Monday, October 05, 2015 at 8am

Choosing Business Schools to Apply to: Creating Your Long List

Long list

Creating a solid long list of your top business schools to apply to early on will help you stay focused throughout the MBA admissions process; it will also save you time and money. In this article we’ll take you through the earliest steps in the process; the things you can do NOW, even up to a year before you’re actually ready to apply. We’ll start with pre-application tips that will help put on your school selection thinking caps – guidance through the  early introspection stage – and then we’ll move on to creating your ‘long list’. In the next article, we’ll share advice on how to whittle down that list to your ‘short list’ – the top business schools that you’ll actually be applying to.

Put on your top business school selection thinking caps!

Ready? Let’s get started! Here are a couple of things you should do right now to jumpstart the b-school selection process:

1. Jot down notes

At the very beginning of this MBA admissions process, you’ll need to do some introspection and brainstorming. There’s no need here to write out anymore more than a few words here and there – some top priorities. Things like ‘top 10’, ‘friendly to older applicants’, ‘strong quant focus’, ‘need to be able to fly home to my sick father in less than two hours’ are what you should be thinking about at this early stage.

2. Read MBA student blogs

This is a great way to get an inside look at the programs from a wide range of perspectives. And don’t just read student blogs from schools you know you’re interested in; read about student experiences at other top business schools that you may not have considered.

3. Talk to people

It could be that the people you talk to are the people you’ve met on the blogosphere, or that your sister has a roommate who has a cousin at one of the schools on your (still long) list. Talk to as many people as you can about their experiences! Ask them about their school selection process, what went well and what proved difficult or problematic, and what they would do differently.

4. Visit schools now!

Money, time and geography permitting, visit the top business schools you know you are interested in (you can always revisit later), schools you might be interested in, and even schools on the margins. It’s best to visit as early as possible so that you don’t feel rushed or pressured to visit schools and fill out applications simultaneously. Write down your impressions, things you liked and things you didn’t like, people you spoke with, classes, clubs and programs that appealed to you.

And now you have…your long list

By now, you’ve made some initial notes on your priorities, read about the various schools, spoken to current students or alumni, and possibly even visited some of the schools. The problem? They all look amazing, don’t they? Each school has an amazing program with superb instructors. The list of classes is mesmerizing; you’re already planning your dream schedule.

And for now…that’s okay. In fact, that’s great – being excited about business school is an important step in the MBA admissions process!

What not to put on your list

While we’re not quite ready to narrow things down entirely for your short list (we’ll talk about that in the next article), it would be wise to make sure that your long list isn’t TOO long. For example, if you don’t speak Spanish, don’t think you can learn it in time to attend b-school in Mexico. And be reasonable. If you had a 2.0 GPA through college and haven’t really done much since then, don’t even attempt to apply to Harvard (or any other school in the top 10). If you get depressed when temps dip below 60°F (15°C), don’t consider programs in cold climates.

Of course, if you keep your list too long then you’ll end up wasting time and energy thinking about and then applying to schools that are just not right for you. So let’s quickly move on to the next part of the process – whittling down your long list into your short list. This is where the MBA admissions process gets hard!

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