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Clear Admit’s Expert Admissions Counselors Offer MBA Applicants Time Saving Tricks and Stress Reducing Tips

The seasons have begun to change in earnest here in the States, days are getting darker and colder, and with the shift in seasons comes the looming reality of MBA programs’ January application deadlines. While some may be worrying about inclement weather or holiday gifts, most of Clear Admit’s readers are more focused on how to make the most out of the time that remains before submitting their materials. And to that end, Clear Admit turned to its expert admissions counselors to gather a range of tips that could be of special use to applicants targeting schools’ January deadlines.

Essay Creation

Different programs ask for different details or responses in regards to their essays, and Clear Admit’s counselors have a wealth of experience addressing these various topics.

For example, Brett Haber, a former member of Wharton’s admissions team, warns against taking shorter or more general essay topics less seriously. “Shorter application essays, such as Harvard’s single essay, are not necessarily the easiest to write, so don’t put these on the end of your to-do list,” she cautions.

Heidi Granner, who spent time as an admissions representative and reader at Chicago Booth, also notes that the creative essays that schools like NYU Stern, Chicago Booth and MIT Sloan request can become especially valuable elements of a candidate’s profile…but that applicants should be prepared to devote significant time to these creative exercises.

“Creative essays such as PowerPoints, videos, or pages, always take more time than expected.  Begin these relatively early in the process to allow time for compiling pictures and doing video editing,” Granner advises.  “Also, engage others to help you.  Ask your parents, siblings or close friends to search for and scan pictures that might be especially valuable to include.  If you’re a novice at PowerPoint or video creation, seek out friends with more experience in these areas, as they can help you with the editing and presentation.”

Managing Recommenders

Recommendations are an important element to a successful application, but ensuring that recommenders are prepared to truly reflect on a candidate’s strengths, and that they will be able to submit their completed recommendation in time, can be a challenge. Many recommenders are quite busy, and to that end Haber notes that all Clear Admit counselors encourage clients to “ask your recommenders to write recommendations early, as they will be spending their holidays with family or enjoying a vacation—not focused on you.”

Granner echoes this sentiment, stating that it’s important to “follow up with your recommenders.  Don’t just ask them to write your recommendations and assume it’s taken care of. Instead, give them enough information to make the process as easy as possible for them. Provide them with your goals, resume and perhaps even highlights from past performance reviews they might then share with the adcom. Following up with them every couple of weeks allows you to be sure they’re on track to submitting on time. This will relieve stress for everyone involved.”

International Applicants

Those applying to American b-schools from outside of the country face additional requirements and challenges, which sometimes necessitate even more planning and foresight. Clear Admit’s overall advice to such candidates, as voiced by Granner, is to “very carefully review the application requirements. Some schools have more stringent requirements for those from overseas.  For example, Berkeley Haas requires that applicants take the TOEFL if they earned their undergraduate degree in a country where English is not the official language (e.g., India), even if the applicant has been working in the U.S.  Some schools will accept 3-year undergraduate degrees and others will not.  Some schools require that international transcripts by verified by an external agency. All of this takes time and can be very frustrating to deal with at the last minute.”

Time Saving Advice

The process of creating a complete application is time consuming. Applicants must ensure that their essays and resume are in good shape, but they also need to keep track of their recommenders as well as fill out any number of additional application forms before they can consider their candidacy ready for submission.

Clear Admit knows how easy it is to fall into avoidable procrastination, and to that end Stacey Oyler, former assistant director of admissions at Tuck School of Business advises those who struggle with time management to “start filling out the application sooner rather than later. Applications often have ‘mini essays’ built into the data forms that can take additional time. Fill out the forms early on and don’t wait for the deadline, it will be a relief to have them behind you!” Along the same lines, Clear Admit also suggests that applicants thoroughly review each of their target schools’ essay questions before writing any of them, noting that there are sometimes “overlaps and common themes, which recognizing early on will help you save a tremendous amount of time and energy.”

Granner strongly advises an additional Clear Admit time saving and planning tip, which is “building an actual calendar to ensure that applicants are keeping on track of all of their to-do’s.  We actually make such calendars for our clients. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get behind, which leads to rushed applications and costly but avoidable mistakes.”

Jon Fuller, who most recently worked in the admissions office of the Ross School of Business,  expanded on these points by encouraging applicants “to plan to visit schools and engage with the community sooner rather than later if they haven’t already.  Many schools’ visit day programs wind down with the end of the semester and won’t gear up again until after most R2 deadlines, and students will likely become less and less responsive as finals approach.”

Haber seconds this perspective, encouraging applicants to “aim to complete their applications by December 24th.  After that date, many admissions offices are closed prior to the deadlines so any nuanced questions you may have would go unanswered.” Granner notes that completing applications a good week before the concrete deadline also allows individuals to avoid any potential technical issues that may arise with schools’ servers on the day of the deadline.

One final point on timing comes from Fuller, who understands the tendency to think of the Christmas season as the perfect time to take care of application details. “It’s easy for candidates to think ‘I have a week of vacation coming up at the end of December . . . I’ll pound out all my essays then.’  But writing is an iterative process for most, and it’s important to allow adequate time to write multiple drafts and refine your story.  Even if you think you don’t have time right now to write 500 words on your goals or 750 words on what matters to you most, you should at least start brainstorming topics and outlining what you’re going to write about.  Laying that groundwork will help you to create a higher-quality end product.”

All Clear Admit’s counselors have a wealth of tips and techniques that can help MBA applicants make the most of their time and overall profiles. For more nuanced and tailored guidance, you can fill out our contact form for an initial assessment. You can learn more about Clear Admit’s line of services – from essay and resume editing to interview and waitlist letter strategy, here. The days will continue to dwindle, so if you’re aiming for a January deadline, act fast!