Amazingly, a third of 2010 is in the books and we barrel towards May … a month that often represents a clear distinction between the MBA candidates who will prevail in the fall and those who will come up short when they apply to their programs of choice. The candidates who set their dreams in motion now stand a much better chance than someone who “waits for the applications to come out.”
Playing it cool is not a recommended strategy when pursuing admission to a top-10 MBA program. Instead, passion and persistence should be hallmarks of your summer, as you take advantage of every chance to learn more, develop your story, and build your overall application package. For inspiration, we look – as we so often do – to the world of hip-hop (remember, we are the same company that celebrated “Hip-Hop Month” in March), where laid-back, above-it-all cool has been replaced by earnest hunger in the lyrics of rising rap stars.
On Tuesday, Atlantic Records released a highly anticipated album from the artist B.o.B. titled “The Adventures of Bobby Ray.” As the memoir-ish title would suggest, it is a record heavy on personal tales and self-reflection (also, it is fantastic, but that’s not really the point). Gone is the typical swagger and bombast of a breakout hip-hop star and instead, we get a collection of songs about taking chances, dreaming big, and pursuing a lifelong goal. This, a year after fellow breakout star Kid Cudi bared his soul on “Man in the Moon.” Whether it is a new guard, a sign of the times, or just the works of a couple of mature-beyond-their-years artists, there is no denying that living your dream is the new mantra of hip-hop.
In fact, the most inspiring lyrics on the entire album come from Eminem – a rapper who made his millions being angry at the world. On “Airplanes, Part II,” Eminem tells a story about never giving up, never sitting around, never losing momentum, never procrastinating. He talks about his broken family, the people who doubted him (“it makes no sense to play the game, there’s no way that you’ll win”), not having any friends, and even failing at a school talent show. Most importantly, he talks about never losing sight of his dream and pursuing it relentlessly with passion.
This whole sentiment is timely, given that it is the season of graduations and commencement addresses (did you see that Obama’s commencement address will be carried live on the Big 10 Network?), but more than that, it also serves as an important reminder for applicants: if your dream is to gain admission to an elite MBA program this fall, you have to start chasing that dream now. There will be myriad distractions: work, travel, interpersonal drama, the GMAT, and general sluggishness, to name a few. The key is to push through the distractions and start focusing, because May is the calendar’s equivalent to a starter’s pistol. The race is on.
Things to do in May when you are applying to MBA programs
May is a huge month for applicants. For starters, this represents the best (and in some cases, last) chance to visit campuses before a round one application deadline. Students are usually in good spirits and very willing to talk this time of year and exploring campuses late in the spring is a great way to define a school search heading into the summer (when visiting is fruitless, because campuses are empty). Furthermore, this is the time to start assessing strengths and weaknesses in your candidacy, while you still have time to address them. Six months from Round One, you still have time to showcase leadership and teamwork, to start a volunteer activity, to take a summer class, or even to pursue a credential like the CPA, CFA, or CABM.
Not only that, but (and this is going to sound crazy) your preparation for MBA interviews starts now. The goal over the next half of a year is to refine your own personal sales pitch to the point where you can deliver a one-minute version or a one-hour version, depending on the audience. You will be able to splice it up to answer different questions, figure out ways to bring up certain points yourself, and generally know how to get the whole message out in front of any interviewer. Such a sales pitch is made up the answers to four questions: (1) why do you want an MBA? (2) why now? (3) why this school? (4) why should you be admitted over another qualified applicant? At some point, you are going to have to artfully answer (in so many words) those questions. So start practicing now! Every time someone asks you why you are pursuing an MBA, take advantage and work on your sales pitch. It will be easy to play it cool and make a joke or a passing comment, but that does you no good. That choice is part of a bygone era, where rappers and MBA applicants alike could afford to stay aloof and still achieve success. Now? The hungry win. Survival of the fittest rules the day.
Hopefully, this blog post will do two things for you today. First, it will guide you toward some terrific music. Second, and most importantly, it will light a fire under you to start working on your goal now – to start living your dream earnestly and passionately, with no room for procrastination and no scorecard for cool points.
It’s almost May. It’s time to set your dreams in motion.
(P.S. Sorry, President Obama. I’m pretty sure B.o.B., Eminem, and I just stepped on your speech.)