AdmitMBA360 Blog formerly Journey to my MBA

Journey to my MBA

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Applying and not sure where to start?

Some of you may or may not know that I didn't apply to Business School last year. I did apply to two schools 2 yrs ago. It was not a great attempt as I now realize that those essays of 2 years ago and my overall package were not stellar. I didn't apply last year because I was just too focused on building a couple of businesses. This year, I'm hitting the application trail like everyone else. The biggest question that perplexed me for the longest time this year was, "How to manage the overwhelming number of tasks and applications to 6 schools?"

Over the years, I've seen many people attack the application from different ways that have truly astounded me. I know one girl who put together a full application to UCLA with essays in 10 days and was not only accepted to Anderson, but also received a full ride scholarship. More often than not... people take a significant amount of time to craft their application packages. I use the term "Application Package" purposefully because this is really how you should look at the application. It's not about the essays or the letter of rec's, but all the pieces that make up your submission for admission. (Hah, "submission for admission"... I like that.)

The best suggestion I have is to do 4 strategic things before all else.

1) Decide on your schools and get the deadline dates of application submission.
2) Break down the application process into chunks of tasks and assign estimated times for each task. Here's an example of something I had put together that helped me A LOT. (Note: I have already collected the resources that I would need for each item. For example, I already have Resume templates that MBA students currently use.)Also...some of these tasks have been removed, elaborated upon into smaller tasks or been combined.

Essay Tasks Expected Time
Write 1 page summary of school unique school qualities 3 hrs/school
Write 1 page of classes/clubs and activities that I’m attracted to 3 hrs/school
Review all Questions once per day for each school. 10 min
Do the Writing Prompt Exercise 2 hrs
Create Essay Reviewer contact sheet and contact each Essay reviewer personally 2 hrs
Brainstorm session (list my stories and career tie-ins) 10 hrs
Data mine with Friends and Family 5 hrs
Evaluate stories/data mining for distinctive ones 2 hrs
Review selected GAEBS Book summary notes and comments for each Essay question type before creating outline of each question. 3hrs x3
Write Outline for each essay. 3 hrs/essay
Write 3-5 Strategy approaches for each essay. (1 paragraph) 2 hrs/essay
Write Draft 1 of each Essay 5 hrs/essay
Give 1 day space between Draft 1 and edit
Revise 1st Draft Critically 3 hrs

Recommendation letters
Review and document needed info for each school for recommenders 3 hr
Strategize criteria for Rec people & List them (Need 2 or 3) 2 hrs
Call and schedule time for Rec requests 3 hrs
Write Examples of successes (1 Page) for each work area related to each Reco person. 12 hrs
Follow-up 1st Draft with Rec People 2 hr
Follow-up Final Draft w/ Rec People 2 hr

Review Interview experiences from ClearAdmit and for each School. 3hrs/school

Verbal practice of Interviews (2-3 sessions with Jane)3hrs/school
Verbal Practice of Interviews by myself before I do with Jane 3hrs/school

Online Application
Create Online Application Info Template (includes strategic summary) 8 hrs
Fill out online application info for each school 3-5 hrs/school
Fill out online Transcript form 3 hrs/school
Order Transcripts for each school 2 hrs
Send GMAT scores to all schools if not already sent. 1 hr

Refine and write Draft 1 of Resume 4 hrs
Critique Resume 2 hrs
Write Draft 2 of Resume 2 hrs

3) Get a Calendar and fill in the tasks starting with deadline dates and pre-defined dates that create milestones for groups of these tasks. Here are some milestones that I used. (Download my template here - Print it and use.)

-Complete 1st set of Draft Essays
-Decide on do or die date for application (1 week before actual due date) Shift to next Round of application app submission.
-Letter or Rec's done (2 weeks before school deadline)
-Letter of Rec info to referrences

Some hard dates that I also put in were:
-App Deadline dates
-Actual Interview dates
-Travel dates for Interviews

4) Then take the same Calendar and fill in the detailed items per school starting at the deadline dates and work bacwards towards earlier dates. Shorthand helped me to fill out the schedule such things as writing the Tuck essays. For Example, "Essay T:1" meant "Write the essay for Tuck's 1st question".

Why did all this scheduling help me?

