To make next fall’s business school application process run more smoothly and efficiently, we recommend that you get started on generating a list of target schools now. With so many programs out there, it can be hard to narrow down your selection to a reasonable list of just five or six possibilities.
The first step to choosing a b-school is to assess your profile. You may have a life-long dream of attending HBS simply because one of your parents went there, but if your GMAT scores aren’t even in the ballpark, if your GPA is too low, or if you don’t have a lot of leadership experience on your resume, then you may have to adjust your plan.
Here are some factors to consider when assessing your profile:
- Academics – This includes your GMAT score and your GPA. As mentioned above, a weak GPA or a low GMAT score may limit your school choice. Be realistic; if you don’t have time to improve your scores in either of these categories, then you’re going to have to rule out the schools that require scores of a certain level. Of course, you do still have time to retake the GMAT, so if you think you have a shot at increasing your score, you may be able to keep HBS (or another top-ranked program) on your b-school list.
- Work experience – Your target business school is going to want to know about your past and current jobs. Now is a good time to think about any progressions you’ve made through your career path. If you haven’t made significant strides, then maybe you still have time to take on a new leadership position or increase your job responsibilities. Think about your strengths in your past and current positions, as well as your weaknesses. In what ways can you work now to strengthen your weak spots? Also, note that some schools expect a certain number of years in the workplace before applying; others do not. Check your target schools’ requirements.
- Goals – “Fit” is extremely important to the adcoms who will be reviewing your application. This is usually determined by seeing whether your MBA and post-MBA goals match up with the mission and ideals of a given program. A lot of introspection goes into developing a concrete list of goals. If you get a head start thinking about why you’d like an MBA, you’ll have an easier time answering the goal-related essay questions later on.
- Extracurricular activities – Your extracurriculars will set your application apart from the others, highlighting unique aspects of your personality. Now might be a time to think about some of your hobbies and interests, and perhaps get more involved in extracurricular activities. In terms of choosing a b-school, these activities could help you determine school fit.
- Miscellaneous factors – Criminal records, honor code infractions, and other negative aspects of your profile may limit your choices when it comes to applying to top b-schools. On the other hand, positive experiences like military service and academic or community awards may help boost your profile.
Evaluating your qualifications is the first step in generating a list of potential b-schools. Next time, we’ll discuss the various aspects and offerings of different programs, and how you should take those into consideration when choosing a school.