First Experience Applying to B-School:

by on July 3rd, 2014

As opposed to a lot of my other MBA bloggers out there, I have actually applied to B-School before. I applied to Tuck’s EA Round for the Class of 2016 and was waitlisted in December. In fact, as of 5/20/14, I am still on their “reduced waitlist” (very doubtful that I will get off, as they are at capacity).

However, I learned A LOT from the process and feel 100% ready to take on the challenge of applying to 5-6 top ten b-schools this year. Below is a quick history of my application process, that I plan on detailing out in later posts.

The Decision to Apply–June 2013

Around June 2013, I decided that this was the year that I wanted to go to an elite B-School. I actually had decided a LONG time ago that B-School was in my future, but I wasn’t sure exactly what year I would apply. For two years I had perused Poets&Quants, checked out rankings, visited websites, and made sure that I got a good feel for the individual cultures.

I decided that I would apply to Tuck’s EA Round, and if I didn’t get in, I would apply to a combination of East Coast schools and West Coast schools. (I really wanted to go to school on the East Coast though—I actually moved from the West Coast to the East Coast so that it would be easier to visit schools and network).

The GMAT–July to September

As I created my to-do list, I quickly realized how far behind I was in the process. At the beginning of July, I realized that I would BARELY have enough time to study and take the GMAT before Tuck’s EA round in October.

I immediately signed up for Magoosh (which I highly recommend as a starting point) and started executing my GMAT plan (my guide can be found here). Studying for the GMAT, working 60 hours a week, and researching applications and tours was not that fun. Thankfully it paid off with a 710, which leads to my first lesson …

Lesson One: Take the GMAT as early as possible

The Visits–September

One of the reasons I moved to the East Coast was so that it would be easier to visit prospective schools. I drove to Hanover, NH (Tuck), New Haven (Yale), and Boston (Harvard & MIT). While on the West Coast, I already visited UCLA, Berkeley and Stanford, and I was very familiar with the feel/culture off those schools.

Looking back, I wish I had a guide of when you could visit schools (there are a lot of stipulations if you would like a tour/class visit and in Tuck’s case an open interview). Also some of the schools discourage and/or won’t allow Fall visits due to it being disruptive to the First Years. Which leads to my next lesson learned …

Lesson Two: If possible, visit Schools in the Spring

The Application–September & October

I created a great schedule to keep me on track. Recommendations, transcripts, and application form were all tackled early (recommendations and transcripts can take awhile, so make sure you start early).

However, what I didn’t foresee is how difficult it would be for me to write my essays. After not writing creatively for ~4 years, it was REALLY challenging. I only started getting traction when I just wrote everything out (as opposed to continually stop at each sentence and rewrite) and then revised and shortened. This process took way to long in my opinion which leads to my third lesson . . .

Lesson Three: Finish the essays as soon as you can, and then revise, revise, revise.

The Admission Decision–December

After applying in October, I found it very hard to stay focused on my applications and essays. I then got a new project and promotion, forcing me to rethink my application strategy. My plan of applying to one school EA, waiting for a decision, and then applying to the others in R2 in January started to not make as much sense to me. What I should have been doing is to quickly decide not to apply to the other schools (I still have plenty of time since I am 26) and started to study for the GMAT again to improve my 710.

When I received my waitlist decision in December, I realized that I had just “wasted” two months of going back and forth instead of creating a more valuable profile. Leading to my last lesson learned …

Lesson Four: Keep yourself busy, proactively create value, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

What I would have done differently–2014!

  1. Started earlier (GMAT, applications, visiting)
  2. Applied to all my schools in EA or R1
  3. Spoke to a professional consultant for at least a free 30 minute profile
  4. Retaken my 710 GMAT
  5. Not adopted the “wait around for the decision” mentality


  • Excellent post!

    Also, I would like to add
    Don't be too late to realize that you need help in the process - be it writing essays or preparing for the GMAT. Be strategic and proactive in talking to experts and in seeking their help. 

    • I absolutely agree! This is one of the major pillars of a successful MBA applicant!

  • Who are the experts in this regards? I am only starting now and would like to know in case i need help somewhere down the line.

  • Hi Dimeo

    Assuming you are starting with GMAT prep as well as MBA applications.

    If you are starting now with your GMAT preparation & have plans to go for classroom sessions, you may consider attending free demo sessions from some top test prep companies such as MGMAT, Kaplan, Veritas etc. Later, you can decide on which classes to sign-up for.

    Likewise, if you decide to apply during this application season, you may consider doing 30 minute one-on-one sessions to decide your consultant. I did so and chose MbaMission.

    I prepared for the GMAT with Manhattan Prep(online classroom course) & am going to work with a consultant from MbaMission for my upcoming application season.

    Overall, you can take advantage of the free demo sessions before you decide to signup for a GMAT preparation course or for taking help to prepare your applications

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