-A Greek Philosopher
To thyself be true
The guiding force in applying for business school, and frankly for any major life decision is to know yourself. Sorting through all the advice in cyberspace, in bookstores, and from well-intentioned friends/family can be a pain, even if you are an expert googler. The sole question you have to ask yourself is What Do I Want? As it relates to the subject of this blog, if you cannot answer this question, you should not apply to business school.
Note that what you should not immediately focus on "what do I want to do for a career?" or "what is my favorite city?" or "what is the ranking of X school?" The broader question "What Do I Want" should force you to evaluate what your personal priorities, preferences and goals are without reference to the options available. If you are able to identify what your main priorities are, focusing on tests versus essays, promotions versus new industries should all fall into place. A co-worker drafted law school applications and got to the personal statement part of the application which included "why law school" and could not come up with an answer. She had the presence to drop everything, regroup and decide that she needed to hold off on grad school until she COULD answer that question. If you take the time to consider your options hopefully you won't end up wasting a lot of time and effort!
Once you get to the stage where you have figured out your subconscious desires to a sufficient degree then you are ready to choose schools, write essays and take the GMAT.
Choosing schools. This is fairly easily covered by a close examination of oneself. Once you know your priorities you can choose schools that offer what you want the most (rank, location, specialty, whatever YOU want.)
Writing essays. If you know yourself well, you should know whether or not this is a weak point for you. If you think you will need a significant amount of time to draft your essays but can kill the GMAT in three weeks, then start writing your essays months in advance. This will also help you focus on your "message" during formal and informal b school events.
GMAT. If you are a non-native English speaker, you should know you need to work extra hard on verbal. If you majored in history, you probably need to spend a little more time on the quantitative section. Think about your background, strengths, and take a diagnostic test (or two) significantly before your test date and possibly months before you plan to start really studying. If you stink at standardized tests, a six month study plan for the GMAT coupled with a test prep service may work well for you. If you generally ace standardized tests, you may need less than a month to prep.
Some people like Kaplan. Some people like Princeton Review. Some people studied for the GMAT in a week. Some studied for months. Some people wrote eighteen drafts of essays. Some people spell checked and were done.
The moral of the story is that there is no right way to do this. The sole guiding force should be the understanding of what you want and who you are. Knowing what you want, and being able to identify what resources and schools fit your strategy and your style of learning is critical to developing a successful application. If you really look at your background and GMAT score and think you need outside help, by all means hire an admissions consultant. If you only need three days to study for the GMAT, go for it! Whatever you do, don't take anyone's advice to be the end all way to get into business school. Gnothi seauton
Thursday, March 15, 2007