Wednesday, May 17, 2006


After having had several people ask, I decided I would finally give in, and jot some pointers on how to "prepare" for an MBA. (Perhaps the first of many entries on the MBA now that the floodgates have been lifted...)

1.) Know why you want to get the MBA. Wanting more money as the sole reason will not fly with the AdCom. This one step will give you a definite focus. This is noticeable.

2.) Then...I believe many other MBA folks would agree that the number one thing is the GMAT. It took me two months to prepare for it. It could take less time or more time, depending on your dedication and your background.
If you feel that taking a course is the main way for you to work/study hard and be motivated, go for it. If not, it is a waste of money.
I did not take any course. HOWEVER, there is ONE book I would recommend.

The Official Guide For GMAT Review
or at the website

Why is this the ONLY book I recommend? Because this has ACTUAL exam questions. Some other guide books will have questions that are similar, but sometimes, the questions the other books provide can be misleading in preparing you. The questions will be similar and will stimulate your brain to think in similar ways, but it won't be the actual type of question that the GMAT would have. If you do try even a few questions, you will notice the differences.

A while back, I took Kaplan's LSAT course, (perhaps the GMAT course is different) and while it provided me with great materials, it did little else to assist me in the test preparation.

When you sign up for the GMAT test, will also give you a free CD with practice exams. Which leads me to the other important aspect of test preparation. Practice taking the exam on the computer. Since test questions get "harder" as you get the correct answer (and "easier" in the case of a wrong answer), a computer exam simulates that increasing/decreasing difficulty level.

There are SO many books on test preparation and how to get into business schools that it can be overwhelming at times. Fortunately, there is the internet and every school has a webpage with information so you don't have to buy into every "advice" book you come across. I did most of my research on my own, which I found to be more helpful. Since I was not spoon fed the information, I came to remember details and was more acquainted with the schools.

3.) Know your schools. Depending on your reasons in #1.) each school will have a different fit. Location, size, prestige, part-time/full-time, career opportunities, etc. Know what the school has to offer you, what you have to offer the school, and what you hope to take away from the school. It is important to remember that you do not have to be the super business person yet. That is why you are going to get an MBA in the first place.

4.) Start Early. Just to give you an example of a timeline (a great one too), a friend of mine started preparing for the GMAT in October of 2004. Then took the GMAT in January of 2005. Started writing the essays in February/March (Essays are key. There is debate over how important, but they are very important). Refined them (which takes TIME) and then in May/June started asking for letters of reference. Then put together the complete application to apply for Early Decision/Early Action schools in Aug/Sept/Oct of 2005 and will now be attending business school in the Fall of '06.

4.) Ask early for letters of reference. Make sure that you give them a copy of the essays you write, your CV, and any other information you think is pertinent. You want to make sure that the person who is writing the rec letter is NOT writing any other letters for other people who are applying to that same school. Or, if they are, that you are the strongest candidate. Make sure this person has seen you in action and can testify to you truly being a great candidate. You want to be in the position where you are comfortable enough with the recommender that you can ask him/her if they will be able to write a strong letter of rec. If not, wrong place.

As for job experience, it is undeniably important. I think most people in a top 10 b-school program have around 3-5 years of work experience on average. Sure, you could have less, or more. But the number of years goes to reflect once again, #1. Work experience doesn't just show the ad com you are more qualified, but you can tell yourself that you are ready. And you can justify spending $120K+. You know what work you've been doing, what's out there and what you hope to pursue.

5.) Practice Interviews. Whether you are comfortable or not, it is important to go over the key points of why you want to go to business school and your qualifications for school. Thus, if you are invited to interview, you will be ready. Ask current biz students or other people who have gone through the process. Some schools automatically give out interview bids, others are invitation only. There is some truth to the rumor that if you are given an interview bid, your odds of getting in are better. Basically, the interview is another chance to double check your story, make sure everything is straight and the way it is on paper. Here's another site for more "tips."

6.) Talk with current business school students. They don't have to be from the school that you are planning on attending. I talked with several students from NYU Stern to get a different perspective on the business programs. Get to know the atmosphere/environment where you will be for two-years.

Hope this is helpful and my best to all you folks


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