By Chris Anselmo, MBA ’16
As I write this blog post, I can’t help but think back to this time last year. I was frantically studying for the GMAT, and was living and dying on the result of every practice test. I was taking a prep class on Tuesday nights while working a full day, and would come home exhausted. Sleep was elusive. Flash cards were never far away.
The admissions process is daunting, there’s no way around it. Filling out applications, writing essays, taking the GMAT, all while working a full time job can be overwhelming. You may even have to recall facts about your life that you’ve forgotten.
To commemorate the impending one-year anniversary of my GMAT exam, I’ve come up with a short list of tips that helped me through the process.
Tip #1: Take (almost) all outside advice you read with a grain of salt.
You will get overwhelmed with advice from articles you read. You may even see contradictory or conflicting advice from experts. At the end of the day, you are in charge of your application. You are unique, and some pieces of advice, no matter how adamantly they are stated, may not be appropriate for your application. Ignore the advice? No. The experts after all have spent years in the industry and are very bright people. But be sure you put everything in context, and if a tip is not right for your situation, it’s not right.
Tip #2: Read the admissions blogs of the schools you are interested in.
Most business schools nowadays have their own admissions blog, written from the perspective of the director, or assistant director. These blogs are great for getting a sneak peek into the mind of the person who will ultimately make a decision on your application. Their advice you do want to heed. If they have specific guidelines on how to approach their essays, resume length, etc., make sure you take note.
Tip #3: Remember that you are more than a test score.
Don’t let your GMAT score define you. Although it is an important part of the process, no doubt, it isn’t the only factor. Score too low? You are more than your score. Score very well? Guess what, you still have to complete the application! A score alone isn’t enough to get admitted or rejected.
Tip #4: Apply when the time is right.
Are you dead set on applying for Round 1? Are you overwhelmed by work or life, and are afraid your application will be rushed? Don’t be. One of the pieces of information I sought during the application process was whether or not there was an advantage to applying early. I can’t tell you one way or another, simply because I still don’t know!
What I can say is that the best application you can submit is the one where you are most prepared, and most ready. A rushed application will stick out like a sore thumb. A well-crafted application will shine through no matter the deadline.
Tip #5: Have someone read your essays.
Find a friend who was an English major, or who writes for a living, or whose writing you admire. Be really nice to them for a few months, then one day ask politely if they’ll read your essays. Another set of eyes will always, always benefit you. Especially if your own eyes are weary from writing, editing, or transcribing your work history into a school’s online form.
If you can, I’d even have someone sit next to you and go over your entire application word for word before submitting. My friend Mike sat with me as I walked through my application, and it was tremendously beneficial. Even if there are no mistakes, all it takes is one typo to derail everything else. You don’t want to be that person, trust me.
At the end of the day, it’s a tough, arduous process, but you’ll get through it, and it will be worth it. After all, nothing worthwhile in life comes easy.