Based on the phone calls and emails that I am getting this week, many of you have not completed your second round applications. Some of you haven’t even started! Wondering how to prioritize and still submit a competitive last minute MBA application? Here is how to allocate your time.

  • Prioritize The Goal Essay.

If your goals aren’t credible, well articulated and congruent with the rest of your candidacy you will not be admitted. If you have limited time, please focus on your goal essay. Quick tip: If you are having trouble identifying appropriate post-MBA roles or target companies, take a look at the career services page of your first choice school to see where graduates with similar interests are placed.

  • Choose your topics wisely.

Think very carefully about your best leadership and teamwork stories, your strongest anecdote about resilience, and what you want to showcase and mitigate. You won’t have time to switch gears and try multiple illustrations, so strategize before you write.

  • Set a Timer.

It’s crucial to get drafts down on paper. Give yourself 90 minutes, go somewhere quiet and write. This is not to say that you won’t need revisions, but I strongly suggest that you generate a version of each essay before polishing any of them. Quick tip: If you are overthinking every word and having trouble writing naturally, try dictating your answer and then transcribing it. Some people also find it useful to talk a friend through their response, and record the conversation.

  • Don’t Underestimate the Application Itself.

Leave enough time to execute the application. The short answers can be surprisingly tricky, as can the formatting, and some schools have what amount to additional essays embedded in the application form. You may also need to gather additional information, like an official transcript from your semester in Prague in 2009. Create an account right now and read through the entire application, so that you aren’t derailed on deadline day.

  • Proofread.

Plenty of people submit on the last day, so even if you do so schools won’t automatically know that you wrote the whole thing in 5 days. What will tip them off, and also severely damage your candidacy, is to submit with typos. Leave enough time to proofread carefully, and to enlist several other proofreaders. Make it clear that you don’t have time for wholesale revisions, so you aren’t looking for big conceptual feedback, but rather someone to point out that your name is misspelled on your resume or that you have mentioned the wrong school.

Although I am a huge proponent of starting early, and have seen my clients benefit tremendously from this, I have also helped people succeed who compress the process. Last minute MBA applications can absolutely work.



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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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