1) I only have a certain amount of time in a day. I need to know what is humanly possible, (or Dave possible) in approaching these apps. Knowing the cost of time for each task allowed me to develop overlapping time blocks for each school related task as I planned out my weeks. In short, saying "yes" to doing these blocks of tasks helped me to know what I should be saying "no" to. Most importantly, this planning helped me to put some urgency into my day because I realized just how much time all this was going to take when I put it all together.

2) When I started to put in the blocks of time backwards from each schools application submission date, I began to see how I was going to need to spread things out a bit. I purposefully scheduled in some fun activities, Birthdays, Travel time and reasonable rest space so that I could move activities around or tasks around. During travel time for Interviews for example, I didn't plan anything related to apps except for Profile reviews. I'm still on a killer schedule... but it's a Marathon and not a sprint. I have to pace this thing or I won't end well. By the way, I learned from personal experience that it takes 3-5 hrs to write a 1st Draft of an essay. Any longer means that I didn't know have a clear strategy in what I was going to say. This is dangerous. Having a strategy and focus on answering the questions is essential. For example, one should create an outline of what each essay will contain before writing an essay.

One last note that I would suggest for everyone. I got this book written by Paul Bodine who is a senior editor at Many of my bullet points are further explained by reading through it. I've taken what he wrote and adapted it into a schedule of chunks that really makes sense. I want to write a thorough review on this book, but right now... I'm a bit limited on time. I'd just like to say that this is THE best book you can get on doing your essays for Business School.

Paul is quite methodical and structured in his approach. He breaks things down into effective and very efficient tasks. You can see how doing so allowed me to assign time blocks to each task. He not only helps you to see a practical view of doing ones essays in a step by step fashion, but he does so by showing you how to create Excellent essays rather than mediocre ones.

If you don't get this book, I would have to say that you're at a severe disadvantage. Many of you may not be able to afford an admissions consultant. This book is like having Paul by your side. Moreover, this book may show you why you may want to invest in getting an Admissions Consultant. (Click on the pic below to order the book) Seriously.. don't hesitate... just get it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your application is anywhere close to the quality of your blog - you're a clear admit !!!

Good luck !

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

As an applicant, I've so far found that essays are best when it reflects the true picture of self.

I started with pinning my calendar and simply writing down all the events that made me what I'm today. I then started connecting the "dots" (read: events) interspersed with the rationale behind my actions and wow! - I have a true profile of myself.

Suddenly, application process seems so easy. It motivated me understand the force behind my actions, thus, revealing my true identity.

Books help but nothing like your own profile.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

Great comments. Just want to clarify that the book provides structure to do the essays and letter of recs well. But most importantly, provides insights into what Business school staff define as a good or bad quality essay. Some of it may be obvious/common sense, but some of it may not be.

I can assure you that not all of it is common sense. The take away piece I'd like readers of this article I wrote to realize is that it helps to know how to break up the essay process to enable one to turn an overwhelming process into a manageable one.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly..I agree with the last comment..Ur blog is gr8..Someone recommended me to have a look at it and it sure is worth the feedback..

What are the best sources as you say for essay writting?

1:42 AM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

The best essay resources are:

For an overview of what to expect:
1) Mountak's How to get into the Top MBA Programs.
2) Each school's web site where they present tips on the essay's.
3),, for general articles on the essay's.

For essay specific help.
1) Paul Podine's How to write great application essays.
2)'s various books on essay's are excellent as well.
3) and provide specific tips and hints on each essay for the top MBA schools. Even if you're school isn't one of the covered essays, you'll find a lot of similiarity with most of what they've commented on and the school essay you're working on.

There are more resources, but these are the core essentials that I would recommend. There is such as a thing as too much info. I know this Blog has a lot of resources. So I hope this summary helps you to focus on what you should be going through.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent Blog Dave and great advice for people like me who are starting with apps.

I wanted to know if you have any suggestions on where I might go to research certain schools that are ‘GMAT strong’

I have heard that there are some schools which give slightly more emphasis on GMAT viz a viz the undergrad acads. On the other hand there are others who eschew candidates with anything lesser than above avg academic performace.

I have a good GMAT 760+;however, my undergrad academics are pathetic with low grades in the major, something that would send out wrong signals.

I plan to write an optional essay to explain my academic performance(or the lack of it). However,it might be wise to apply to schools who are less fastidious about grades and where good standardized test scores can offset grades to some extent.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Catalina said...

Great post Dave! thanks a lot for all of your help! =)

8:55 AM  

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