Okay, the first 2 articles basically introduced you to a global MBA and gave you little tidbits of what to expect at a B-School abroad. Logically the next thing you should know is the calendar of events for that ‘Application Game’ and of course the GMAT itself.
Err…Where do I start?
I really hope you have made up your mind about the GMAT and if you are looking at this calendar, be ready for a wonderful (at times, bumpy!) ride of self-discovery. Tell yourself that ‘one year from now I will definitely be in a better position’ and that should get you started. A little preparation and some cushion time will help you plan your application cycle without driving yourself and those around you crazy.
If you are reading this article somewhere in May or June, then you are here at the right time. If it is a little later, hold on tight, it might turn out just fine. I am giving a tentative schedule for the entire season of applying and try to stick onto it if you want to avoid the last minute hustle-bustle. Let me be a little honest here, I didn’t follow this schedule… don’t we all learn from our mistakes! ?
May-June – Get prepared for a long battle with words and start tuning your writing skills. Start hunting for the materials & books that you will need both for the GMAT and for the ‘Apping’. Look around for resources that are available both online & offline. Start spending more time on discussion forums and groups. Read blogs, they may never be of any use but you will realize that you are not alone after all! Start a blog – this will help you in organizing your thoughts and putting it in words. Pick up that phone and talk to people who might prove to be your good recommenders. And yes, book for a GMAT date somewhere in Aug or early Sept. Also, start thinking about your essays, start some brainstorming about your future goals and why MBA.
July-Aug – Study for the GMAT. This might prove to be a single most deciding factor for most of the Admissions’ Committee. Yes, it is said over and over again that GMAT alone doesn’t make or break an application but who are we to take it for granted! You might not be able to change your previous academic record; neither can you change the career moves that you have made nor can you show an abrupt community involvement. The only thing that is still in your hands is the GMAT. The average GMAT score for most of the Top schools is around 710 – 730. Get within that range and you don’t have to worry about the GMAT again. Hopefully, by now, thanks to your brain-storming, you will have safe answers to many of the essay questions. If not, talk to people and figure out what might seem like a logical answer for your career and work on it consistently.
Lot of things have been said about the GMAT. Thousands of questions have been discussed about the score… Is 700 too less? My verbal is too less… will it matter? I have got 720, should I retake and get 780? I have got 680, what will I do? Frankly, nobody knows how you entire application will look… even the Admissions Office will not be able to comment on your chances of getting in with a particular score. Your essays, your previous academic records, your career profile till date, GMAT score, recommendations written for you and many other ‘small’ things – all of them will be looked closely before a decision is made. It is the complete application that matters when you apply to schools abroad. So, the best you can possible do is, lessen your chances of rejection by striving for a good GMAT score. It is said that Indians get a high score too easily, I am not really sure how true this is but I am sure it is not impossible to manage a decent score if u are really keen. GMAT is definitely one of those exams that have innumerable resources online, so make a diligent search and try to ace the exam.
The next nagging doubt that arises is how long it would take to prepare for GMAT. Well, it varies from person to person. GMAT is a kind of exam that needs you to put in some focused efforts. Math in GMAT might seem too easy for many of us but the catch here is to get all or at least most of the questions right so that you can be at 90+ percentile. Verbal might be a little demanding for people who have been in the non-reading mode. Of course, it is not something that ain’t curable. There are only 2 sections and give yourself 3-4 hrs full time study everyday for 2 months. Strive for a 700 plus GMAT score with an equal balance in both the sections. Again, be ready for some miserable, dark nights when you just want to give up all of it! ?
Sep-Oct-Nov –Ok, now, an important piece of information. All the Top US Schools accept applications in 3 or 4 Rounds, viz. Round 1 (R1), Round 2 (R2) and so on. The international applicants are advised to apply in R1 (somewhere in Oct-Nov) or R2 (Jan) so that they have enough time for the I20, visa, shifting etc. If the GMAT went fine, (720 is as good as 750, let it go!) then put it behind you and start applying for the schools you wish to attend. I shall cover about schools in general and how you go about choosing the ‘right’ school over the subsequent articles. But try to apply to at least 3 schools in R1. Keep that number to an optimum figure as your very first applications will not be as polished as the latter ones. In R2s, cover another 2-4 schools. And hopefully, R1 results will give you a fair idea of where you stand in the entire application game and hence make a safer and wiser choice of schools in R2.
