With graduation almost here, and a farewell to four unforgettable years on Locust Walk, you might already be making plans for graduation trips, time at home and beginning your first full-time job. Why would you even think about business school at this stage, when applying for your MBA at Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business or the Wharton School is years down the road?
Truth is, the strongest applicants to the top MBA programs plan their applications years ahead.
The first two years out of undergrad are in fact the perfect time to start building your business school profile. One of the first things that MBA admissions consider when reviewing applications is what has transpired since undergrad — not just in terms of professional development, but how you continue to engage with your community and how you are building a track record of leadership both professionally and personally.
Exciting as it is to start at Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Cisco Systems, UBS Financial Services Inc. or Bain & Company this fall, now is the time to be thinking about your exit as well. How can you make an impact on your organization and stand out from your peers?
Let your boss know early in the game that you are considering an MBA in a few years, and that you would like to take on assignments that will challenge you to develop new skills. Say “yes” to projects that others may turn down (remote locations, less “sexy” industries) — both of which give you the opportunity to really shine in terms of what you can contribute to the team. Taking on less popular assignments can generate great interaction with potential recommenders.
You should begin thinking about those recommenders early in your professional tenure. Business schools will want to know about your growth within the context of the organization, and who better to speak about this than someone who has known you from the start? While asking someone to be your mentor is admittedly awkward, you may naturally begin to develop relationships within the firm that can be helpful for you both in terms of advice and ultimately for the recommendation.
You may want to consider taking the Graduate Management Admission Test or the Graduate Record Examinations this summer while you are still in study mode. Consider taking a baseline test during the month of June to gauge which may be the better exam for you. We recommend doing the exam now — it will be valid for five years — or waiting until you have been working for at least two years, as your new position will require a lot of time and dedication.
That said, this is not the time to step back from your community engagement. You’ve filled your years at Penn with Mask and Wig rehearsals, tutoring in West Philly, working on the Panhellenic Council or Penn Electric Racing. While we know it will be difficult to pick up right where you left off, getting involved in personally meaningful local activities can help to ease the transition to a full time job or a move to a new city. Business schools will want to know what you bring to their communities. So finding ways to get involved in your new hometown, even if it’s only once or twice a month, can highlight to the schools that you have a track record of engagement.
And getting involved with your local Penn Club or as an alumni interviewer is a terrific way to stay connected to Penn and help recruit the next generation of Quakers!
One last point is not to wait to start learning about the schools that you may be considering. Sign up to receive their emails. Find out if they will be doing presentations in your city, or when travelling for work, take advantage of a campus visit. Learning about the culture and fit of the different schools is invaluable when you then apply in the fall of 2018 or 2019.
It’s an extraordinary time in your lives as you move from Franklin Field and Van Pelt Library, late nights studying at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall and Spring Fling to your professional careers. With many new professional adventures ahead, good preplanning can also help you get your business school aspirations off to a great start.
BRITTANY MASCHAL formerly worked in the Wharton MBA admissions office and is now an expert admissions coach at Fortuna Admissions. She will be co-hosting a workshop in New York Citynot NYC for early stage MBA planning.Comments powered by Disqus
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