I’ve received a lot of emails from folks who are considering applying business schools. If you’re *thinking about* business school now, you probably won’t be able to apply until next fall. I don’t see any end to our current financial crisis any time soon. Each day more layoffs are announced. Business school applications and enrollment will increase dramatically next week. The competition will be fierce.
I was a member of the class of 2004 — according to the admission officer at the school attended, 2002 was most difficult year to get accepted across the board. I still remember how fierce the competition was then. I believe that the current recession is much severe than the last one. And your road to business school is getting even harder in the next 3 years.
But, all you can do is to focus on what you can control. Here are 10 things I think you can do now to improve your chance to get into a top business school.
- If you were laid off, look for another job immediately. Get a consulting/contractor gig. Get a non-paid internship. Don’t be idle. Don’t bet on business school as your escape. It’s much better if you’re employed when you’re applying business school.
- Put yourself into a leadership position. If you cannot get it at work, find a non-profit/associations that you can be a leader. If you still cannot find a position, go to start your own organization. In this economy, there are a lot of problems you can help to solve. The key thing is that you should start something because your truly care about the cause. Don’t start it for the sake of applying business school. B-school admission officers can see your BS right away.
- If you like to write, start a blog and keep writing consistently. Pick a focus that you’re really passionate about it. The blog will add an interesting dimension to your application (if you write value content.) There are a lot of blogs out there. But, there are not that many blogs with consistent postings and good content.
- Work hard to improve your writing — your essays are the single most important factor for your admission. There are consultants who will polish your writing. But, you know yourself the best. To express yourself well, you need keep improve your writing. English is not my first language, but my essays were quoted by admission officers. How I did it? I read, studied, re-read, studied, re-read, and studied two books: On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (On Writing Well) and The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
- Given how competitive the application process will be, you need to get a high GMAT score (700+). This is actually something within your control. đź™‚ How to prepare for GMAT? I’m sure you have read and heard enough advice about GMAT application. In my opinion, preparing for GMAT boils down to three key factors: 1) practice, practice, and practice 2) use a combination of books and preparation courses to increase your exposure to different problem solving approaches and sample questions 3) time management — you need to know how to pace yourself when you take the test on computer. See a follow-up post next Monday (11/24/08) on GMAT preparation.
- During recession, most people are busy, stressed, and concerned about their job security. If you want someone to write you a recommendation, expect a long turn-around time. It happened to me during last recession one of my recommendation letter writers was laid off. He was busy looking for a job, and didn’t have the time or enthusiasm to write me a recommendation letter. Start early and secure your recommendation letters as early as possible.
- Think through why you want to apply business school. During last recession, I knew a lot of people who were in panic mode — they were having their "quarter life crisis". They were confused. They didn’t know what to do next. They thought that business school would save them from misery and gave them the ticket to wealth and future success. If you’re in the panic and desperation mode, you will not get accepted to a top business school. Your lack of focus and thoughtful career plan will be reflected in your essays and overall application package. Please take some time to think through.