The proof is in the paper.
Wait, that’s not how the saying goes? Well, in relation to business school applications, that’s how it should go. Once you have your test prep study plan in full-swing, you’re ready to start the next phase:
Step 4: Get your transcripts and other academic documents sent.
For some of you, the process of sending your transcript(s) to the MBA programs you’re applying to may be an easy process. If you only attended one undergraduate institution, didn’t dual enroll during high school, don’t have any blemishes on your single transcript, and are only applying to one program, then your process will probably be relatively painless. And if so, I envy you. The rest of you, be forewarned: this can be the slowest and least controllable element of your application.
Been away from school for a number of years? You’ll have to search the web and/or make some phone calls to get in touch with your institution’s registrar, find out the procedure, pay the designated fees, and then wait. Since schools are inundated with requests like yours (especially as deadlines approach), transcripts can take two to four weeks, if not longer, to be processed and sent out. Be sure to start the ball rolling well in advance of application deadlines (read: two or more months, at least).
Did you attend more than one college or university? Dual enroll during high school? You’ll have to do this for each institution.
Did your target schools receive all of your transcripts? Are you sure? In an effort to save time and paper, many schools notify candidates of application status via email or through an online “status checker,” but if you haven’t heard anything, it may very well be time to make some phone calls.
Did you ever receive an academic or disciplinary sanctions? There’s some more paperwork that needs to be sent, and that’s usually from a different department. More research, more time, and more energy.
Do any of your target programs require a “Dean’s Certification”? Some programs require a short-form letter, a recommendation of sorts, from the Office of the Dean at your undergraduate institution. There’s usually someone in the Dean’s office who is responsible for such letters, and many students don’t know their respective deans. (Most) schools are prepared for these requests, but again–more paperwork, phone calls, emails, letters, follow-up, etc.
You’ll need to get a jump on the transcript and academic paperwork process several months before you want your applications to be “complete” at your target schools. If you can, start six months out; this way, if there’s any missing documentation, the programs to which you’re applying have time to notify you of the missing components (read: more of the same headache) in time for you to remedy the error well before application deadlines so that you’re not pushed to the late review pile of applicants.
And this is to say nothing of your letters of recommendation or your application essays and personal statements.
Get out your application calendar. Add in transcript/paperwork request dates four to six months before everything’s due. Track all follow-up communication. Keep an email folder for each school’s communication, just in case. Don’t be afraid to be persistent, but always be polite. Trust me: you’ll thank me for this when the late applicants are doing the last minute shuffle. You’ll hear all about it if you follow any applicant blogs.