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Admissions Tip: Planning For Round 2

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In recent weeks, we have offered a wealth of tips and advice for those Round 1 candidates who are planning and preparing for MBA admissions interviews. Of course, now that we’ve thoroughly tackled that domain we wanted to take some time this week to provide a look ahead to Round 2. This tip is relevant for both Round 1 candidates who are considering additional applications in Round 2, and for those just starting their application cycle at this point in the year.

As most applicants are targeting multiple schools and still working to narrow down their school selection for Round 2, we wanted to take some time today to stress the importance of taking a deep breath and a step back in order to formulate a general timeline for the coming weeks. Establishing a set of incremental goals with regard to school selection, essay composition and recommender management at this point in the season will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensure that your aims are realistic.

Make your list and check it twice…

In terms of refining your selection of target schools in Round 2, there are several things to take into consideration. First, select an appropriate “range” of schools to apply. This includes:

  • reach schools (a school or two which might, at first glance, seem to be a stretch)
  • realistic schools
  • safety schools (a school or two that appear to be easier to gain admission for your profile)

Targeting a group of schools across a range of admissions difficulty is important as it will ensure one can maximize the opportunity to gain admissions to the best program possible. Of course, keep in mind that it is also critical to only apply to schools that you would absolutely be willing to attend. Another thing to remember is that researching programs now will pay dividends later – if only because that research may ultimately help you to limit the number of schools you consider (e.g. those programs which are a great fit for you and your goals). As such, we recommend that you visit the schools (if possible), comb their web sites, talk to alumni, and review other resources (blogs, online forums, press) that will help you get an intimate understanding of the schools on your initial wish list. Clear Admit School Guides can help in this step of the process – especially if you are short on time. Beyond that fact that this level of research may help you to narrow your list and focus your efforts on the group of schools you truly wish to target, it’s important to mention that understanding the unique aspects of your target schools is actually critical to your success with each school’s application. Taking these steps will ensure that each of your applications, essays, recommendations and so forth, can be as tailored and well developed as possible.

One school’s essays at a time…

Once you have your refined list of target schools, you will begin to focus on the application materials – and the admissions essays will be a major part of that. One of our most important pointers pertains to the process of writing essays. The urge to make progress on multiple fronts leads many applicants to work on essays for several schools in parallel, an approach that can be problematic. One reason for this is that when one spends time immersed in three sets of essays at once, it’s easy to lose sight of the full picture he or she is presenting to any one school. While it’s important to be oneself in the application process, it’s also crucial that an applicant tailor his or her materials to each school, a process that is made harder when constantly going back and forth among responses for various programs. Another issue is that it’s easy to waste time implementing the same edits across documents for multiple schools, or to lose track of what one has changed in which essay. For these reasons, we generally recommend focusing one’s full essay-writing attention on one program at a time.

Make time for a final review…

Of course, your writing and story will improve with practice, and the last application you finish will likely be your strongest: a tricky situation, given that most applicants take care of their top choice school first to ensure that they’re able to submit in the earliest possible round. With this in mind, we recommend that you build space into your timeline to allow yourself to revisit and revise each set of essays before submission.

The order in which you tackle tasks will naturally depend on the deadlines for each school. Therefore, let’s take a look at a selection of this winter’s deadline calendar, not forgetting that Columbia and HEC Paris use “rolling admissions” which means that the sooner you apply, the better:

Best of luck to all of our readers who are presently working their way through the lengthy application process!  Stay tuned to this blog for additional tips, news and notes as the admissions season unfolds.

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