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Your 5-Month MBA Application Plan

Find out how to apply to a top MBA program in five months. Use this timeline to plan out your GMAT prep, essays, and recommendation letters for a successful MBA application

The 2020-21 MBA application deadlines are out! In our BusinessBecause MBA Application Guide 2020-21, we list the latest deadlines for the world’s top business schools and provide you with an exclusive, step-by-step guide to a successful MBA application.

How long does it take get your MBA application ready for submission? What timeline should you work to?

Starting your application early is always best, giving you time get your materials together and target those early deadlines.

To help you make the most of your time and avoid last-minute cramming, Personal MBA Coach has put together this five-month plan.


Month 1/2: 


1. Look for virtual campus events: While visiting campuses this spring is not an option, many schools are offering online webinars and other events to give students a sense of life on campus. 

2. Develop or solidify your GMAT or GRE preparation plan: Many of you may be well underway here (or even have already completed your testing).

3. Customize your resume for your MBA applications: Your MBA resume should differ from your professional one. While you may need to tweak your resume later, we advise our clients to get most of their resume development work out of the way before essay questions are released. 

4. Fine-tune your career goals: Putting pencil to paper (so to speak) on your career goals will save you time while developing your essays.

5. Narrow down your school lists (if you have not already). Your final list may change (particularly if your GMAT/GRE score is not as you expected), but it is ideal to have an initial idea of your school list early.

6. Brainstorm essay topics; begin drafting essays. For some schools, the essay questions are not likely to change from year to year. For those, you can get started on brainstorming, outlining and editing. For other schools, you can look at past questions to get an idea of potential focus areas for each school on your list. 

7. Prepare your personal story. Think through the choices you have made in your life, what drove those choices and what makes you unique. Keep this story in mind as you outline your essays. 

8. Begin to identify potential recommenders. Think about who will write the best letters (not just who is the most impressive on paper!) and begin putting out feelers. 


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Month 3:


1. Draft your essays. Essay development should be getting the bulk of your attention this month. 

2. Finalize and prepare your recommenders. Nail down your recommenders and schedule time to prepare them appropriately.

3. Take the GMAT/GRE. If you have not already done so, try to get your testing completed by mid-summer. (Remember, online tests can be viable options.) This will give you time to retake the test and not be too rushed. 

4. Network (remotely) with current/former students. Speak with current students and alumni in your network to learn more about their programs. This will not only help you to confirm your interest, but it will also give you strong material for your applications. Some schools specifically ask who you talked to, so do not forget this step. 


Month 4:


1. Edit, edit, edit. Aim to finish your essays in month four. We advise our clients to lock their essays at least 3-4 weeks in advance of deadlines. Last-minute changes are rarely for the better and you will need the time to focus on other application elements.

2. Revisit school lists as needed. Based on your score, you may want to critically evaluate and expand your school list. Our average candidate applies to over five schools. 


Month 5:


1. Ensure LORs are ready to go. Follow up with your recommenders and make sure they are on track. Ask your recommenders if they need any additional information from you.

2. Work on short answer questions and video essays. Allocate enough time for short answer questions. Often these questions take longer than you might think and are an important part of the application. 

3. Proofread, proofread, proofread. ALWAYS get someone unfamiliar with your applications to do a thorough review. 

4. Research options for visiting campus, if it is safe to do so. While we do not know whether traveling will be a safe option this application cycle, we certainly hope it will be! By getting a jump start on your other application components while quarantining at home, you will free yourself up to visit schools when health conditions allow. 

Keep in mind that while it is great to have the full five months (or more) to prepare, Personal MBA Coach regularly works with clients who start later in the year and craft custom timelines accordingly. Similarly, many candidates (especially those applying to an early decision program) work well ahead of these timelines! 


DOWNLOAD our MBA Application Guide 2020-21 

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