Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12am

What I Wish I Had Known When Applying to Business School

What I Wish I Had Known When Applying to Business School main image

Gasthini Sivayoganathan

I never thought I would actually miss the stress of applying to business school. But as soon as I submitted all my applications, I felt a strange void in my life. I decided to reflect on my MBA application process and this is what I realized. I firmly decided on applying to business school in August. I knew it was the time as I was in the right place, professionally and personally. And the GMAT test was my first hurdle. I planned to prepare for the GMAT test for six weeks and take it in mid-November securing an opportunity in mid-December to repeat, if needed. During my GMAT test preparation, I budgeted time for research and essay outlines. Looking back, I really wish I had started earlier.                                      

Here is why I recommend that you start early

Special programs, school visits and MBA fairs

I was surprised by the amount of information that I had to sift through to find where I wanted to go. A myriad of MBA fairs and special recruitment events were available for women and minorities - starting late in the game, I did not have the time to take advantage of these special events and school visits.  If I had a reset button to do this all over again, I would start 2-3 months early. It really would have given me ample time to prepare plan and make most out of my school visits.

Duke, Kellogg, UNC, Columbia and number of other schools host weekend  visits for women, minority weekend and even a weekend for LGBT. I would have taken advantage of school visits at more schools. Attending school visits gives you a chance to interact in a more intimate setting with students and connect one to one with admissions team as well.

School visits before applying to business school

I would highly recommend visiting every school that you plan to apply. I visited every school that I applied to and it helped me to understand a lot about the school. School visits are especially useful to understand the culture and to demonstrate the fit in your MBA application essays as well.

That said, early planning would have helped me to get cheaper airfare and complete a few schools in one trip. Some of my fellow applicants explained that they visited schools by region by taking a few days off. For example, arriving on Thursday night in Chicago to visit Chicago schools on Friday and driving to Michigan on Saturday for an open house would help you to make most of your trip. If you plan it early enough, you can make your visits coincide with major events such as open houses or minority weekend.

Networking opportunities

I really did not think of the many networking opportunities available while applying to business school. I met truly a bunch of incredible people from all walks of life and I learned quite a bit from them. I wish I had reflected on this earlier. These fellow applicants can be good sources of information to find out about events, special programs and even scholarship opportunities. Make use of networking opportunities and remember to pay it forward too.

Essays, the GMAT test and the MBA application

I know deep inside me that even a bit more time would've increased my GMAT score. I scored 710 and it is an acceptable score but I wish I had the luxury of time to prepare more.

At the end of the day, I know I prepared as best of my ability and put in a good MBA application when applying to business school. But if I have had the time, I could've refined the applications and made them stellar.

So start early and plan strategically to make most out of applying to business school. Good luck.

By Gasthini Sivayoganathan

Gasthi is a new product development manager working in the apparel branding industry. She blogs about her experience applying to top-tier business schools. Her goal is gain admission to a top 10 MBA program. Gasthi has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  She is currently based out of Greensboro, NC.

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