August 2, 2013 4:02 pm

Advice from a successful MBA applicant

Alexandra Ffitzgerald

Alexandra Fitzgerald

MBA: University of Toronto: Rotman

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IN Applying to Business School

After being accepted into my desired MBA programme, the hard work that went into my application is almost immediately forgotten. But as I reflect on my experiences, here’s some advice that I would have given myself that I believe could be helpful to others.

Spending time and money on the GMAT is worth it.

I had thought about writing the GMAT a few years ago, I bought the books but never cracked them. This time around in spite of the cost I chose to do a preparation course, because the structure it provided kept me focused while I was working full-time. In spite of this, I stumbled the first time I wrote the test, did not get the score I was after and was forced to rewrite. During this period the amount of time and money I was spending on this single component of the application was overwhelming, but now I can say that for me, it was necessary. If you are at this stage, stick with it and contemplate what structure you need to learn the content to maximise your score.

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Ask for references early but understand the consequences.

The suggestion to have conversations with your referees early is prolific on MBA sites. I followed this suggestion and would recommend others do as well. One cautionary note from my personal experience is to consider the consequences before seeking a recommendation from your direct manager.

My husband and I decided we would do our MBAs together. After I had already spoken to my referees, my husband received career news that caused him to debate waiting a year before applying. For me a year delay meant that it would be likely that I would be stagnant in my career development because it was unlikely I would be given more responsibilities since it was known I would be leaving. I realised at this point that I was fully committed to school. In the end it worked out and my husband and I are both heading to Rotman this fall. But at the time, I wish I had spent more time considering the consequences before connecting with my manager.

Let the schools get to know you, it has the potential to really pay-off

My experience was that many schools have specialised events for prospective students. I took advantage of this as much as I could as I hoped that it would allow the admission teams to better evaluate me as a candidate. This year the Rotman School at the University of Toronto hosted a problem-solving challenge for prospective students, I participated in this event and as a result of my performance - and to my delight - I was awarded a full scholarship. The application process can take up a very large amount of time, but based on my experience getting fully involved with the school in events like this can make all the difference.

After reflecting on the application process, I am reminded that there was a lot of work involved. The good news is that it is a temporary process with the potential for substantial reward and should be taken seriously. In addition to all the other tips out there, I hope that my experiences will benefit you.

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