Applying for an MBA in the upcoming application cycle? Consider these guidelines for effective time management
If you are thinking about applying to MBA programs this year, or even thinking about thinking about MBA programs this year, you probably feel like you have plenty of time to apply. And of course, you do have a lot of time, right now, in this moment, to apply to business school. But the problem with time is that it just slips away from us, doesn’t it?
We have countless applicants who, despite signing on early, end up scrambling to make their deadlines. While the pressure of deadlines might be your best motivation, the reality is that the best work submitted to universities is work that has been carefully drafted over a period of time. Applicants who manage their time well and work progressively on their materials not only submit stronger applications, but they tend to have internalised their goals, stories and strengths in ways that help them communicate comfortably during their interviews, which improves their odds of success.
So how do you effectively manage your time in this hectic process? Here are some of our favourite tips that can help you balance your applications with your busy life.
- Resign yourself to the process of drafting. Many MBA applicants are high achievers, and that’s fantastic, but this tends to result in a “one and done” attitude that doesn’t serve them well. The skills required to complete multiple global business school application essays are rarely those you use in your daily life, and writing is You will not get this right the first time (or the second!), so just accept that you are going to have to do multiple drafts of each essay. The upside is that you can free yourself of the expectation that you need to spend ten hours on each draft. Instead, take one, or two, depending on your pace of writing, but take them weekly. Create a draft, and don’t expect it to be all things to all people immediately. You’re going to get there eventually, but know that it’s a one-step-at-a-time sort of situation. You can save yourself a lot of frustration if you understand and accept this early on.
- Figure out your best method of working, and guard it, religiously. Some applicants love working on essays and forms early in the morning, before going to the office. Others prefer to take time on a Sunday afternoon, when they are free from the distractions and stresses of work and social obligations. Whatever works best for you, you need to establish a routine quickly and stick with it. Applicants who plan to take 10 days off or inform us that they are going to take an “MBA application vacation” rarely end up with strong applications, unless they’ve also padded in time for work along the way. It’s consistency that leads to the best, and least stressful, process for MBA applicants.
- Prioritize a solid goal statement and university research. A lot of applicants want to jump straight into the essays, and balk at nailing down a goals statement or researching programs, but, remember the old adage, haste makes waste? That could have been written specifically for this situation. Taking some time early on to clarify and define your MBA and professional goals and learning about the programs you claim to be so eager to attend will help you with all of your essays, in conversations with your recommenders, and in your interviews. You can shape your narrative around these goals, and they are, hopefully, your strongest and best argument for why an MBA program might want to admit you. So, this investment isn’t wasted work, getting in the way of your essay completion. Goals refinement and program research are, in fact, some of most efficient and impactful activities you can do.
- Give yourself internal deadlines, and stick to them. You can have a friend hold you accountable, or make your mom your timekeeper (worked in high school, didn’t it?). Setting firm timelines for first drafts, resume iterations and forms is essential and helps prevent last minute panic.
- Focus on time management techniques. This is especially important for applicants who have trouble with efficiency when working independently. Try the Pomodoro technique, or one of the many others, that helps your brain stay on track.
We promise you, the work is manageable, once you learn how to tackle it. If nothing else, this is all great preparation for business school, and we invite you to build strong time management skills through this process. We can almost guarantee, your work will be better, your chances of success higher, and your mental health much more secure, if you follow the tips we’ve outlined for you.