Of course, life is not always smooth and things don’t always work out exactly the way we want them to. So, just incase something went terribly wrong with your GMAT, then don’t go emotional and throw yourself over board, instead pull up yourself and go for a ‘Retake’ with full grit and determination. ETS doesn’t allow you to take up the GMAT twice in the same calendar month. So, GMAT 1 went sour on Aug 28, then you can go for GMAT 2 on Sept 1, but yeah, doesn’t make sense, give yourself 15 days or a month & then retake. I must say, GMAT doesn’t test your intelligence so don’t make it an ego issue and lose out on some amazing schools. Give yourself another fair chance and apply for all the schools in R2. If you need some more time, then retake the exam in Nov but not beyond that. You will need about 1 ½ – 2 months time to draft the essays.
Nov-Dec-Jan – Your applications to Top US B-schools has to be done online. You need to register which is free of cost and open your account. Firstly, dispatch off the recommendation links to your recommenders and give them at least couple of months to finish your recommendation. Keep talking to them in between and send any information they might need. Then sit down with each of your schools and start drafting the essays. The essays usually tend to ask about your career till date, your future plans and how an MBA from ‘that’ school at ‘this’ point in your life makes sense. All these months, you have cracked up thinking about the same set of questions and penning them might seem like an assiduous task, but get it done with. Prepare your initial drafts and send it to a couple of your friends and also someone who knows you very little. The friends will tell you what you have missed out and that ‘someone’ will tell you what kind of impression he got when he read your essays. The essays should paint a nice picture of you for that ‘someone’, after all the Admissions guys too are strangers who will get to know you only through your essays. And hey, it is understood that you will be mailing the drafts to people who have superior control on English language. It helps!
Feb–Mar –Await your results and immaterial of the result, send some good wishes and gifts to your recommenders. After all they have taken some time off just for you! Celebrate your admits and let go of your rejects, it all comes in the same package! Some of you might also be wait-listed, which basically means you have to wait for the next round of results or another couple of months! Just hang in there! By now, if you have understood the insights of the Application game and you are sure you can make it to a better school, sit down and rethink about applying to next fall. You should not go to a lower-tier school if you really believe that you belong to the Top 10.
Apr–May–Jun – Get your I20s and start working on your visa and funding part. Go out and party with your friends, they sure would be wondering where you were all these days! Once the visa is done, celebrate and start shopping! Get into shape; you need to be in the peak of your health for the next 2 years. ? Check up on the apartments, roomies and fight tickets.
July – Just chill, in another one month you will be off!
Aug – Bon-Voyage!
Note: Guys, I haven’t covered about TOEFL in this article because TOEFL is not a mandatory exam for all the TOP Business Schools in the US. Some of the schools outrightly say that TOEFL is not needed while some of them put a couple of clauses and some others make it mandatory. While in doubt please write to the Office of Admissions and find out. Also, note this, if you think your English language is well above par and you have worked/ studied in an English environment for a long time, write to the Admissions Commitee of the schools requesting them to waive off the TOEFL requirement. If you aint able to convince them or if you think you better off with TOEFL done, then, it should be a cake-walk after your GMAT. So, just book it immediately after your GMAT & get it done with. ?
About the Authoress
The authoress, Sowmya aka Simba is one of the moderators of PaGaLGuY forum. She is currently working with a leading telecom provider in Mumbai, India and apart from being a regular volunteer of MLCS group; she has diverse interests in various activities that are beyond the scope of this small introduction. Having seen the admission process with interviews et al for 2 continuous years and being successful in getting admitted into 5 and a ½ schools out of 7 schools, she definitely has some useful things to share, though no one knows for sure where she is heading for her MBA. Now, she is enthused to help others go through the maze of applying and getting accepted by schools abroad.