Thursday, March 6, 2014

MBA aspirants - There is a lot to be done NOW. Even in March.

Most people who apply for MBA admissions start the process only by July/ August each year with the belief that it is a year long process and since most programs commence in Fall each year, it is ok to begin the previous Fall. Their plan is to take the GMAT by August/ September and proceed with the actual application process in next few months.

But the reality is that if you begin in Fall, you might just have missed some opportunities already. In fact the right time to wake up to this exercise is NOW. These are important months in the application timeline which, if you use them well, will not only ease the process later but might also afford you some opportunities that you might miss otherwise.

But before I come to the early opportunities, let me first address another group of aspirants – those who applied in the R1 or R2 for Fall 2014 entry and did not get through. If you are thinking it is all over for this season and you need to wait for Fall this year to begin applying again, look around again. It is true that Round 3 is not a good option for admission applications but there are many other options still open to you. Many business schools, including some top ranked ones, have a January intake as well. And the time to apply for January 2015 intake is now. For example INSEAD has R1 deadline of 21st March and R2 deadline of 28th May for their January 2015 entering class. HEC Paris has a deadline on 1st of every month for next few months. So use this time to target these schools. In fact EDHEC Paris is still open even for a Scholarship round till 31st March, and that too for the Fall 2014 entering class. So do your research and find the opportunities that suit your goals. The important thing is to WAKE UP.

Moving on then, to those who are yet to start their thinking process for the entire project for application to MBA programs, here is why you too should wake up NOW:

·         Pre-Final year students interested in going to ISB:  The Young Leaders Program of ISB is just for you. If you are selected, It not only guarantees you admission to the prestigious MBA program at ISB with a two year deferral, it also guarantees you a Rs 1 Lac scholarship to boot. BUT the deadline to apply is NOW – 15th March 2014. Moreover this is a onetime window of opportunity because only those in their Pre-final year of a UG degree program or of an Integrated or dual degree program are eligible. And you are going to be in your pre-final year only once. No? So wake up now and, if you qualify, apply before 15th March.
·         IIM aspirants: Those wanting to apply to the IIM’s for 2015 intake – Many of you might have already started preparing for CAT 2014. If not, you need a careful self-evaluation to determine how many weeks/ months of prep time you need for this exam, often touted as ‘among the toughest entrance exams to crack on the planet’, and begin your preparation accordingly. Main thing is to avoid a realization in June or July that you do not have enough time to prepare any more. Though there is no ‘Best Duration’ of preparation time for CAT, it may be just a few weeks for some or even more than six months for some others. The point is to know yourself and make that evaluation to decide how much prep time will take you to a relaxed and confident state on exam day. Because that is how you will score well – by being relaxed and confident.
·         Those wanting to apply to GMAT accepting business schools in US and other countries (and to ISB in India): For you also, these are important weeks and months which you don’t want to miss out on. Because what you do now, can be immensely helpful later. It is true that the main application process does not begin till July when most schools start to open their portals for applicants and put up their essay topics etc. But till then, don't lose time. Do your research, take the GMAT early, decide if you want to hire an advisor to help you with the application process and do your search to find the advisor who works best for you. And here is why doing these things early will help later:

o   Do your Research: There are hundreds of Business schools you can target. But which ones are best suited for you? Apart from the Rankings, there are other factors to consider. For example, some schools have a better program for the energy sector than others. At some schools you do not need a US based co-signer to get a student loan. Some schools have a locational advantage in some way. Some aspirants might prefer a small town setting for the business school or vice-versa. All the research you do now will help you make better informed decisions about the schools to apply to later in the season. Moreover, some of you may be in jobs that involve travel to the country where your dream school is located. If so, make it a point to visit the school. Business schools encourage aspirants to visit them, interact with students and staff, even sit in on some classes with prior permission. So do all these things. This will not only help you makeup your mind better, it might even show the school how serious you are about joining their school during the evaluation of your application.

o   Take the GMAT early: Get this over and done with before the application pressure begins. Taking the GMAT by June or earlier has two benefits. Firstly you go to the exam at a time when you are not already thinking of your applications, so you are more relaxed – recipe for a better score. Moreover, should something go wrong on exam day and you end up with a score below your expectation, there is enough time to schedule a repeat exam. Though I do not always advise aspirants to repeat the GMAT easily, the point is that if you do need to repeat it, there is time.

o   Search for the right application advisor: This can often be a project by itself because there are so many of them out there. Of course you need to first decide if you need one at all. And once you know that you do, find the one who best suits your working style. Check out their work, ask around among your colleagues and seniors, look for references and only then hone in on the advisor you choose to work with. Because this is an important selection that can affect your career. The quality of application you finally submit will surely be influenced by the advisor so take care to evaluate and select the one who works best for you.

o   Spread your applications between Rounds 1 and 2: Don’t wait to send in all the apps in R2. Preparing a good application is time consuming and making multiple applications with the same or similar deadlines a herculean task. Round 1 deadlines can be as early as September so If you begin the process early, take the GMAT in good time, you have all the time you need to choose the application round you want to apply to. Keep the work schedule on applications light by spreading them out over 2 rounds. Bunched up applications will stress you out and you will surely not produce your best work with essays etc. if you are stressed.

To conclude, it may still be March, but it is not too early to start thinking and planning, and in many cases, acting on some opportunities. But in any case, the wake up call, if you want to apply for MBA admissions, is NOW.

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