December is a great month at Illinois! As our students are completing their class work and studying for finals, our admissions team is busy reviewing the first round of applications for the class of 2013. While we've received many applications so far, we know the majority of students are still working to compile their achievements. Below are some tips from our admissions team on best practices for applying to business school. These simple tips can help differentiate an excellent application from a good one.
1. Apply Early - All things equal, it's better to apply early to business school. Early applicants are often given priority scholarship allocations. Also, applying early indicates to the admissions team that a candidate is serious about their school. Finally by applying early, you give yourself time to visit each school and follow up with current students and alumni.
While applying early is generally a good move, there may be some circumstances when it’s better to wait before submitting your application. If you are planning to retake the GMAT or GRE, are expecting a promotion at work, or will be doing some significant volunteer work in the near future, it may make sense to wait and submit the strongest application possible in a few months.
2. Make Your Personal Statement Count – The personal statement is one of the most nebulas components of the MBA application. However, it’s one of the most important sections. The personal statement is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions team and make a case why you should be admitted to the program. Use the personal statement to tell a unique and compelling story about your professional background and accomplishments, reasons for wanting to pursue an MBA, reasons for wanting to study at Illinois and how you plan to utilize your talents to improve the student experience and alumni network.
3. Address Red Flags Directly and Honestly – There is no such thing as a perfect MBA application. If there is a weak area on your application, such as low test scores, low undergraduate GPA, or gaps in work history, it’s better to address them openly and honestly in the application. Often, these situations can be explained in a way that actually enhances a student’s application. For example, I recently met a student with a low college GPA. In talking with the student, I learned he started his own business and was working 60-80 hours per week as a student. If you have some areas of concern on your application, you can use the optional essay to explain the situation.
4. Show Some Spirit – At Illinois, we think we have a fantastic MBA program nestled within one of the top public universities in the world. We’re excited about our program and are looking for students that feel the same way. If you are considering applying to Illinois, I’d recommend understanding what makes our program unique and talking about how our offerings are consistent with your career goals. If you are applying to multiple schools, try to personalize your application to Illinois with insights on why Illinois is the right fit for you.