Applying to graduate school, especially business school, is a long and arduous process. But it doesn’t have to be all bad.
Applying to business school feels a lot like hard work, and that’s because it is. You can’t be a slacker, cut corners, or procrastinate. You’ve got to make a list, do things in the right order, and make sure all your bases are covered. My personal take on the application process might not be yours, but perhaps a look into my process can help you create your own timetable for getting things done in order.
Start With Your Target School
First things first, for me: Identify your top school and work like a locomotive to find a way to get accepted. For me, that was University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler. Their program is fully online, requires global travel to four different locations, and is ranked in the top 20 business schools of any sort in the country. My first priority, obviously, is obtaining acceptance to that school.
Here’s a pro tip: schedule your application duties (getting recommendations, sending transcripts, taking the GMAT, and sending essays) through Google calendar alerts or your day planner. Whatever you use to keep track of your on-the-job duties should work perfectly to fold in your application schedule. For me, this means hearing a ding every time I have an article due for my work as a writer and journalist, and hearing the same noise when I have an online platform walk-through, meeting with a recruiter, or need to follow-up with my recommenders. It’s not that difficult to add these things to your schedule, but getting them done can be exceedingly difficult.
The Art of Getting Things Done
I’m not necessarily a procrastinator, but I seem to always overly (and enthusiastically) pack my schedule with corporate writing work, freelance work, my yoga practice, and having some semblance of a social, civic, and family life. I don’t sleep very much, and never have — 6 hours per night is the maximum I can handle, although about once a month I take a “sleep Sunday.” Lazy is not in my vocabulary; life is entirely too important, silly, and fascinating all at once. And yet, I find it hard to fit everything in. Especially business school applications.
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After narrowing down my selections to five or six schools, I immediately set Google alerts for application deadlines. But, as UNC is my target school, I started there. After studying for the GMAT in a whirlwind month (that will be its own future post), I was finally ready to send my transcripts, get my letters, and write my essays. Many late nights I spent revising my resume, writing thank you notes to recommenders, and mapping out my essays so they made coherent sense. The trick to getting anything done? Making it your number one priority. A little discipline — and never letting your eyes off the prize — will go a long way.
If you’re applying to business school, have a full-time job, and any other commitments, you’ll have to practice the art of getting things done. If you’re a big Facebook-er (I am not.), this might mean a social media fast. If you’re the life of the party, this could also mean scaling back your real-life social engagements until you’ve finished the GMAT and your applications. And if you’re prone to other distractions, minimize them as best you can. For example, I routinely put my phone in “Airplane Mode” and/or ignore e-mails, text messages, and the like — unless they’re from my boss, or absolutely require an immediate response. It might be perceived as aloof, but I’m of the opinion that humans should not be required to be in constant contact in order to maintain relevancy in relationships.
Getting “In The Zone” must become more important to you than anything else. The easiest way to do this, I’ve found, is tunnel vision. Single-tasking, I’ve found, is almost always preferable to multi-tasking. Shut off, shut up, or shut down — and get your applications done before the clock goes ding.
OnlineMBA.com contributor Bethany Perryman is pursuing her Masters of Business Administration online.