Managing Deadlines

Business schools desire to see many key traits in their applicants: Leadership, teamwork, solid work experience, good grades.  One often overlooked but very important skill for b-school is time management.  Are you using this skill now to manage your application deadlines?

If you’re a savvy business school applicant, you are applying to multiple schools.  The more competitive the target school, the more schools you need to add to the mix.  You’ve likely been coached to choose a diversified basket of schools ranging from aspirational schools to safety schools, to those in-between.  With all these schools in the mix, you are likely to face different due dates for each and every one.

The first thing to do once you choose your schools is to make a calendar of application due dates.

Of course the actual due date is not the only deadline you will face in this process, but it’s the most important one, since missing it will force you into a subsequent round.  While it’s generally considered good advice to defer an application versus submitting one that is not ready, if you can hit your targeted deadlines within your desired rounds, it’s obviously ideal. 

While it may seem logical to attack the school with the earliest deadline first, that may not be the right approach. 

Some applicants like to attack their dream school first, no matter what the deadline, so they can end up working on it the most, and begin while they are still fresh.  Other applicants like to cut their teeth on a safety school or two, under the theory that their story will become more refined after a couple of applications.  Whatever your strategic approach to the batting order becomes, you must realize that it’s not just the application deadline that you must focus on.

Besides the final submission date, the most important timeline to manage is your recommendations.  

These are the only parts of your application that are essentially out of your control, so start early and give your chosen recommenders plenty of buffer before things come due.  Start a chart on your calendar and set follow up dates for yourself to double check that your recommenders have completed their tasks.  To this same chart, you can also begin to fill in other deadlines.

I have always felt that giving yourself artificial deadlines is helpful when managing any project to successful completion. 

If you’re writing a personal statement, give yourself a goal by which you want to be finished. Do the same for essays, fetching your transcripts, and visiting schools.  By loading your calendar with deadlines, you can stay organized and prevent things from stacking up on you.  If you let yourself get behind, you can become overwhelmed and end up dropping schools from  your list, thus decreasing your potential choices and causing unnecessary stress. 

If you have chosen your consultant, they can guide you as you manage your deadlines and can be very helpful in keeping you on task by asking for deliverables and sending you feedback on a schedule. 

If you manage all your deadlines well, you will have a much smoother application experience than attacking things when the mood strikes you.  While it’s great to respond to inspiration or creative bursts, doing things only when you feel like it is almost always a risky approach, and is not how the business world works, so you better get used to it!

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