Let’s talk about application requirements… and we’re warning you upfront, there are many.
When we first embarked on the business school application process, we thought the biggest hurdle we’d have to overcome was the admissions essays. And don’t get us wrong, the admissions essays are by far the most time-consuming portion of the application process.
Let’s do some math…
- We applied to 5 schools (3 top choices and 2 back-ups)
- Each school required 3 to 5 essays – let’s say 4
- That’s 20 essays total – 22 to be precise in our case, though it will vary depending on what schools you apply to
- Each essay has around a 300 word-count, so that amounts to some 6,000 words to write
- Consider some 3 drafts per essay and… yeah, you’ve got a lot of writing to do.
But the daunting truth is that there’s a lot more, and the sooner you’re aware of this, the less likely you’ll be to participate in the last-minute server-freezing application frenzy that occurs just hours before each deadline. Speaking of which – did you know that business schools receive more than half of their applications within just 12 hours of each deadline? True story.
But back to the application requirements – a few pointers after the jump, so you know what you’re getting into:
1. The “basic information” section is much longer than you might expect.
You should really budget a couple of hours per school for that alone. In fact, the best way to do it is to create a cheat-sheet for yourself with all the relevant information. It will make that section much faster to complete.
2. The “work experience” section is filled with mini essays.
Surprise! You thought you were done after writing all those essays about goals, leadership and teamwork. But no. For each line item in your resume, most schools require you to write a short response to questions like “What was your role?” and “Describe a challenge you faced.” Don’t underestimate the importance of these questions, and while you should not overly belabor them, it’s not enough to just cobble together a haphazard response at the last minute. So allow yourself time to give them some real thought.
3. Collecting recommendation letters is like herding cats.
If your supervisors are anything like ours, then don’t underestimate the challenge of making sure your recommendations are well-written and submitted on time. We’ll be sure to dedicate a post to this question alone, but for the time being, be prepared to provide them with a small package reminding them of your work and achievements so they have a few reference points to start writing. Then start sending them reminders weekly as the deadlines approach. If they have assistants, make sure to get those deadlines on their calendars – they can be your biggest allies. And if all else fails, park yourself in their office and tell them you won’t leave until they submit those recommendations. We’re not kidding. That’s what we had to do.
4. Most scanned transcripts are too big to upload.
The key thing to know here is that most schools will only let you upload files 500 Kb or less in size. This is usually problematic when the time comes to upload your transcript, so be prepared. Get it scanned professionally and specify the file size so you don’t end up embarking on the fool’s errand of trying to compress PDF files on your home computer. It will break you. To keep the file size low you may need to divide the transcript into multiple files, with one page each. That’s okay. Schools will let you upload it in sections.
5. Servers get slow just before the deadline.
Remember that statistic about schools receiving most of their application essays within 12 hours of each deadline? This translates into massive server traffic during that time, which can dramatically slow down the online application interfaces. This means that everything will take longer, and this is not something you want to deal with just hours before a deadline. So, while we know that this is some of the hardest advice to take, do yourself a favor and don’t wait till the last minute to submit your applications.
Pay attention to these few things, and we assure you that your application process will be much easier. We certainly wish we’d known them when we were applying to school!