Now that you’re convinced of your reasons to pursue an MBA, the next step would be to decide which school and what intake you want to aim for. A large majority of students aim for the September intakes, when the majority of B-school admissions occur. The focus was always on US schools. The spring admissions have been considered to be fewer in number and financial support harder to get during that period.
However, with the B-school umbrella now spread over Europe, Asia and Australia too, September is not the only realistic option left for aspiring management gurus. Many schools around the world have rolling admissions- in which they consider applications all year round. Some schools have one batch starting in September and another starting in Jan/March.It comes down to your choice of college and your convenience, to finally decide which intake to target.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea take your GMAT at least a year before you plan to join a B-school. Invest in a good prep course. If you plan to aim for the September intake, June/July would be a good period to appear for your GMAT test. The admission process in most of the top b-schools is carried out in two or more rounds. You can almost be sure that the good ones start considering candidates by August, for the next September’s intake. Just to state an example, the deadline for the first round for HBS (Harvard Business School), last year was in August.
Now, the following is something that goes along with common sense, and is also advice that I heard from admissions officers, all over. Applying in the first round gives you a superior chance of being accepted by the school. For one, it shows that you are serious about your application. Secondly it shows that you have placed the school pretty high on your list! You convey the message that you are really interested in earning your degree from that particular school.
Some other reasons, why the planning one year ahead, makes sense.
God Forbid, you screw up the first attempt- you’ll have time for another chance, to retake the GMAT and improve your score. Don’t underestimate the reasons why you might screw up the GMAT. Something even as simple as an unfortunate bout of the hiccups or an unexpected event like being flashed by a hot girl/ guy might thwart you from your aim.
GMAT is just the first step. Well done – you are past first base. Time to bravely venture forward. The big, bad, tricky world of essay writing still awaits your entry. If there were a battle for ‘what’s the most important factor that’ll sway the admissions committee’, essays along with your work experience would possibly just about manage to overcome your GMAT score. The more time you have to focus on and hone your essays, the better the chance you stand of getting admitted to your dream college. Getting the GMAT out of the way lessens your load, and helps improve focus. It’s an old adage that eyes are like a window into a person’s soul. The same could be said, for essays. They have to be good enough to project, not your soul, but your personality and your background to the admissions committee. For help, submit your essay here or get help from folks in F1GMAT. You can also download F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay Guide, here.
Given that ideally you’d need at least 2 months + to prepare for the GMAT, and a couple of weeks to pick some schools, I’d say that you ought to start your GMAT prep in April. Of course this again is dependant to a large deal on how much time you’d like to prepare before giving the GMAT. The GMAT provides you with an option to send your scores to five schools, for free. The catch here is that, you have to enter your choice of schools, before the test. So, have a range of options – a couple of dream schools, a couple of target schools, and a failsafe option. You must already have an idea of what range your GMAT score is gonna fall within, after all those past months of hard practice.
Time to put on your thinking hats and target your entry point into the business arena!
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