? The perfect school for you may be low on “traditional” ranking, or even be unranked. Not sure where to start? Use our School Matcher feature to discover great programs for you.
4. Make a financing plan: The total cost of an MBA goes well beyond tuition fees. Factor in materials, semesters abroad, cost of living, whether you can continue to work full-time or if you can take on a part-time job, and the opportunity cost of being out of the workforce for one or two years. Lastly, have a realistic expectation for your post-MBA salary. Then do some math. Only you can decide whether b-school is a good investment for you, so commit to making a fully informed decision.
5. Commit to community service: If the schools you’ll be applying to value community service (and having this on your resume will never hurt your application), you’ll want to find a service project if you don’t already have one. Whatever cause you choose — whether it’s helping improve adult literacy or tending to a community garden — make sure there is an active participation component and if you can find one, a position of leadership. The cause is much less important than your reasons to pursue it. Be able to speak to it passionately.
6. Master the GMAT: Yes, we said master. Not “get through” or “endure” — master. Maybe even enjoy. Doing well on the GMAT is supposed to be challenging, as is business school. A great GMAT score can open doors and help you defray some of your tuition cost. The best part is that you can master the subject matter and skills in just a few months of concerted effort.
7. Assess yourself honestly: What are your strengths? Are you a quant whiz but struggle with writing and presenting? Are you a natural communicator who hasn’t glanced at statistics beyond ESPN? Do you lack leadership experience, volunteer work, or a great recommender? If you’re unsure of your own self-awareness, enlist a trusted friend or mentor to help you break down your strengths and weaknesses and spend the months or years leading up to your application deadline filling in the blanks.
8. Keep your day job (for now): Even if you’ll be leaving your employer to commit to a full-time MBA program, you want to continue to perform well and leave on good terms. This is especially true if you’ll be asking your current manager for a letter of recommendation, or if you plan on returning to the same industry. You’ll never regret keeping it classy.
9. Focus on your journey: Don’t fall victim to Facebook Syndrome, where you’re discouraged by everyone’s barrage of good news. This goes for Internet message boards as well as your friends applying to business school. People rarely share their struggles publicly, but it doesn’t mean they lead a charmed life. Remember that you’re not alone in your triumphs or struggles.
10. Learn to network: Networking isn’t required of you, but neither is getting admitted to business school. Networking with alumni, current students, admissions personnel (judiciously and politely) and future employers can help you hone your elevator pitch, gain a better understanding of your strengths and cultural fit within a school, and of the overall “vibe” at your desired MBA program. Never pass up the opportunity to get to know these people, and have them get to know you.
Here’s to getting this year off to the best start, ending this year on the best note, and to your MBA dreams culminating in an acceptance to a great school. Happy new year!