The MBA Application Timeline: Thinking Ahead to Be Ahead

Today’s post comes from Ivy MBA Consulting. Ivy MBA Consulting is a leading admissions consulting firm that offers comprehensive, personalized, strategic consulting services, focused on getting clients accepted into the leading MBA programs in the world. Ivy was established by graduates of some of the world’s top MBA programs – people who were in your shoes not long ago. Ivy MBA Consulting is currently the only MBA consulting company in the world whose success rate is examined by Deloitte.

There are a lot of things to get together and organize when you decide to apply for an MBA program. One of the most important things to remember is to not save everything for the final hour. As great as it would be to not have to prolong the headache of applications, thinking that it is possible to do everything well in a matter of weeks is nothing short of fantasy.

If you know the MBA is where you’re headed, you should start prepping your career and tailoring your experience well before you start writing your essays. Years before you plan to apply (at least two years, to be exact) you should ask yourself “what is my growth trajectory at my current job?” Ask yourself if you are showing development. Ask yourself if you’re on track for promotion if you haven’t already received one. If not, see what big projects you can take on and what initiatives you can push to show that you’re a mover and a shaker.

If, by chance, you know that you are interested in changing careers, it’s important to try to get a related job in the related field a couple years before. It’s much harder to make a case for acceptance in a field in which you have no experience.

This is the phase that you should think of “experience building.” It will bolster your case as to why you will make a great MBA candidate and will also show why you’ve reached a point in your career where an MBA is actually beneficial and not simply convenient.

The “experience building” phase is also a good time to start looking at volunteer projects or activities that are outside the workspace. MBA programs like to see candidates who aren’t only involved in their work, but also in the community. If you didn’t start doing so in college, then start now.

Ideally, you want to already have built up your experiences, professional and personal, by the time you begin the application process. MBA programs rarely like to see last minute scrambling in attempts to pad or beef up a resume.

The year before you are planning to apply is a good time to begin preparing for the GMAT. The last thing you want on your mind when you’re writing essays and completing your applications is the GMAT. So finish it well before schools release their essays. Also, take into consideration that many people have to take the exam several times – so you want to leave yourself enough space to take the test as many times as you need without the stress of deadlines weighing heavily on your shoulders. By the way, if you need to take any language proficiency exams such as the TOEFL, this is also the time to do so.

The year before applications is also a good time to start researching programs, connecting with current students, and perhaps reaching out to alumni. A huge part of the application process is demonstrating student connections. The more you nurture the connections, the more you can leverage them in your application. So start early, and don’t forget to check-in with those you’ve reached out to. You don’t want to connect a year before applications are due, and then reach out one more time the day before deadline.

Come January of the year you’re applying, you should start researching consulting agencies to help you with your applications. Make sure you find consultants that will both help you build a career strategy and guide you in your path toward quality, genuine, and effective essays that not only demonstrate what you have accomplished, but also convey your character in a creative way. You will be working very closely with your consultants – so make sure that in your conversations you feel like you are getting the unique attention you deserve. No slogans allowed.

Come June, you should already be in conversation with your MBA advisor. This is a good time to rekindle networking ties you began to make the year before if you’ve left them untouched. The upcoming months will be your time to work intensively on your applications, ensuring – through many iterations – that each document is ready for final submission in the fall.

Most of the deadlines for the first round of applications are in September; if you start work in June, you wont meet the September crunch that many candidates face. Remember, a rushed application runs a much higher risk of missing out on the opportunity to do you justice. The MBA process starts way before the year of application – do yourself a favor, and start planning early.