Tips from an Under the Wire Applicant

Tips from an Under the Wire Applicant

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“Those are terrible excuses,” my mentor said as she shook her head at me through Zoom.

It was the end of April 2020 (aka March part two) and I was telling her why I couldn’t apply to MBA programs before the end of May. I listed all of the things I didn’t have, like essay drafts and a GMAT score. 

She refocused our conversation on what I did have, which was a golden opportunity. Deadlines were extended, school events were virtual and, therefore, more accessible, and friends had offered to proofread my essays. She was right, I needed to give it a shot. Fast-forward four months later (March part six) and I was headed to Chicago for Booth’s orientation.

But why am I telling you this? Deadlines aren’t extended again. COVID-19 has been our “new normal” for months now.

I’m sharing my story because I want you to know that applying to an MBA program shouldn’t feel so intimidating that it stops you from actually taking the leap and hitting submit. Some of your peers may have spent years planning and researching programs and invested in GMAT/GRE prep books and courses. Though this approach may have worked for them, it doesn’t mean that yours has to be identical. If anything, Booth’s flexible academic environment encourages Boothies to chart their own course. Consider embodying that philosophy while you’re applying as well. 

You—brilliant, capable you—are enough and you deserve a shot at your dreams.

Applying to Booth, much like attending the program itself, is not for the faint of heart and the application process is intensive. So, to help you navigate your way through, here are some tips from this last-minute applicant for not just grinding, but thriving:

  1. Take care of yourself. Applying can be stressful. Celebrate each milestone with something that makes you feel special. Between GMAT practice sets, I would listen to one of my favorite songs and soak in the good vibes. Find your own rewards and be kind to yourself.
  2. Stay organized. Boothies are known for our love of numbers and organization. While not every student is the same, it bodes well for you to keep track of your deadlines and recommendations. I used a spreadsheet to track clubs I wanted to join, classes I wanted to take, and students I met. When it comes down to making choices, a decision matrix goes a long way too. If you put in a little work upfront your sanity will thank you later. 
  3. Reach out to Booth students and alumni. I know, it can feel intimidating to reach out to a complete stranger. Know that whichever Boothie is on the other end of that call is not going to judge you or call your questions stupid. They want to connect with you—that’s why our student ambassadors exist. They also believe in Booth’s pay-it-forward culture and were in your position not too long ago themselves. Build your community early and learn how you could fit here. I still keep in touch with the student ambassador that I talked with before applying.
  4. Tell your own story. Admissions Directors don’t want to hear dozens of rephrasings of what you think they  want to be told. At Booth, they’re interested in getting to know you. The easiest way to keep your story straight in essays, interviews, and beyond is to have one authentic story to tell.

I’m not encouraging you to rush yourself when you aren’t ready or spend the least amount of time editing your essays, but rather I want you to believe that you are good enough to take the plunge whenever the time is right for you. 

If you are on the edge of deciding to apply, ask yourself, Is the time right for me? Are these good reasons not to apply? For some, the answer may be “Yes of course they’re good reasons, Sam. It’s been a rough year!!” Which is perfectly acceptable. You know yourself best and can use this time to recharge and apply in a future cycle. 

If, however, the questions make you pause, maybe you’ll take a breath and consider the strength of your existing experience and seize the moment. Maybe you will begin typing out the first few sentences of essays and emails to mentors requesting recommendations.

These maybes hold potential and possibilities. They will not always lead to a yes, but when they do the results can be life-changing. 

The Round Two application deadline is January 12th. You’ve got this!

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