Thinking about an MBA? 5 Tips for Applying to Business School From a Wharton MBA Grad
Raise your hand if you’re thinking about applying to business school! Well, if you are, then today’s post is definitely for you. Today I’m partnering with my friend Laura from PrepScholar GMAT (a Wharton MBA Grad!), and she’s sharing a few super-useful tips you’ll want to take into account while you’re preparing for your new adventure! So here it is, guys! Enjoy!
‘Tis the season for preparing business school applications for entrance Fall 2018. If you’ve already started your applications, you know how overwhelming (end expensive!) the process can be. If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry! You still have plenty of time to craft an impressive, admission-worthy application. When each school’s application fee can be $200+, it makes sense to want to put your best foot forward and only apply ONCE. I’ve been there (and learned a ton through the process) and am writing this in hopes of making the process less painful for all of you.
1. Do Your Research
Getting an MBA can truly be a life-changing experience. Whether you’re looking to shift the trajectory of your career or simply get that promotion at work, business school is a huge commitment (time, money, you name it…) so you should be 100% sure whatever program you’re applying to is right for you. With so many schools and curriculum options (full-time, part-time, weekend, executive, etc.) don’t assume the program your sister or roommate is applying to is also right for you.
If you’re looking to change careers entirely (for example, I was a management consultant before business school but wanted to go into CPG marketing after), a full-time program might be best for you since it allows you to step away from day-to-day work entirely and focus on learning the skills you’ll need for your next role. On the other hand, if you need the MBA for a promotion at work (or, better yet, your company is sponsoring your MBA – lucky you!) you might want to consider a part-time program so you can continue the momentum you’ve started with your current employer.
2. Prepare for the GMAT
The GMAT is the standardized test most MBA programs require. Your GMAT score is good for five years, so even if you’re not applying next year, you should consider taking the test soon to get it out of the way! The GMAT is a 3.5 hour test that covers writing, verbal, and math skills and stands between many applicants and successful MBA admissions – but it doesn’t have to! Unfortunately, many applicants ineffectively prepare for the GMAT, leaving them frustrated and exhausted by the whole experience.
So how do you prepare for the GMAT? Well, there are a few different options: self-study (on your own), online courses, in-person classes, and even one-on-one tutoring. This article provides a decent overview of the many GMAT prep options. The newest course on the market, PrepScholar GMAT, combines the best of all worlds: the 24/7 access of an online course with the personalization of a tutor at the cost of an online course. It was developed by Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford grads and includes a 60-question diagnostic assessment to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses on the GMAT. This ensures you don’t waste any time on lessons above or below your current skill level and helps to answer the all-important question “how do I even begin studying?!”. The course also includes weekly progress reports and performance trackers so you can see your progression across every GMAT skill.
For a limited time, we’re offering all Gen Y readers an exclusive discount with PrepScholar GMAT! Enter Coupon Code GENY100 to get $100 off the “Completely Customized” course (price before discount is $399). That’s a 25% savings – not too bad! There’s a 5-day risk-free trial, so you can sign-up for the course and cancel within 5 days if you’re not super impressed… at no cost to you! Learn more about (and sign up for) the course here: http://www.prepscholar.com/gmat/s
3. Craft Your Story
MBA Admissions offices look for students who have a clear “story”. Your story tells them not only why you need an MBA (your career goals) but also:
- Why now is the right time for you to get an MBA
- Why their particular school is the best fit for you
- How your experiences to date will make you a valuable member of the incoming MBA class
- What, specifically, you’ll bring to the MBA program (skills, interests, passions, etc.)
You have several opportunities to “tell your story” throughout the application process: in your essays, through your recommendations (provide your recommendation writers with some specific points beforehand), and in the interview. Applicants with the strongest and most compelling stories have a much better chance of being accepted into programs than applicants with a loose or incomplete story. And don’t worry – if you’re admitted, no one will hold you to the career goals you detailed in the application; you’re still free to explore other career opportunities during your time in the program.
4. Get Involved in Community Service
If you’re not already actively involved in some type of community service, get on it ASAP. Admissions committees will typically look for two things when it comes to community service: Continuity and Leadership. “Continuity” means a long-standing (ideally, several years) commitment to a service or project. Two years of involvement with a community group is much more impressive (and less obviously done simply for MBA admissions) than 2 months. “Leadership” is fairly self-explanatory: instead of simply participating in a food drive, can you organize one? Instead of joining a tutoring program, can you start one? Admissions looks for applicants who are natural motivated leaders, and community service is a great opportunity to showcase your own leadership style.
5. Be Yourself in the Interview
The interview (either in-person or on the phone) is a great time to show the Admissions Committee a bit of personality (personality is tough to showcase in other application areas, essays and resumes). While you should definitely take the interview seriously (and stay professional), it’s OK to “be yourself” a bit – tell an engaging story, ask the Admissions officer about their day, or even tell an (appropriate) joke! It’s normal to be nervous before the interview, but don’t let that keep you from coming off as your natural self. Just remember – everyone is nervous going into the interview, so Admissions committees are impressed when applicants can overcome their nerves to have an engaging, interesting conversation (as opposed to a stiff, back-and-forth interview).
Laura graduated from Princeton in 2004 and got her MBA from Wharton in 2010 After working for General Mills for 7 years, she now is the Director of PrepScholar GMAT, the sponsor of this post.