What To Do the Year Before You Apply for an MBA

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
— Abraham Lincoln

Say you're someone who knows they want an MBA but are not yet ready to apply. You might be a junior with a year to go before you're eligible for Harvard's 2+2 Program, Stanford's Deferred Enrollment, or Yale's Silver Scholars Program. You may have recently started on a new career and feel that you have not yet built up the work experience or credibility with potential recommenders to be successful in the regular application cycle. Older classmates and colleagues are sending in their applications and you may feel nervous sitting on the sidelines. Should you panic?

No. The only thing you need to do is recognize that the year ahead of you is a golden opportunity, which you can use to dramatically increase your chances of admission.

Even if you already have great GMAT / GRE scores in hand, the year ahead of you is your chance to "sharpen the axe" of your resume before you use it to chop through the MBA application. From navigating your career so that it will be in the best possible position right before Round 1 deadlines, to amping up community involvements that will resonate with your narrative and stand-out to admissions committees, to choosing your ideal recommenders and planning out how you can best shine in front of them, there is a lot you can do. We've thought a lot about this ourselves and have crammed all the best services to help a candidate boost their admissions odds in the year before they apply into a package that we call the Early Bird. Through that package, we seek to accomplish four major goals:

  1. Achieve clarity and confidence on your career and personal goals
  2. Discover your authentic personal narrative, and which moves you can make to bolster it
  3. Determine what your resume needs to say when you apply, and work backwards to achieve it
  4. Identify which "portable achievements" are within your grasp, and how to obtain them
  5. Obtain the best recommendation letters by determining who in your orbit could be best positioned to write them, and how win them over
  6. Get personalized coaching and mentorship over the course of the year.

There are many ways to do that. I've included the game plan we use in the Early Bird below, which also comes with 10% off any future purchases of our already lowest-priced Complete School packages, making it quite the valuable investment.




STEP 1: Vision Exercise

We start with one of the most popular career-visioning exercises at HBS and Stanford GSB. You complete two fun, creative tasks designed to illuminate the hidden themes and dynamic tensions in your personal and professional life. The results of these exercises will help clarify pre-MBA career options worth pursuing and will help us understand how to best advise you.

STEP 2: Introduction & School Selection

We then discuss your background, goals for business school, and career aspirations. We offer our insights on what early careers in each field would feel like, and how they would eventually lead to business school. We then suggest a list of MBA programs for you to target, and back into the milestones you would need to achieve in your early career to be competitive at each.



Pre-Application Game Plan

Are you thinking of applying to business school in a few years? We can help you use that valuable time to significantly improve your candidacy and raise your chances of admission.

This service starts with us getting to know you and understanding your motivations for seeking an MBA. We then help you determine which programs would offer the best fit, where you need to be in your career and community activities to get admitted to those programs, and then work backwards to develop a game-plan for getting you there. We also run you through our personal narrative boot camp, helping you build a compelling story to tell schools and future employers. After our initial touch point, we keep in touch throughout the year to answer any questions and make sure you are on track.

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STEP 1: Narrative Exercises

We send you a series of exercises based on the Harvard Kennedy School's latest research on personal narrative, political campaigning, and public speaking. These forms are designed to tease out the inspirations and motivations that will make for a compelling personal narrative and, and link them to your future aspirations.

STEP 2: Review and Ideation

We then take your completed exercises and existing resume, and construct a few possible narrative story arcs that we believe will tell your authentic story in the most compelling way. This is a highly personal and creative process. Each narrative is work-shopped one at a time, and is not the cookie-cutter result of some computer read-out. This gives you the confidence of knowing that your narrative will be totally original.

STEP 3: Instruction and Coaching

Over the phone, we walk you through our materials on personal narrative and political campaigning. Through this instruction, you will understand what separates a good narrative from a great one, as well as the psychology of how the admissions directors will read and interpret your application. We then apply these learnings to your particular business school application and future career aspirations, taking your questions along the way.

STEP 4: Narrative Selection and Honing

Together we create 2-3 compelling personal narratives for your unique application. We run through their relative merits, why each is compelling, how each will be interpreted by the admissions committee. We workshop the narratives together over the phone until we decide on the one that is the most compelling and authentic for your application.



STEP 1: Employment Gameplan

We discuss career-enhancing moves and the way in which can weave your new compelling and authentic personal narrative into the applications for achieving them. By working this way, you will ensure you are walking down the most compelling and purposeful professional path before you send out a single job application, minimizing the amount of time wasted in the application process.

STEP 2: Resume Overhaul

We then use your new narrative to overhaul your resume. Where possible, we provide school templates for you to use to emphasize your commitment to your dream school. After initial formatting corrections, we suggest strategic edits that will enhance your ability to showcase your narrative in the most persuasive way. 




STEP 1: Regular Check-ins

We schedule three follow-up calls in the next year to check-in, make sure that you’re on the right track, answer any questions, and offer advice for any issues in your career that may arise. 

STEP 2: Constant Contact

You will retain email access to both Nate and Anna for one year to ask quick questions related to the topics discussed in Early Bird.

STEP 3: Future Savings

When you're ready to apply to business school, we will take 10% off our already best-in-class prices for any future purchases of Packages.