5 Steps for Getting into Business SchoolFeatured

After doing a career pivot (finance to tech) sans MBA, I didn’t think I needed or wanted one. And yet, amid the Covid-19 chaos and a job change within tech, I determined it was the right next step for me. I quickly scrambled to prepare, but wondered, how hard could it be? I even debated dusting off the old college application essay and wisely chose against it. Somewhere between 20 open tabs of business school application requirements, a disorganized excel spreadsheet, and page two of a rolling to-dos doc, I realized I underestimated what getting into business school would take. After some time for wallowing, I created a step-by-step plan. This problem-solver loves a challenge. Fast forward to today, having gotten into my dream B-school, here are my 10 surefire steps for getting in. 1. Take the GMAT early.It's good to get this out of the way and you can even take the exam remotely online during Covid-19. You want to give yourself room to take it a second or third time if needed. Take a few practice tests in advance (and on the computer to mimic the real testing environment). Your GMAT score and college GPA will help determine which MBA programs are within reach.2. Research the MBA programs. Find the ones best for you. Go to information sessions, reach out to someone in your network who went there, ask the admissions office if you can ask them some questions. Doing your due diligence will help you prepare for essays and interviews as well as for your own benefit of choosing the place right for you. If you do steps 1 and 2 right, you will only need to apply to 3-5 schools (within reach and well researched), which will save you time and headache. 3. Know why an MBA and why these schools. An MBA is costly (including opportunity cost from not working), it’s time intensive, and it’s less relevant today than it was 10 years ago. Make sure it’s the right next step for you. Think about short term and long term goals post MBA and how the MBA helps you get there. Look at what classes the MBAs have and think about what you want your concentration to be and what classes, organizations, and student activities are interesting to you. 4. Prep and outline the application requirements for your selected choices. Make an application plan and give yourself plenty of time to rework and revise the essays. Determine which application round is best for you (earlier typically means better chances but you also want to give yourself time to prepare and put your best foot forward) and then work backwards from the application deadlines to set your own goals and due dates.5. Draft the essays. Do this early. Make sure it speaks to what you want to get out of the MBA and how you will be an effective leader. Write freely at first to let it flow and capture what you want to say. Then, track the word count and cut cut cut. For each essay, I started with nearly double the word count and got it down. You can always say something in a more concise way. Take out the fluff, keep the meat. Make each word count.
joannainsf's profile thumbnail
@jillianward You've listed some good points and information to help people considering MBA school. I have to say that MBA degrees will become as common as Bachelors degrees. So is it relevant? Yes, I believe so. To round out my private sector experience my MBA helped tremendously with understanding the big picture. If I had a chance to apply again knowing what I know now, I would emphasize choosing a school that's strong in helping graduating MBAs find jobs, has a strong alumni network and be in the geographic region where I want to live and work. I'm glad I tackled earning my MBA when I did not have to take out any loans or be in any debt. That for me was a real plus.
jillianward's profile thumbnail
Thank you! I agree it's relevant today it is an interesting dialogue around how it's evolved over the past decade though. Great tips, thanks for sharing!
ariele's profile thumbnail
How did you pay for your MBA without loans? I struggle to see how the MBA would be worth the cost, even though it would open some opportunities for me.
joannainsf's profile thumbnail
@ariele I saved since I started working. My parents did the same in order to pay for my college. I did not spend much while I was a new professional engineer. Saving was instilled in me by my grandfather. No vacations. No fancy apartment nor expensive restaurants. Did fun things that were free or low cost. Maxed my contribution and I got stock matching. Whatever free money my company was giving out, I wasn’t going to pass that up!
ElizabethMcLau's profile thumbnail
@jillianward, thank you for sharing! I couldn't agree more, especially on point #2 about doing your due diligence. When I first began looking at schools, I had a hard time distinguishing what made a program's curriculum, extracurriculars, network, or culture unique. It was only through extensive conversations with current students and alumni that those distinctions became clear, and I was able to better speak to "why X school" in application essays and interviews. Don't just look at rankings!
jillianward's profile thumbnail
Exactly - it's same as job interviews - it's a two way street / you are interviewing them. You have to do your homework and find what's right for you.
Thank you for sharing!I'm knee-deep in the process and was so lucky to be invited to all the schools I've applied to so now I am in waiting purgaory.I'd like to add a gew more things:#1 Consider the GRE - yes the GMAT is the one everyone knows about but not everybody cracks it and the GRE is a fantastic other option that all top schools accept!#2 Do your DD - by talking to current students, alumni, not just staff! Super important to assess how career services, the network is adding value but also if you vibe ie. would I want to hang out with those people for 2 years straight#5 AMEN! For my top choice, I wrote exactly 303 drafts in the span of 4 months - not saying this to terrify anyone but because it really is time-consuming as it requires a lot of self-reflection!
jillianward's profile thumbnail
Good luck!! And good points - GRE is a great option as well, but WOAH 303 drafts! Wow that is dedication!
jillianward's profile thumbnail
Mbereimani's profile thumbnail
I couldn’t agree more about underestimating the time it takes. I wish I started earlier but I got through it so it’s do able. Be prepared to have tough conversations with friends and family as your time for them will be very very limited! Currently waiting to hear back from schools so hoping all that hard work and sacrifice paid off 🤞🏾🤞🏾
jillianward's profile thumbnail
Exactly - it was a tight turnaround for my recommenders which I wouldn't recommend haha. Good luck hearing back!!
betsytanner's profile thumbnail
It will pay off!! You've got this!How early did you start with the process and in a perfect world how long would you recommend for the whole process? (Backstory: I am graduating college and would like to get my MBA in 2-3 years)thanks so much
Mbereimani's profile thumbnail
@betsytannerOops! Responding took longer but I started a year in advance. I thought this was enough time, but for me, I wished I started earlier.I would recommend using a year to focus on testing and another year to focus on school research and essays. However, I did it in one year so it can be done. The whole process is really different depending on your strengths. I thought I could conquer the GMAT in 3 months but it took me a whole year 😅. Some people conquered it in 6 weeks 🤷🏾‍♀️. I wrote all of my essays in two weeks (I was an aspiring creative writing major in college). Some people took 3 months to write their essays. School research is something you can start anytime and the longer your engagement with a school the better. For my number one choice school, I joined their email list and would attend a few events 2 years in advance. I hope this helps you think about your timeline more. Also, if your timeline shifts, dont be discouraged! I went through the process 3 years later than I intended to , but honestly this year is the best time for me to go back to school.
jillianward's profile thumbnail
Great points!! Thanks for sharing