Many business school applicants begin their campaign by immersing themselves in school websites. Others start by perusing the published rankings to find the “best” schools. Some candidates think their journey should commence by taking the GMAT or GRE. And many others explore popular online forums and blogs on the topic.
Based on our three decades of advising more than 5,000 MBA candidates, The MBA Exchange can attest to the fact that there is a far better first step for serious applicants to take – self-reflection.
No, we’re not suggesting that you find a mountain top or secluded lake where you can be alone with your thoughts. Frankly, it doesn’t matter where you go for an hour or two so you can concentrate without any distractions. Your living room couch will do just fine. Just turn off your phone, grab a pen and legal pad, and get very comfortable.
Our recommended framework for self-reflection is a simple one: a collection of 4 probing questions that only you can ask and answer for yourself. Don’t skip ahead. Answer each question in order and write down your answers as you go:
- What would I really love to be doing 10 or 20 years from today?
This is the moment to dream big. Frame your ideal scenario, even though there are no guarantees in life. Paint a detailed picture of a situation that would maximize your satisfaction.
- What have I learned so far that makes achieving this vision possible?
Do a candid self-inventory that spans your personal, academic and professional past and present. Neither exaggerate nor marginalize as you list attributes, skills and experiences.
- What knowledge, perspective and/or relationships do I need to achieve my vision?
Take a hard look and articulate the limitations and obstacles that stand between you and your preferred future. Identify what makes your vision feel most distant and challenging today.
- What strengths do I have that could help others fulfill their highest potential?
Go beyond your own wants and needs to define the value you can offer to those around you. Consider how gratified you would feel to provide the missing piece for someone else’s puzzle.
Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a basic foundation for your MBA admissions campaign. You’ll have a sense of why you’re seeking this education, how you qualify for it, how you would benefit from it, and what you can contribute in return. The authentic thoughts and feelings you’ll capture on paper will give actionable direction to your resume, application, essays, recommendations and interviews. If having a partner for this process would make it feel less intimidating and more productive for you, just let us know. The admissions experts at The MBA Exchange can be your trusted navigator to ensure that you fully understand, completely address, and garner the greatest benefit from the questions. We’re here for you.