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I Got Into 8 Top MBA Programs; These Are My Top 3 Tips

My Application Journey: Will Morgan, UT-Austin McCombs ’18

Will Morgan - Texas McCombs MBAWhen I first started looking into business schools, I had no clue where I wanted to go. I was an engineer in the oil and gas industry and the timing felt right. I set out to get into the best school I could at the most affordable price. I applied to 8 schools and was accepted to all 8! Get started early, understand school fit by reaching out to students and alumni, and don’t forget about your resume!

Schools:

Accepted: Northwestern Kellogg, INSEAD

Accepted with Scholarship: Cornell Johnson, Texas McCombs, Washington St Louis Olin, Vanderbilt Owen, Cambridge Judge, and IE Business School

Application highlights:

Career progression – 4 promotions over 5 years as an engineer at a large oilfield service company; Within a structured development program, I used every opportunity to build up my analytical and people skills. I also gained an understanding of how my work fit into the bigger picture. This is where I first got the idea to get my MBA. The MBA will help me combine my skills and my interests.

Post-MBA plans: I’m using the MBA to transition into management consulting.

International experience – Led an international offshore oil and gas project for half a year in Equatorial Guinea; Another example of stepping out of my comfort zone to gain a unique perspective

Academics – 770 GMAT

Potential weaknesses – As an engineer, I had to shed the stereotype of the “typical” engineer. More than that, global oil market conditions caused a mass influx of engineers and other oil industry applicants to business school, often with more and better experience than mine. I used these tips to differentiate myself from those with similar profiles, scores, and experiences.

Early Bird Gets the Worm ADVANTAGE

Get started early. The whole process takes a long time. There is plenty of evidence to suggest applying in the first (or second) round is a huge advantage. Don’t take that lightly. There are simply more seats available, as well as scholarship. It’s obviously never too late, but I can only speak from my own experience. I bought a GMAT practice book in March. Studying started out slow. If you need a motivator, sign up for the test! It becomes real. When I signed up for a date in the summer, I became more focused and suddenly found time to study and take practice tests. If you are planning ahead, get the GMAT out of the way early because applications take longer than you think. If you are running behind, just realize it and get to work – many Second Round deadlines are still relatively far down the road. Regardless, apply as early as you can (with a complete and thorough application) to maximize your chances!

Tip: Try to take a computer-based practice test before the real thing; paper-based tests won’t give you the test day experience.

Choose Priorities, Then Choose Schools

Take a serious look at what your priorities are before you start reading school promotional brochures. Know what you want before you go shopping because business schools are very good at marketing. For me, I wanted to go to a top 25 school with other priorities including cost/scholarship and location – including international. The most important thing to consider is fit, but you won’t know much about this at first; make a short list of schools to apply to. You will find the right fit as you go through the rest of the process. I am very glad I found Darren and Touch MBA at this point in the process. Darren’s profile review is free, and his knowledge of schools played a key factor in helping me narrow down my selection of schools to apply to.

I applied to 8 schools. I wouldn’t suggest applying to 8 schools except to the most committed and responsible applicants. To properly prepare each application, I tried to space out deadlines as best I could. I chose Round 1 deadlines for my top schools, but I spread out all the applications between the first two rounds. I used an Excel spreadsheet to keep up with all the deadlines, to-do lists, and notes for each school. Applications are more than just a form and an essay. Researching schools is necessary to see how they fit into your matrix of priorities. It also helps uncover the secrets of fit and culture. Properly researching schools and networking with students and alumni is a long and exhausting process.

I used LinkedIn to contact alumni and students from prospective schools. Not everyone responds, but those who do are usually excited to share their experiences. These conversations are critical to evaluating culture and fit. You will learn much more than what a school puts on a brochure – the good and the bad. Networking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, but students and alumni are generally excited to help applicants learn more about their MBA program. Try finding recent graduates or students with a similar background as you (same previous employer, same previous job function, etc). Try to gather the intangibles by drawing on their experience at business school. This is essential to choosing the right schools and will give you an edge when writing application essays. If they can’t answer a question or aren’t familiar with something you are interested in, they might know someone that can help. I would always try to end the conversation with something like, “Is there anyone else that you recommend I contact?”

Tip: Be sure to thank the people you contact and update them with your decisions.

Pay Attention to the Resume; Schools Do

I’ll leave this as an ironic afterthought: Don’t let your resume be an afterthought. Most people spend a lot of time on applications, but editing their resume for MBA applications is not a priority. Put a lot of time researching formats, fonts, action verbs, etc. and learning how to quantify everything! There are plenty of resources to help you do this. For example, I used Poets and Quants for resume tips and Richard Montauk’s How to Get into the Top MBA Programs for advice on how to market yourself and your accomplishments.

Business school resumes need to show and quantify things differently than a resume for a job. Not making these changes will lead the school to think that you are not committed to business school (or worse, that you tried and this was the best you could come up with). Focus on actions and results. Schools may not look at it for long, but it can have a huge impact if it’s not on-par with resumes of other applicants.

Tip: Keep your resume action focused to allow the reader to quickly see your accomplishments. You’ll usually only get a 30 second look so make the most of it.

Get Excited!

Don’t forget about the ultimate goal. The applications, resume, and GMAT may not be that exciting, but they are a huge part of getting you where you want to go. Remember your purpose for applying to business school. Do you want to change careers? Do you need an MBA to advance in your current industry? Is there something you don’t like about your current job that an MBA will help you change? Whatever the reason, write it down. Set long term and short term goals to keep the long and grueling application process in perspective. Schools often ask questions about your goals, so you’ll be one step ahead!

In the end, I decided to go to Texas McCombs. They exceeded all of my expectations and separated themselves from the rest because of their experiential learning opportunities to work with real companies, their phenomenal ROI, and their global perspective. Let’s not forget Austin, Texas! I’m excited about what the next two years has in store.

Best of luck in your journey! Applications always take longer than you think so don’t wait until the last minute. The less stressed and more prepared you are, the better your application will be. Make the most of the opportunities you have to learn about schools. You’re making a huge decision and this will help you decide where you want to apply and, ultimately, where you decide to go.

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