June 21st, 2007
If you’re going to apply to a business school in this application season (2007-8, class of 2010), now is a good time to start planning your schedule for the next few months. In a previous post I discussed applying Round One vs. Round Two (and my recommendation was Round One), and in this post I try to outline a recommended timeline for those who decide to apply in Round One, or at least apply to the majority of their schools in Round One.
Let me start with describing my own application timeline last year, which is an example of a very bad timeline. The reason for that was that I only decided I want to do an MBA abroad in July 2006! Thus, the entire schedule was condensed into only 3 (three) months.
So, here goes:
July 2006 – decided I want to do an MBA abroad. Started reading the relevant forums, researching schools’ websites and going to schools’ receptions in Israel. Registered and started studying, alone, for the GMAT. (see my post about resources for GMAT)
August 31 – took the TOEFL (CBT version). As I was diligently studying for the GMAT, I only did the two sample TOEFL exams available from the TOEFL website, and that’s it. It was enough – the TOEFL is way easier than the Verbal section of the GMAT. In addition, it gave me a preparation for the ‘feeling’ of doing a computerized test, and the good grade gave me some confidence regarding the upcoming GMAT.
September 4 – took the GMAT. Results were sufficient. Decided which schools I’m going to apply to and started working on the applications: writing essay drafts, answering application questions, getting grades from my university and selecting recommenders.
September 6 – September 16 - conducted a successful, yet hectic, schools trip to the East Coast. Read more about it here. Simultaneously, worked on essays.
Mid/late September – spent the (Jewish) holidays period, and my birthday, writing essays.
October - submitted my major applications just before Round One deadlines. Traveled to London for an extended weekend, visited London Business School and wrote yet more essays.
Late October – Early November – submitted last Round One schools and a couple of Round Two schools. Started the next step in the process – waiting for interviews…
To summarize – in three frantic months, I studied and took the GMAT and TOEFL, conducted a schools research, wrote a decent number of applications, traveled to the US and London and submitted the applications. No wonder I only have application-related memories from that period… (well, and a few fond memories from London and the US…)
having fun in London…
and in the US
Frankly, in hindsight I don’t regret things turned out the way they did, especially considering the outcome of this crazy applications process and the fact that the ordeal finished in a relatively short time. However, I don’t think this timeline fits most applicants. I was lucky enough to enjoy a relatively slow period at work, combined with the holidays, which left me a lot of free time for travel and essay writing. Therefore, for applications who want to play it safer, I suggest something along the lines of the following timeline:
Before May 2007 - conduct a schools visit. Unfortunately around May school year ends, which makes a visit between May and September almost worthless. Schools recommence in September, which might be too close to Round One deadlines.
May-June (or before) – take the GMAT, hopefully for the first and last time. I’ll probably post a separate post regarding the GMAT, but in my opinion, as a general rule of thumb, if you pass 700 you’re OK and shouldn’t retake (especially for Israelis, not sure about other groups).
Also take TOEFL if needed. Preparing for it isn’t time-consuming, but from what’s been going on in Israel lately the most difficult part about the TOEFL is scheduling a date for it… so make sure you set a date well in advance, so you won’t need to fight for a date at the last minute.
June - finish conducting your schools research and decide which schools you’re going to apply to. Connect with current students and alumni of the schools you’re interested in.
June-July – before schools release their essay questions, you can work on updating your resume (required by most schools) and selecting recommenders.
July – as schools release essay questions, start thinking about the essays. Build a general strategy and start outlining the essays in each application.
August – essay fun! Also, follow up with the progress of your recommenders and start filling in the online applications. The application questions are short and easy compared to the essays (they’re usually more informative and factual), so you might be tempted to postpone them to the last minute; Don’t. You’ll find out that though short, they will require quite an effort of writing and information gathering (examples: your salaries in your last three positions; your job description in 300 characters; your university grades in an Excel sheet).
September – your last chance for a schools visit before Round One deadlines. Again check out my post for lots of tips for a beneficial trip. If you’re applying Round Two, a school visit can take place anytime between September to December.
Mid-late September – ideally, at that point you should all but finish your essays and applications, leaving yourself enough time for final reviews and last minute emergencies. Now’s also the time to make sure your recommenders are ready to submit their recommendations.
October and onwards – hit the Submit button, say goodbye to hundreds of dollars now transformed into application fees, kick back and relax! (well, not really – now starts the joy of waiting for interview invitations…)
I’ll try writing individual posts about some of the tasks mentioned above, like deciding on schools to apply, building an application strategy and so on.