Dear Mentor:

What should I do to prepare for the MBA?

I currently have a BS in Corporate Finance and I am ready to pursue an MBA in the US. The only problem is that it is too late to gain admittance in the Fall. I have not found a top 25 school that will accept graduate applications for Spring admission. I would love to know what I could do to prepare myself for an MBA program between now and next fall. Are there Post-Baccalaureate programs or Pre-MBA programs or anything along those lines?

Getting Ready for MBA, USA

Dear Getting Ready for MBA:

Well, you are not too far off to start applying for the Fall 2002 MBA session. As you may know, the admissions process starts almost a year prior to the start of classes. This is particularly true for the top-tier MBA schools. As the Fall 2001 academic session begins, the admission cycle for the Fall 2002 will start as well. The cutoff for early admission is in fact mid-October to early November. Early admission simply means that the school promises to let you know of its decision by no later than the start of next calendar year. The final deadline for applying for admission is usually in March.

The first part of the MBA academic program at top-tier MBA schools is highly structured. You will be expected to complete basic core requirements in a tightly packed and rapidly paced sequence. Such course offering are available in the Fall session only, and not in the Winter session. Thus the requirement for starting in the Fall, as you have already found out.

We are not aware of any Pre-MBA or such programs. First, you should take the GMAT (Graduate Management Aptitude Test, a standardized entrance exam), if you have not already done so. The GMAT is typically required by most good schools and also by many not-so-good schools. Other than taking the GMAT, it really depends on your basic goal of what you want to accomplish before starting the MBA program. If you are thinking along the lines of doing some courses now so that you would be able to complete your MBA sooner, you are not likely to succeed. Most MBA schools, particularly the top-tier MBA schools, have a strict residency requirement (meaning: minimum number of credits you must complete) to obtain the MBA degree. Even if a school determines that you have already done an equivalent course elsewhere, you would be exempted from taking such a course in your MBA program, but you would have to replace the credits by taking another course.

If you want to take some courses now to have a leg up when you start, such an advantage, if any, is likely to vanish very quickly. We do however believe that learning is always good. Taking some courses in accounting, marketing, or statistics, if you do not already have a background in these areas, would facilitate your transition into these topics in the MBA program. Some schools in fact send you a workbook for financial accounting. You are expected to acquire the basics on your own during the summer and you are tested on your knowledge in the first week of classes. A subject like financial accounting would be a good one to take for someone who does not having accounting background, for example; but it is not necessary.

You can obviously take up employment, or continue your current employment.

We would encourage you to spend a considerable amount of quality time for completing your applications, particularly the personal essays part.

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