After my brother died, I threw myself into studying for the GMAT.
I had PTSD from eight months of trauma while he battled cancer. The GMAT, in all its complexity, gave me something else to think about in the car, between my desk and the printer at work—in all those in-between moments when I needed the distraction.
I knew that life is unfair and uncertain and messy, and the logic of the GMAT was somehow reassuring. As a friend of mine told me this week: ‘Anxious people need something to do.’
It’s in this spirit that I want to look at how to use your time in self-isolation to prepare yourself for your MBA application. This is not a trite to-do list, but something to focus on in this time of uncertainty.
If you’re prepping your MBA application during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, here’s six things you should do:
1. Get GMAT or GRE test prep out of the way
Do it now. Your scores are valid for five years. There is enough complexity in these tests to keep your mind active (and hopefully not overthinking).
2. Reach out to people
There could be no better time to reach out to alumni for your business school research. Everyone is craving a bit of human connection right now, and many people have a bit more time on their hands.
It’s also a good time to reach out to professionals if you have questions about what its like to work in different industries, or what advice they might have for you. You should be genuinely curious about another person’s experience and advice.
Be authentic and specific when you reach out and look for commonality. It’s easier to reply to someone who says, ‘I also have a background in Journalism and was wondering if you’d recommend the Oxford MBA?’ than ‘I’m thinking about an MBA. What advice can you give me?’.
3. Explore online courses
This is also a good time to explore. Perhaps you might be interested in social impact investing, or want to learn more about case study interviews, or crisis coms. Use your time now to dabble in different areas, to get a sense of whether they are for you.
For those worried about not being able to demonstrate quantitative skills on their application, it’s also a good time to prove yourself with a quant-heavy course.
Check out: Are Coursera courses worth the effort?
4. Think about your essays
Try this one on days you are feeling a little more optimistic. MBA essays require a lot of introspection. You want to consider the defining moments in your life, who you are, what is important to you and what sets you apart. Keeping a journal could help you think through some of these prompts.
5. Flex your leadership muscles
I wonder if next year’s MBA interviews will include the question ‘What were you doing during the Coronavirus crisis?’ It is hard to pitch in from self-isolation, but it’s possible.
At work, you’ll be adapting to new ways of doing things. In your community, a bit of kindness can go a long way. Step up into leadership roles during this time of crisis. Be a thought-leader for your industry.
6. Stay the course
Your desire for an MBA may seem out of touch amid this crisis, but it is not. The skills you will gain from your MBA will be needed in a world that may look nothing like the world we have seen.
Getting an MBA is not (or it shouldn’t be) a frivolous or vain box-ticking exercise. It’s not only for those who are career obsessed. It’s about having more leadership tools at your disposal, to make more of an impact in whatever industry you are in.
The economic repercussions of this virus are unprecedented, and this world will need people like you to solve new problems.