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If you are young and ambitious, you hardly want to languish five years in an entry-level position to qualify for management. Fortunately, there’s a way to save time and learn more about succeeding in business leadership: returning to business school.
However, too many business students make the wrong choices during the application process, crippling their opportunities to survive and thrive their advanced degree programs. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you apply to business school the right way and see your career dreams come true:
Know Who You Are and What You Want
According to experts (read: admissions professionals), the best MBA applicants are those who are self-aware. In their applications materials, these candidates are capable of identifying their strengths and weaknesses, describing their career dreams and explaining how advanced education in business school will help them succeed.
Thus, your first step in applying to business school should be introspection. You should spend time ruminating on what, truly, you want from your career and how you plan to achieve it. You should make lists of your strengths and weaknesses – and try to be true to yourself; don’t use clichés or pretend others’ gifts are your own. You don’t need to have your life plan fully mapped before you apply to business school, but you should understand where you are in your career and where you want to go after graduation.
Send More Than the Required Rec Letters
Most business schools only require two letters of recommendation in their application packets, but the more people you can prove to be in your corner, the better. You should ask many influential members of your professional network to bolster your application with a rec letter, and you should ascertain their cooperation well before your applications are due.
The recommendation process varies from institution to institution, so you might need to guide your rec-writers through the process, which can be time-consuming. However, submitting recommendations above and beyond the expected will demonstrate your value in the professional sphere as well as your existing skills and knowledge.
Don’t Discount Online Programs
The strength of your MBA (or other advanced b-school degree) is largely dependent on the reputation of your school. With that said, you shouldn’t ignore online programs during the applications process. Though online learning was dubious in the past, today online education provides legitimate training in a variety of fields – especially business.
You can earn a degree through an online program from a prestigious school, and most employers won’t even know the difference. Plus, online learning offers dozens of benefits, including schedule flexibility and lower costs, that make it advantageous to hardworking professionals like you.
Skip the GMAT
The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is the entrance exam for graduate business school programs, like the LSAT is for law school or the MCAT is for med school. The test includes four sections: analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative questions and verbal questions. Studying for the GMAT sufficiently can require several years and thousands of dollars, and even then, you might not get a good score.
That’s why you should skip the test entirely. Studies show that standardized tests like the GMAT aren’t effective at measuring candidates’ knowledge or skill, so many top programs allow students to apply for a GMAT waiver during MBA admissions. To obtain the waiver, you will need a high GPA from your undergraduate program and a few years of work experience, which is attainable for most ambitious professionals.
The worst thing you can do on any application is lie. When recruiters and app reviewers identify untruths, you will immediately be out of the running – and you will likely lose all future opportunities, as well. The risk to your reputation isn’t worth even small fudges on your school or job application materials.
If you are honest about your abilities and interests, and if your personal statements and recommendation letters depict you as unique and driven, you will gain admission to business school. There is no reason to lie on your application, unless b-school truly isn’t what you want for your career.
Ask for Help
Confidence and competence are not marked by solitary toil. It is okay to ask others for help during the application process. This might mean asking loved ones to proofread your materials before you submit; it might mean asking application experts to give pointers regarding format and content; and it might mean calling your prospective schools for more information about the application process. By arming yourself with an abundance of resources, you can ensure your application is as perfect as possible.