6 Steps to Prepare Your MBA Application in 2023
With MBA applications, planning ahead and creating an application plan is crucial to prevent last-minute slip ups. At SWC, we like to take 8-10 weeks to build your applications for 3 business schools. So with Round 1 applications opening up in August, now is the time to start preparing.
For most business schools, the application portals are not open yet. So you don’t know the exact questions they will ask. Nevertheless, you can (and should) start preparing now. Here are 6 ways you can start preparing your MBA application for 2023:
Most MBA programs require applicants to submit their Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. Both tests are valid for 5 years from the date you receive your scores. Taking this test is usually the first step in the MBA application process.
Since we’re about 4 months away from the Round 1 deadlines, this is a good time to take your GMAT/GRE. Take a mock test this weekend and see where you stand. Next, you’ll want to check the average GMAT scores of your target business schools and benchmark your performance against them.
Note: You can check the strength of your profile using the free Profile Evaluation tool on MBAconsultant.com.
If you’re a candidate applying from an over-represented applicant group, you should aim for a GMAT score at least 10-20 points higher than the class average of your target school. If you’re applying from an under-represented group, a lower GMAT score might work for you – if your narrative is unique and compelling. In either case, taking the test early allows you to identify programs that are a good fit for your profile and goals.
A good test score will also increase your chances of receiving merit-based financial aid that can offset the cost of your MBA program.
If you’re struggling with the GMAT, book a free chat with Rowan Hand, our in-house GMAT expert with 17+ years of experience in the industry.
Prepare Letters of Recommendation
When you apply to business school, you’ll need to provide letters of recommendation from professionals you have directly worked with, ideally your current/most recent manager or supervisor. You can already start thinking about these three factors:
Which Recommenders to choose
Your recommender should be familiar with your professional performance and achievements. Ideally, they’ll have worked closely with you and provided you with constructive feedback in some capacity. Don’t just go for the highest ranked person in your company; your CEO probably doesn’t know you as well as your direct manager. A good recommender can speak to your strengths and weaknesses using specific examples.
What they should say
An effective letter of recommendation is written in simple and clear language. Not flowery prose! Your recommender should give examples of times you have demonstrated leadership potential, a capability to learn more, and professional growth. They should also be able to identify your weaknesses. Stories that use data to back up your achievements and benchmark your performance against your peers work best.
When to ask them
Give your recommenders enough time and guidance to work on your letters of recommendation. Connect with them at least 4-6 weeks in advance and explain your application plan and timeline. It is also helpful to give them a framework in the form of bullet points so they can highlight specific skills or instances.
Most applicants apply to between 3-6 schools in a round. Researching schools and programs to find your alignment is an important but time-consuming step in your MBA application journey.
Start by researching the average GPA, GMAT/GRE scores, years of work experience, and pre-MBA industry of candidates who have pursued your target program. This way, you’ll be able to assess your eligibility and chances of getting in.
The school’s program page will also give you a lot of valuable information about school values, student culture, curriculum, concentrations, tracks, extracurriculars, and opportunities outside of the classroom. Learn more about the faculty and their specializations.
Not only will this research help you find the right schools to apply to, but it will also help you create a customized application strategy for school essays. You can also identify scholarship opportunities early in the process and determine whether you meet the criteria for applying.
Set post-MBA goals
Next, you’ll want to look at the class profile. What kind of careers do candidates choose after their MBA? What geographies, industries, and roles do they choose?
Doing this research early on will help you better identify career pathways you can pursue post-MBA and understand how your target school’s program, resources, and community can help you get there. Define both your immediate and long-term goals clearly; this will allow you to highlight relevant skills, experiences, and achievements to write impactful essays, especially the career goals essay.
Make sure the goals you set are ambitious but realistic given your background, skills you have already, and the skills you will gain during the MBA program.
Outreach: Students, alumni & events
While school websites and employment reports can provide plenty of information about the program, you’ll find these all look pretty similar. So you’ll also need to have conversations to really differentiate between schools. No one knows the school culture better than the people there!
Register to attend information sessions and participate in ongoing in-person and virtual events. You can also connect with current students, alumni, and staff at the school on LinkedIn by targeting those you have something in common with or have a mutual connection with. This may be daunting, but many of these connections will be happy to share their stories. You’ll get a more accurate picture of MBA life at the school through their experiences and involvement with the school’s community. This can also help you grow your network in your desired industry and get valuable application advice on how to best position your skills and background. For questions you can ask, check out our post 28 questions to ask an MBA interviewer (many of the questions are still relevant!).
Outreach can also increase your chances of admission. You can mention these conversations in your essays and in your interviews. This demonstrates your interest in the program and makes you stand out as a serious, engaged applicant. It tells the Admissions Committee that you’ve made an effort to learn about the school beyond just reading what’s on the site.
Adapt Resume To MBA
As you speak to current and former students and admissions experts about your profile, you may need to provide them with your resume. This will be different from the job resumes you’re used to! So you can already start creating a 1-page business school resume in an appropriate format so you can get your profile evaluated.
To learn how to create a strong business school resume, check out our resume builder and download the word document to customize your own business school resume. For more tips, check out our blog - How to sell your work experience for a standout MBA resume.
From school research to recommendation guidance to the MBA resume, tackle all the steps you need to take before you apply on MBAconsultant.com, our self-paced online platform for MBA application guidance.
Need a professional to discuss your application and scholarship strategy? Book a free 20-minute chat with one of our experts.