It’s that time of year when we start to hear from people who are diligently preparing to submit an application in the next cycle. Here are a few quick pieces of advice for those in the earlier stages of the process:
Introspection is key during the MBA application process. By the time you hit submit, you should know—and be able to articulate—exactly why you want an MBA. What are your short- and long-term career goals, and how is an MBA going to help get you there? Start big. What do you enjoy doing? What do you NOT enjoy doing? Do you like the industry you work in currently? What else are you interested in? Do you like the industry, but not your functional role? Do you like your functional role, but not the industry or company? Is an MBA necessary to grow and progress? Then go deeper. What companies are currently doing what you’re looking for? Is there anyone you can talk to in order to better understand this role/industry/company? Can you test the waters somehow?
There are at least two great reasons for this level of introspection. First, writing your essays and telling your story in an interview will come much more easily. You’ll also be more authentic and enthusiastic (not to mention look more prepared), which makes a much more compelling case. Ad Coms read a lot of essays, and talk to a lot of candidates—don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. Secondly, you’ll be less overwhelmed when you get to b-school and are presented with a ton of career options. Even if you change your mind, or plan to explore, you'll have a personal road map to refer to.
Start researching schools now, and keep it doing it! Dig through websites (there’s a ton of information there, so go beyond what you see on the homepage), talk to current students and alumni, and visit as many programs as you can. How will they help you accomplish your career goals? Be specific—look at the programs, courses, clubs, and initiatives that are available. Which school is the best fit for you personally? Where do you see yourself being able to stretch, grow, contribute, and have fun? Who are the students and alums you would want to work alongside and call part of your network?
Many schools offer ways to do this. At Tuck, we have a robust visit and interview program. Other opportunities to talk to Tuckies include Tuck Connections, online events, contacting club leadership or a Student Ambassador, and attending a student hosted coffee in your area. The Admissions Team also travels across the globe, for MBA Fairs, small coffee chats, and big Tuck Receptions (which often include alumni). Finally, don’t forget your personal networks and LinkedIn.
Get this out of the way sooner rather than later. Don’t rush it, but give yourself time to focus on essays and interviews without the stress. Also, if you end up with a score that you don’t think will be competitive (check out class profiles for averages and ranges) or a score that you don’t think reflects your ability, this will give you time to retake it.
Don’t assume you’ll get a scholarship. If you do, that’s awesome! If you don’t, you’ll feel prepared and be a lot less stressed. Pay down other debt, look for funding options elsewhere, and save. It’s difficult to watch someone turn down their dream school solely because they received more money from another program.
A frequent question from applicants at this stage in the process: Does it really matter if I apply in a later round? Well, yes—but it matters more that your application is the strongest it can possibly be. When you’re confident you’re submitting your best though, do it as soon as possible! The earlier you apply, the more spots that are available in the class. We can only make so many offers for a class of 285 and it gets increasingly competitive as the rounds go on. If you’re thinking about this now, there’s still plenty of time to put together a strong application!
Good luck, and let us know how we can help along the way!
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