I am proud to announce that I have achieved my goal of, “Meet with an adviser at California State University, Fullerton to map out a plan of action for getting into California State University, Fullerton’s MBA program.” Not only did I meet with an adviser, I applied and was accepted to the program!
Achieving this goal took much more time and energy than I expected. Here’s what I learned from my MBA application process and acceptance into CSUF’s program:
1. Research different schools.
Once I knew I wanted to go back to school for an MBA, I had to decide where. Moving wasn’t an option because I need to work full-time, so that narrowed the selection to just Southern California schools. The fact that I was employed meant I also needed a part-time program. Most schools have this option.
I started researching fully-employed or part-time MBA programs at the beginning of this year. First, I asked around for recommendations. The two names that came up were University of California, Irvine and Pepperdine University. I attended an information session for UCI and was about to schedule one with Pepperdine when my friend, Robin, told me that CSUF had a fully-employed MBA (FEMBA) program. Not only was it in Irvine, but it was also a fraction of the other schools’ prices.
Once I went to an information session for CSUF, I learned that they actually had two FEMBA options: one through its Irvine campus and one through its main campus at Fullerton. It was confusing at first, but I sifted through the pros and cons to each campus and decided that the main campus was best for me because it allows you to specialize your MBA degree.
2. Ensure you meet the admission requirements. If you’re lacking in an area, don’t get discouraged. Contact an adviser to find out how you can join the competition.
When I read CSUF’s admission requirements, I felt confident going into my application because I had a high college GPA, solid work experience, and strong application essays and recommendation letters. All that was left was to do at least average on the GMAT. Well, I didn’t. In fact, I did below average on the GMAT.
Rather than sulk, though, I was proactive and immediately contacted the graduate school adviser, Kellee Carter-Scales, to get her advice on what I should do. I was prepared to take the ($250) GMAT again if that’s what it took.
Realize that some cases will require more work than others. The more areas you don’t meet the requirements, the more hoops you’ll have to jump through. Don’t let that discourage you. Use it as a measure of how much you really want to achieve this goal.
3. Study, study, and study some more for the GMAT.
Even though I took a GMAT prep course (which I highly recommend), I had to learn the hard way that I did not study enough for the GMAT. I did some preparation right, but I did a lot wrong. Learn from my mistakes.
4. Have at least three people look over your MBA application essays.
Even writers/journalists (including me) need editors. Try to have friends, family or co-workers from different backgrounds provide feedback on your MBA application essays. For example, I had an accountant, a human resources specialist, and a journalist look at my essays. Each person had different suggestions that made my essays that much stronger.
5. Give your references plenty of advance notice to write your recommendation letters.
It should go without saying that you already have selected excellent sources (current bosses, former bosses, former professors, and other professional contacts) for your recommendation letters. So show them that you’re responsible and thoughtful enough to give them at least two weeks’ notice (a month is better, especially for those who are really busy) to write the letter. After all, they’re doing you a huge favor.
It helps to add in a week of padding too, in case someone needs a little extra time or for cross-country mailing. That will ensure you don’t get stuck waiting on the recommendation letters before you can send off your application packet.
And make sure to send your references thank-you notes! Again, they are doing you a favor, and you couldn’t have done this without their help.
6. Include relevant “bonus” material about you.
Do you have an award, letter, certificate or something else special that highlights a work or education achievement? Include it! For example, I included my resume and an employee recognition award letter.
7. Declined admission? See if you can appeal the decision.
I remember when I applied to Ohio University for my undergraduate degree and I was declined admission into the prestigious E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. I knew I wanted in the journalism program, so I contacted the admissions office, found out what it took to appeal the decision, and followed through on the requirements. It worked – I was admitted.
If I had been declined admission this time, you can bet I would have followed the same approach. If you know you want a certain school for your MBA degree and you don’t get accepted, continue contacting the admissions office or whoever the proper contact is to find out what you need to do until you are accepted.
It’s what being tenacious is all about.
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