As an intern, you’ll certainly want to prove yourself. Keeping your nose to the proverbial grindstone may be one way to show everyone what you can do. But coming up for air to look around and learn about the kinds of positions you’d love to have in the future is just as important. Whose job would you like to have one day? Find out what it takes to get there. Look at the job postings for similar positions and see what’s required. In business, you’ll be surprised to see how many job descriptions say, “MBA strongly preferred” or “MBA required”.
If an MBA is necessary for your dream career, then setting yourself up to jump that hurdle as easily as possible will be a great advantage. Over the past few years, getting an MBA, especially from a top business school, has evolved into a more challenging game. In particular, the GMAT exam, which is required by many business schools, has become more competitive. And the competition has become more international. Every year since 2009, more people have taken the GMAT outside the U.S. than inside, and the number of people taking the exam in countries such as China, India, and Russia grows rapidly. At the same time, average GMAT scores at many business schools have inched up, another sign that the bar has been raised.
A visit to any online GMAT forum reveals that aspiring business school students often study intensively for three to six months, and in many cases, for a year or more. Along the way, they frequently study stacks of books, complete several practice exams, and take the real exam multiple times. Fortunately, for most business schools, only your highest score matters.
So if your vision for the future includes an MBA, you’ll maximize your chances of attending the best business school possible by not only getting good grades in college and building solid professional experiences, but also investing the time to achieve your highest possible GMAT score. For planning purposes, also consider that many business schools have multiple application rounds. In general, it is most advantageous to apply in the first round, which usually has deadlines in early October. Second round, typically with deadlines in the first week of January, is not a bad fallback. Later rounds (after the second), however, can be significantly more competitive. Ideally, you’ll want to finish the GMAT early enough to have ample time (2+ months) to craft well-polished, customized applications that explain how your background + MBA = your high-paying dream career.