Q&A: When Should I Apply?

Q: Hi Farrell, I hope you had a great weekend. I’m at the early stages of looking into an MBA programme, at what point in your career do you think it’s best to apply?


A: If you’re going for HBS and GSB they do like younger applicants… I generally hear from people around age 25, and they have about three years of work experience. 2 years is the absolute minimum – 5 years is optimal and for EU or UK schools 5 years is the minimum. In either case,  I think I would wait to get a promotion first, establish a little bit of longevity at your current job. Just kick ass there. However, make sure that you do not neglect the community service angle.


Given you are a fresh grad working for a huge consultancy, they are not going to be handing you the keys to the castle so for that reason you need to get into a community organization that aligns with your profile where you can have a significant leadership position. To show what you can do to make an impact, in a sense, the way one would in a startup.


And make sure that it’s something you’re passionate about and adds value to your overall narrative. For that reason, it’s important to get more clarity on your post-MBA and long term goals. I would recommend that you do Career Leader, which helps establish your interests and motivations. It’s is a very popular assessment used by most Business Schools but you would be way ahead of the game to have some traction on those before applying.


I’m not sure where you are with the GMAT but you can never start too early with that, because it’s a black box as many find out to their chagrin. Scores are good for 5 years. The trick for you right now is to find a way to distinguish yourself PWC, a great brand name but there are so many consultants to apply to Business School, and the challenge is to make sure you have find a way to get the community service factor in there despite having to work a billion hours. Many try to contribute internally and do a lot of mentoring which is good but common.


There’s quite a bit that you can do now — take the actions to prepare the CONTENT and the writing will take care of itself. The content is about taking stock of what you have achieved, but also, researching yourself, your goals, and the schools. If you do this, writing the applications will be a far less painful process, but instead, an exciting journey of self-discovery, where you are gaining more clarity about who you are and how you want to contribute.


I recently tweeted that people think applying to business school school is about writing essays but it’s really all about the decisions you make before you get down to writing those essays. 


Hope that helps!

Cheers, Farrell


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