The one thing that every business school applicant comes away with from the MBA application process is war stories. From the applicant whose computer crashed, wiping out all of his freshly written essays, to the applicant who was asked out by her interviewer, we all come away with something. While the unique experiences are probably more interesting, the common ones are probably more useful to you in your application preparation. With that in mind, here are a few experiences that will most probably find their way into your storybook:
Your first admissions interview will be your worst.
Even Michael Jordan looked a little rusty when he first came out of retirement, so you shouldn’t expect to be in top-notch condition after not interviewing for several years. This isn’t to say that you’ll “bomb” your first interview, but generally, applicants need to work through the first one before feeling entirely comfortable with the process again. If you follow our interview advice, then you should be fine, but if possible, set your first interview up with your safety school.
Your last application will be your best.
Many applicants start off working on the application to the school in which they are most interested. More often than not, this is a bad move. By the time you move on to your third or fourth application, you will be in prime application-writing mode. You will have a bunch of base essays from which to start and have already spent tremendous amounts of time revising them. This means that the last application will benefit from all of the knowledge you’ve gained by working through the first few. If time is not an issue, consider working on your highest priority application last. Just be aware that fatigue may set in by the time you’re on your last application; resist the temptation to recycle an old essay that doesn’t quite fit, no matter how much the process wears you down.
You should ignore half the advice you receive about your essays.
We recommend that you always get one or two talented writers to review your essays, simply to have another set of eyes to catch mistakes and to help with clarity of communication. But be careful—some well-meaning friends or “experts” may make suggestions that could alter your essays to the point where they no longer have your voice or say what you want them to say. At the end of the day, they’re your essays, and they should reflect your own voice and
Visiting your target business schools is always a good idea.
Would you buy a car that you couldn’t see? Probably not, so you should also strongly consider visiting your target business schools. You will be surprised what you pick up, and doing so will help you score big points with the admissions committee. What seems like a fairly routine gesture will go a long way toward demonstrating your enthusiasm for your target schools.
You will be tempted to make irrational decisions.
We know someone who decided to try and save a couple of bucks by sending in her recommendations via the regular mail only a few days before the deadline. As you might have guessed, her recommendations never arrived, and she had to apply to that school again in the next round. (Business schools have heard every excuse before; there’s no story that can overcome a lost or late application.) If you continue to view business school as a long-term investment, saving a couple bucks while taking on significant risk becomes an obviously bad tradeoff.