At examPAL, we believe it’s best to give yourself enough time to prepare. Here’s a rough timeline to help keep you organized, on schedule, and best positioned for success:
- Start your GMAT prep. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation in which you are juggling lots of elements of the application process (essays, class visits, supplementary classes, etc.) at the same time. That’s why this is the time to start your GMAT prep and remove this potentially time-consuming and stressful element of the application process, before the bulk of applications are released in July.
- Enroll in extra courses if your undergraduate performance was weak (i.e. GPA of 3.0 or under) or if you took no quantitative coursework at all. You can search nearby colleges and find out about introductory course offerings in areas such as economics, accounting, finance, and statistics. By taking one or two classes in these areas, you could change the Admissions Committees’ perspectives on your academic performance. Try to get As in the courses you take, and give yourself enough time to complete a semester-long class and have your academic "problems" solved by the summer.
- Visit different schools. Many MBA candidates define their list of target schools by reading popular rankings. However, we recommend that you define specific parameters regarding what you consider important in an MBA experience, visit a few campuses to learn about their differences, and identify what truly interests you. Admissions committees are impressed when prospective students visit, and this also gives you the right information to describe your fit with the school in the admissions essay.
- Advance your personal achievements. This means accelerating the timeline of existing endeavors. If one of your goals is in sight and will be otherwise achieved after your applications are due, try to complete it before the first-round deadline.
- Take a leadership role in your community to help you stand out from other candidates. In a competitive admissions environment, it is important that you clearly differentiate yourself from others. You can commit yourself to an organization you are passionate about, and strive to make an impact over the next few months.
- If you would like your firm to sponsor your MBA, this is the time to ask (if you haven’t done so already). As well as giving you financial benefits, there is additional power inherent in being a firm-sponsored candidate. The Admissions Committees know that these candidates, with their firm’s backing, will be employed upon graduating and that their post-MBA goals are "guaranteed."
May & June
- This is when you should take the GMAT, or even re-take it if you don't reach your desired score. If you take the GMAT by June, this allows you to finish one major component of the process so that you can start writing your essays. If you take the GMAT in June and are disappointed with the results, you can always take the exam again in July. There is no issue taking the GMAT more than once: the schools will ultimately take the higher (or highest) of your scores.
- Identify supervisors or people who can recommend you. One of the most frustrating parts of the application process for candidates is connecting with recommenders. With some foresight, you can take the time now to identify recommenders and gather some intelligence about them. Has your recommender written letters for anyone else? Is he/she generous with his/her time?
- Reconnect with previous supervisors who could be strong potential recommenders, but with whom you may have fallen out of touch. This means you won’t end up leaving it till the last minute and expecting them to donate a lot of their time on a tight timeline.
- Retake your GMAT if necessary. MBA Admissions Offices are open to candidates taking the GMAT more than once. Your scores will not be averaged; schools take the higher/ highest score.
- Take time to brainstorm to come up with interesting ideas for essays. Your essays are only as good as your ideas. Uncover stories and look at them from different angles.
- Meet with recommenders and review your main accomplishments with them so that they stand out. It’s never too early to meet with your recommenders. Some candidates wonder whether such meetings are appropriate, but we highly recommend them.
- Spend this month perfecting your application, tying up loose ends, and making sure you have covered everything.
- Continue working on your essays. Writing amazing essays takes time and patience.
- Complete the short-answer sections of your application.
- For most schools, this is the round-1 deadline. For Harvard, for example, the deadline is September 7.
- Follow up with recommenders, as many will wait until the last minute to write their letters.
- Submit second-round essays and applications. With the first round behind you, you don’t have much time before the second-round application deadlines, which are only nine or ten weeks away (early January).
- Prepare for your interview by reviewing your essays and your resume, and by contemplating various decisions that you have made. Your interviewer will probably ask you questions about your life, so you should know the answers!
Complete first-round interviews and await decisions.
- Plan interviews and await second-round decisions.
- Now that you know what lies ahead, it's time to focus, set everything else aside, and prepare for each stage of the GMAT in the best way possible.