9 New Year’s Resolutions for MBA Applicants

As you anticipate challenges and opportunities awaiting you over the next 12 months as an MBA applicant, here are some timely suggestions that could help you gain admission to a top MBA program by next New Year’s Day. From nearly two decades of advising eager business school candidates, The MBA Exchange has found that those who follow these 9 steps are far more likely to succeed than their peers who either delay or disregard them:

1. Take initiative.
Your candidacy can become stronger only if you grow the scale and scope of your responsibilities, take some smart risks, and produce tangible impact. Formulate a big idea, convince your boss to let you pursue it, and take good notes about how it feels.

2. Confront vulnerabilities.
No one knows the gaps, holes and soft spots in your candidacy better than you do. Rather than rationalize the flaw or hope that the admissions committee won’t notice, you need to step up, own it, and fix it. Take a tough quant course to boost your GPA. Seek a strategy role in an NGO.

3. Cultivate recommenders.
It takes time to convince a third-party that you deserve their praise and endorsement. And it also takes time to determine if your supervisor is going to go to become a champion or a critic. So, test the waters by hinting about b-school and seeing your superiors respond.

4. Explore b-schools.
Websites, blogs and online searches are very helpful in learning the basics about various MBA programs. But there’s no substitution for attending an information session or, even better, visiting campus. Prime time for visits is March/April, before the fall rush by other applicants.

5. Initiate dialogue.
Current MBA students and recent alumni love to talk about their alma mater. Asking relevant questions that draw from their first-hand knowledge can become fodder for future MBA essays. And you might even establish a relationship that will lead to an endorsement of your candidacy.

6. Plan and schedule.
The depth of analysis, planning and implementation that produce positive outcomes for applicants cannot be overstated. Cutting corners means reducing the chances for success. So, as you would with any major program, create a timeline that will drive top-quality deliverables.

7. Read and reflect.
Professional duties and personal interests can easily consume every waking hour. However, immersing yourself in leading publications and books, even if just for 30 minutes a day, can expand your perspective and stimulate new thinking for future essays and interview replies.

8. Refine communication.
While pursuing MBA admission, you’ll communicate with an array of “influencers” – administrators, students, alumni, etc. The content and style of your communication will help define how they view you. So, practice becoming more clear and succinct on a daily basis.

9. Get more worldly.
B-schools value cross-cultural awareness, but not every applicant has international postings or takes exotic vacations. So, use online resources to improve your language skills and track foreign media. Leverage the diversity around you to learn of practices and values different than yours.

So, now that you’ve considered and made some big promises to yourself, it’s time to take the first step. Request a free, expert evaluation of your MBA candidacy so that you’ll have a benchmark for the growth and improvement you’ve just pledged to pursue. Looking back on that assessment over the months ahead will motivate you to achieve your highest potential and help ensure a truly Happy New Year!