The Top Five Things You Should Be Doing Right Now:

by on September 29th, 2011

It is t-minus 5 days until Round 1 applications are due to HBS.  Yes, yes, I know that you know that date… as a motivated and totally with-it future HBS student, you’ve probably had it on your calendar for months if not years.  I know you’ve worked hard on your essays, your applications are almost complete, and you’re getting revved up to hit that final “submit” button in a mere matter of days.

That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m here to tell you to take a step back and think long and hard about whether you are TRULY ready to pull the trigger.  After all, you only get one chance to apply per year.  Are you positive your essays portray you exactly as you want to be portrayed?  Are you sure that you put 110% into your resume?  Are you totally confident that your overall application captures all of the fabulous-ness of your persona?

I’m not trying to freak you out – I pose these questions only to illustrate the point that it is totally ok to evaluate where you are and decide to wait until Round 2 if deep down you know you’re not completely ready for this.  When I was applying, I heard over and over from students, alumni, and admissions people to absolutely not hit submit unless you are completely certain your application is the best it can possibly be.  If, after doing a bit of soul searching, you deem that your app could benefit from another couple months of hard work, that’s ok!  In fact, it’s great!  There’s not a material difference between acceptance rates from Round 1 and Round 2, so if you need to push your date back a bit then absolutely go for it.

If, on the other hand, you take a solid look at the (wo)man in the mirror and decide that October 3rd is the first day of the rest of your life, here are the top five things you should be thinking about right now:

1. Stalk your recommenders.  We’re in crunch time, people!  Your future hangs in the balance!  Make sure your recommenders are on top of it and are planning to submit a beautifully crafted recommendation on your behalf before (not on) the deadline.  Now is the time to be proactive to the point of obnoxious.  Sit beside them as they submit it if you have to.  Just make absolutely sure that it is done!

2. Make sure your application is flawless.  You do not want the HBS admissions people to be distracted from the gripping story of your life by typos or grammatical errors.  Go through everything in the entire application with an eagle eye.  Remember that sometimes spellcheck doesn’t catch random mistakes (like saying “son” instead of “sun” or something like that).  Don’t fall into the deathtrap of becoming too reliant on that little squiggly red line.  Ever vigilant!

3. Ignore the critics.  Now is not the time to show your essays to some random person to get feedback.  If you throw a new person into the mix and they tell you all sorts of crazy things that are wrong with it you’re just going to freak out.  If you’ve gone through a rigorous process with your essays (e.g., lots of rounds of writing, getting feedback, and editing) and feel good about where you are, just stop.  Introducing another variable will likely only shake your confidence.  If you are happy with them and feel that they paint an accurate picture of you, then your work here is done.

4. Read every single thing on your application OUT LOUD.  I know this sounds weird, but it works.  I literally read through every single line that I submitted, from the bullets on my resume to the descriptions of my extracurricular activities on my application to the essays themselves.  It’s amazing how things that seem awesome on paper come out sounding weird.  This is a good way to catch those awkward bits and make them a bit more eloquent.  This is also a very useful strategy for catching random spelling or grammatical errors that you wouldn’t have otherwise picked up on.

5. Hit ‘submit’ well before the October 3rd at 12 PM EST deadline.  Trust me on this one.  You don’t want your entire life trajectory to be altered just because of some lame computer issue at the last minute.  Ideally you’ll submit it – at the latest – the day before it is due.  Also print out your confirmation just in case.

Good luck to everyone out there who is gearing up for a Round 1 submission.  I know you’re going to do great!

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