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Friday, November 9, 2012

Tips for Applying to Business School

Round one deadlines are coming up at several MBA programs. If you're one of thousands scrambling to put the finishing details on your application, congratulations! You're almost over a critical hurdle and can soon rightly take at least four or five hours to relax and revel in your accomplishment.

Meanwhile, here are some last-minute tips to help you check off your To Do List or jump-start the next phase of the process: interview prep.

1. Submit clear, evocative essays that adhere to the stated word limits. Admissions committees want to see focused essays, and holding to the word limit guidance demonstrates you can follow directions. After months of writing drafts, seeking feedback from friends and family, and changing everything about your essays, don't just "accept all changes" and upload your essay documents. Make sure you have cut and paste your essays into an entirely new document that was not used for drafting.

2. Forget all about trying to be the traditional or "ideal" business school applicant. Avoid all attempts to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. Simply by allowing your individual personality to shine through, you'll be able to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool.

3. "Don't underestimate the importance of your resume," counsels UM Ross School of Business MBA admissions director Soojin Kwon. She urges applicants to submit resumes that are clear, concise, and scrubbed of all industry jargon. She likens the resume to a "movie trailer" for your life, so make sure you're putting the most compelling, demonstrative details forward.

4. Applying in Round One, if you're ready with your best application, may actually be a safer bet than waiting until Round Two. Sara Neher, assistant dean of MBA admissions at UV Darden, recommends applying in the first round because "Every seat in the class and every scholarship dollar is available in Round 1." In recent years, says Neher, Round 2 has become bigger and more competitive.

5. If you're invited to interview at the b-school of your dreams, prep and practice will help ease any interview performance concerns you may have. Start by reviewing your applications. It's been a few weeks since you submitted, and you will want to return to the MBA applicant mindset by reviewing your overall application strategy.

The second step in your interview process is to review some typical questions, which is fairly easy to do since many candidates post their experiences online. Write out some bullet points to outline what you would say in response to your practice questions. Finally, practice, practice, practice! Enlist the help of family and friends, and ask them to provide constructive feedback.

The most important bit of advice we can offer is to have fun and try not to get too stressed out by the process. While MBA applications are exhausting, time-consuming, and a heck of a lot of work, in the end, it will all be worth it.

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