It’s that time of year.
As the end of 2014 approaches, you’re starting to make a list of all the things you need to take care of. Holiday presents? Got ‘em. Christmas dinner seating arrangements? Done. New Year’s outfit? Check. Ski and/or beach trip? Bon voyage. Round 2 McCombs application?
Whatever it may be – finals, Q4 reports, family vacations, personal deadlines – the last few weeks of the year can culminate into chaos. Consequently, it’s easy to let the ball drop on an application that’s been open and requiring your unrequited love for months. But there’s no reason to resign in defeat, push back to Round 3, or delay business school for another year altogether.
Though January 6th seems abysmally soon, it still gives you a couple of weeks to tweak your application, polish your essays, and get your act in tip-top shape – with time to spare! You may be wondering how one can be so chipper in the face of this ominous deadline looming over your heads. So let me introduce you to Round 2 Boot Camp, or how to achieve application greatness in under two weeks.
1. The time to finalize records – GMAT scores, transcripts, etc. – is now.
As in, today. Like, stop reading this and take care of it ASAP. Mail tends to lag in the wintertime, and sometimes registrar and administrative offices close in observation of the holidays. Since this is the one aspect of the McCombs application externally removed from your direct control, you want to make sure this is resolved first. If you’re simply ensuring everything is in working order, all it should take is an email or phone call; if you’re venturing into this arena for the first time, though, be aware of the price tags that come along with expedited options.
2. Go through your information one final time, and then don’t look back.
It can get a little repetitive having to fill out your address, school/employment history, and resume bullet points over and over for every business school application – to the point of going cross-eyed and misspelling your own name. But the beauty of that part of the form is, most of the information won’t have changed, which means you can skim over your information for typos and mistakes, and then lay that part of your application to rest! And it is a rather big part, so kudos on being done with that. Treat yourself to a cookie.
3. Take full advantage of the outlets for creativity that the McCombs application offers.
Not every business school application allows for alternative options like online profiles and video essays, but that’s what McCombs is all about – giving everyone a chance to shine in their own, unique way. If you feel like words are failing you and coherency is becoming a real struggle, give it a whirl – it will only take a few hours out of a day to figure out if these choices work for you in a meaningful way, or if you’re dangerously toeing the line of a Lady Gaga music video. But you’d be surprised how quickly time flies when a mundane task like a 250-word essay turns into an online art project or personal manifestation.
4. Re-read your essays, allow up to one subject matter change, and then stick to your guns and see it through.
If we had all the time in the world, we would probably change our essay responses approximately once a week. The advice to “sleep on it and check back in a few weeks” is wonderful early-on in the game, but when you’re in a time crunch, it’s better to pick a path and stay the course. Chances are, almost any topic that you’ve thought through and developed will be a wonderful expression of your personal self and capabilities. Since you have many points along the process to inject personality into your application, it’s more important now to focus on being eloquent and memorable than to pick a new topic that’s fascinating but half-baked. That’s the true beauty of the McCombs application: it is multidimensional enough to where you can go forth confidently knowing that just as one specific highlight won’t make you a shoo-in, one better essay subject thought of in hindsight won’t be akin to having shot yourself in the foot either.
5. Make the open-ended essay prompt work for you.
Though it’s optional, you should embrace any and every opportunity to allow McCombs to get to know you better. The key to a powerful explanatory short answer lies in the balance between concise acknowledgement of a problem or issue, and more importantly, how it has shaped you into the ideal MBA candidate. As for explaining in excruciating detail the equivalent of a Greek tragedy – it’s a trap! What is more appealing to an admissions committee is a story rife with reform, proactivity, and insight. It helps to focus briefly on the underlying circumstances of your essay subject, and then emphasize your present reactions and future goals that arose from it.
6. Use the holiday season to touch base with your professors/managers, and confirm receipt of your LOR request.
Common courtesy dictates maintaining contact with your chosen recommender, as his or her letter to the admissions committee singlehandedly dictates your future (just kidding). The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to send warm wishes, chat about vacation plans, and gather a progress report on your letter of recommendation. Your email or call can serve as a heartfelt thanks for carving the time out of their schedule to benefit you, a helping hand if they’ve hit a road bump with submitting it, or a gentle nudge to get the ball rolling on your evaluation. Doing this sooner than later allows for two things: to alleviate the stinging possibility of radio silence with a cookie, and to have enough time for a follow-up attempt if you are indeed met with no response.
7. Dedicate a few hours once a day to finish an action item, and then stagger a final proofread no more than a week later.
Timeliness is critical for this step, but a perspective check can always help center you and place you back on the road to application nirvana. Take two hours out of your daily schedule, be it at the crack of dawn (I really don’t get you early-bird-and-worm types) or as your day is unwinding before dinnertime, and buckle down on completing one item at a time. Finalize one written or video essay, and then don’t think about it for a few days. The next day, craft your heartwarming email to your recommender. The day after that, glance at your resume and swap out cliché buzz words with significant action verbs, and then put it away for a couple of days. The satisfaction you receive from wrapping up tasks, as well as the clarity you acquire from a few days of breathing room in between, will be better than the aforementioned cookies. But you can still have a cookie every step of the way! In fact, I encourage it.
8. Set your personal deadline for a few days before the 6th.
Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and Murphy’s Law. I don’t condone dishonesty, but lying to yourself about the Round 2 deadline will do wonders. Do yourself a favor and factor in the following buffers while planning out your schedule: one day for falling sick, one day for the blue screen of death (or for us cool kids, the spinning pinwheel of death), and one day for Kim K. to have actually broken the internet. In all seriousness, truly aiming to be done a few days in advance (as if anything past January 2nd or 3rd is considered delinquent) will allow you to enjoy the holiday break you so deserve, and make you feel like an overall rock star.
9. Through it all, keep the reasons you wish to be part of the McCombs family at the forefront of your agenda.
Set your intention, remember your personal goals, fine-tune your focus, settle into your resolve, and don’t hesitate. There is one sole force driving you to apply at the end of the day, which is to become an MBA Candidate, Class of 2017. Let that determination guide you through the tricky waters of the application process, and if you ever feel disoriented, come back to that underlying ideal. Keep the McCombs spirit that first caught your attention in mind: believe in and embody the playful, strong, collaborative environment you wish to join.
You are at the threshold of the finish line, and nothing is as gratifying (or admittedly, terrifying) as the moment after you click “submit application.” But every moment leading up to that last step, remember to breathe. Conserve your energy for the things and people in your life that matter, and don’t fall into a state of panicked frenzy at the thought of things that are done and irreversible. Whether your GMAT score could have been better or your GPA is somewhat lackluster, these are numbers in the past and your main focus should stay in the present and future. It can be daunting to think of a team of people essentially evaluating your net worth to an institution as esteemed as McCombs. However, not only are the committee members well-seasoned and bona fide pros at what they do, but you are a unique, well-rounded and valuable asset to any institution, and breathing in with confidence and out with a sigh of relief is the only way to get through this.
That wasn’t too bad, was it?
Once you’ve submitted your application, take a few days off and relax, but keep us folks at McCombs near and dear to your heart! Stay on the lookout for an invitation to interview. Continue reaching out to your adoring fan club at the admissions committee with questions, or to students and alumni with casual conversation. Dig a little deeper into the plethora of opportunities at McCombs – which student organizations you would like to lead, which concentrations appeal most to you, which MBA+ Project or Lab/Fellowship best complements your career trajectory, etc.
We have complete faith in you on this end, and simply can’t wait for you join us on the other side, where the grass is always… well, burnt orange and beautiful.