So you’ve decided to apply for grad school, but you’re not sure when to start. The sooner you start working on the application process, the better! Given the rise in applications and competition you’ll face when applying, its best to give yourself a significant amount of time to plan and reflect.
Here are just 5 reasons why starting at least a year before your deadlines (Round 1 for MBA applicants) is the best idea:
1. You need time to define your goals.
Before you even start looking at programs and universities, you need to have a clear idea of what your goals are academically, professionally, and personally. Much of the MBA application requires you to share aspects of your life with the admissions committee and show them that you are a good fit for their program. However, you can’t do that until you clearly define your goals and decide what it is you want to get out of your prospective MBA program.
At The Art of Applying, we often start by helping applicants with this part of the process. While some individuals have already taken the time to clearly define their goals and have their objectives and timelines planned out, others need a little help in the process. The sooner you start thinking about who you are and where you want to be, the better you will be able to clearly communicate this to admissions committees.
2. It takes time to research programs and universities.
One of the longest parts of the application process is researching programs and universities before narrowing down your top choices. Though you may have some universities in mind before you even start the MBA application process, it’s still important to research these programs to determine if they are the right fit for you.
After you have a list of programs that appeal to you, you will want to start narrowing down your choices to between 5 to 8 schools. Then, look at application deadlines and other requirements so that you can use this to adjust your admissions strategy and application timeline.
3. You may have to take the GMAT more than once.
One of the first steps in the MBA application process is registering for and preparing for the GMAT or GRE. Most students need to take anywhere from 3-6 months to adequately prepare for the exam if they want to be able to perform at their full potential. It’s best to take a diagnostic exam before studying to see what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can develop a plan of attack for studying.
Many MBA applicants also choose to take a GMAT course or work with a private tutor to help them prepare for the exam. Not only should you give yourself time to study and prepare for the exam, but you should also give yourself enough time to take the exam more than once as many students are not satisfied with their initial score.
Here at The Art of Applying, we have an excellent and well loved in-house test prep tutor who works with our clients to identify their weaknesses, help them figure out which study materials are the best fit for their learning style, and how to best study with the materials they already have. We also give each client a customized minimum and target test score for which they should aim so that they know how close they are to meeting or exceeding their goal.
4. Your recommenders may take time writing their letters.
Choosing recommenders is an important part of the MBA application process. You want to reach out to potential recommenders early on to reinforce the relationships that you’ve built with them over time. You also want to make sure that the individuals you are asking for recommendations know you well and feel comfortable giving the strongest possible recommendation.
Once you’ve chosen your recommenders, you need to give them time to write their recommendation letters. The online recommendation forms can often be tedious. Not to mention, your recommenders are busy with their own careers and lives. Give them at least 4-6 weeks to complete their recommendations.
We teach our clients how to put together a strong recommender packet that includes everything their recommender will need in order to be well prepared to write them a strong letter of recommendation customized to their target schools.
5. You’ll have several drafts of your application materials.
Perhaps the most important reason to start the MBA application process early is that you are definitely going to have multiple drafts of your application materials. No matter how well you write, your first draft of your application essays won’t be as effective as a final draft that has received quality feedback and gone through many revisions.
You need to give yourself time to plan your essays and gather relevant examples before you start to write. Then, you’ll need to get feedback on your essays, and give yourself time to complete multiple revisions before you submit.
Starting Early: A Success Story from David V.
It’s easy enough to say that you want to start on the application process early, but it can be a little difficult to find the motivation to get started. That’s why we wanted to share a success story from one of our clients, David V.
David was proactive and reached out in September 2016 so that he could start working with The Art of Applying in January 2017. This gave him time to start studying for the GMAT early on in case he needed to take it more than once. But more than that, it gave him time to work with our team to decide on what he wanted from an MBA program and craft his story for admissions essays.
By setting his goals and working with our team early on, David was able to better focus and stay motivated during the application process. And his hard work paid off! By December 2017, he had received favorable admissions decisions from all three schools he applied to – Harvard Business School, Wharton with a full tuition scholarship, and Stanford Graduate School of Business with the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship.
On starting the process early, David shares this advice – “Start early! There is no better benefit than to start with a team who really understands the process early on. It will give you time to adjust your schedule and approach.”
Are you ready to get started with your MBA, JD, or policy graduate school applications? Schedule your FREE Breakthrough Call now to speak with one of our Enrollment Specialists about where you are in the process and how our team can help.