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Congratulations! After an extensive amount of research, you have decided that a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is the most viable option to proliferate and diversify your professional career. While making the decision to go to business school is not an easy one, it is the first step on your journey in shaping your career trajectory.

Now that you have decided on attaining an MBA, it is absolutely imperative that you consolidate, prepare, and complete all of the necessary objectives for your business school application. For many of these highly selective programs, they are looking for a diverse group of talented students who can create and foster a stronger, enriching, and impactful learning environment within their programs. Because of this, you want to make sure you provide yourself an ample amount of time to prepare your application in the best possible way.

To aid you with this process, I have provided a strong roadmap in preparing your applications. This checklist will highlight the necessary objectives that you will need to know and complete in order to find the right school that can help shape your background, your learning style, and most importantly your professional goals.

Create a List of Schools

When applying to business school, you want to make sure you take into consideration your professional goals, the school’s ranking, the programs, and the location of your future school. While it is nice to have various options, having a list that is oftentimes too large can be incredibly detrimental to your process. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you are looking at schools and programs that you would like to attend. To help you with this process, start by thinking of your professional goals. Ask yourself what you are looking to major in and what locations you are willing to move to. In addition, limit yourself to ten schools that are broken up into these three categories: high-reach schools, middle-reach schools, and low-reach schools (safety schools). This will allow you to trim the fat and focus on tangible programs that you will apply in the future.

Take your GMATs

Like with any graduate school, MBA programs require you take the Graduate Management Admission Standardize Test, more commonly referred to as the GMATs. The GMATs is a three and a half hour standardize exam designed to predict how test takers will perform academically in said-MBA programs. While some schools will overlook a weak GPA from your undergraduate career, many admissions teams look at the GMATs as a universal placement in identifying the quality and strengths of a student. While this is not the silver bullet for an acceptance letter at Harvard Business School or Kellogg School of Management, it is the first step in whether or not you are a right fit for those elite programs.

On the GMATs, applicants will be required to finish four sections within the three and a half hours allotted to each test taker. The four sections are broken down into these categories:

  1. Writing Portion
  2. Integrated Reasoning
  3. Quantitative Section
  4. Verbal Section.

To help you with this process, try looking into various GMAT test-prep programs. Some of the more popular and successful programs are Veritas, Manhattan, and MaGoosh.

Begin your Applications

Once you have taken your GMATs or have taken various practice tests with a test-date in mind, start completing your applications. To do this, go on the school’s MBA site and click the ‘Apply’ section to get start. Much of the application will require general logistical information like your work experience, resume, home address, etc. Note you do not have to complete your application in one sitting. Instead, you can revisit the site again and again to make those much-needed changes in shaping your application in the best way possible.

One thing you should focus on is revamping your resume. Make sure you are able to highlight all of your personal and professional achievements and accolades. In addition, be sure to quantify your resume so that it is easily understood.

Essay Section

On your online application, there will be an section that will require you to write a number of essays. Make sure you stay on topic and are able to showcase your professional career in a more meaningful way that is relatable to said-school you are applying to. For many schools, the utilize these essays to not just learn more about your professional career, but to gauge how much you know about their school and their MBA program. Be sure to note those connections and of course revise, edit, and finalize your essays before submission.

Attain Professional References

When asking for a professional reference, make sure the person writing the reference can highlight a particular accomplishment or professional trait during your time with them. For example, if you want to showcase your leadership skills, ask your professional reference to discuss some instances where you were able to personify yourself as a leader within the workplace.

Prep for Interview

Similar to your research in the beginning, you want to make sure you are reviewing the school, the programs, and your own professional portfolio. To help with this, look online for various MBA interview questions that you can use to practice before the big day.