Four Steps to Avoid Drowning in MBA Applications

Dec 17, 2013
Tags: Admissions Process, Applications, B-School

Submitted by Nicole Lindsay, a career development expert who is working on her first book about women and business school. She is a former MBA admissions officer, MBA recruiter and non-profit executive. Connect with Nicole at @MBAMinority.

There’s no denying that applying to business school is stressful and demanding. Just about every candidate has feelings of self-doubt and gets overwhelmed at some point during the MBA application process. With GMAT prep, essay writing, admissions events, and a seemingly endless to-do list, it can feel like you are swimming against the tide to complete applications—working really hard, but not getting very far. No lifeboat is coming to pluck you out of the water and carry you to business school acceptances—there are no shortcuts to submitting strong MBA applications. Fortunately, there are people, resources, and programs available to help you swim through the process like an Ironman triathlon champion.

Take these four steps to avoid drowning in the MBA application process:

  1. Download FREE GMATPrepUnderstand the application process. Feelings of being overwhelmed often stem from fear of the unknown—it’s only natural, this whole MBA application process is new to you! The more you read and learn about applying to business school, the more you will alleviate anxieties and gain confidence in your ability to successfully navigate the process. is a great place to start gathering information, not just about the GMAT, but also about the application process. Visit business schools’ websites to understand exactly what they expect from MBA candidates. Once you’ve gotten some initial information about graduate school, check out fairs and events hosted by organizations like the Forte Foundation, PhD Project, Graduate Horizons, Consortium, NBMBAA, and NSHMBA. You’ll be able to ask questions, make great contacts and gather value information and insight. You’ll also walk away feeling motivated and re-energized about business school and how it can help you achieve your career goals.
  2. Utilize every available resource. Knowing what you have to do and knowing how and when to do it are not the same thing. After you get informed about the process, explore every avenue to get admitted to business school. There are several resources available to help you strengthen your application profile, such as MLT MBA Prep, Forte MBALaunch, and various GMAT test prep courses. Don’t think of these options as your lifeboat—you don’t need them to apply to business school—but as a guide on how to navigate the choppy waters. Accessing these programs as well as admissions events hosted by business schools will increase your confidence that you are submitting the best applications that you can. Additional resources for financial aid like the Consortium, AIGC Scholarships, and the Robert Toigo Foundation provide options to help lessen concerns about paying for school.
  3. Develop an application plan. Whether you are applying to business school in two years, six months, or within the next six weeks, create a plan. List all of the tasks that you will have to complete to submit your applications from the simplest activity, such as ordering your official transcripts, to the more complex, like preparing for the GMAT. Your GMAT score is just one factor in your overall MBA application, but preparing properly for the test takes significant time. Determine how you will obtain your best possible score. Consider the topics that you will study each week, when you will work on practice questions and take full practice exams. By breaking each component down into manageable pieces, you will use your time most effectively and avoid last-minute cramming.
  4. Build your application support system. You now have the information and tools to submit strong MBA applications. While it may be tempting to hunker down and trudge through the application process on your own, don’t go it alone! You need a broad network of people to provide encouragement and advice, and to answer the numerous questions that will come up as you complete your MBA applications. Develop relationships with current MBA students and alumni who can provide insight on how they successfully applied to business school. Also build relationships with fellow MBA applicants. When you feel a bit drained from the application process, your peers can service as a source of support. And occasionally, you’ll have days that you need to vent and your fellow MBA applicants can be there to lend a sympathetic ear.