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MBA - Application Process

4 Tips to Help You Balance Both Work and MBA Applications

A question that I often get asked by candidates is how to juggle both professional responsibilities and MBA applications, given the demands of both.  Performing well at work is, of course, extremely important.  Moreover, there is no doubt that crafting strong MBA applications requires a lot of time – studying for the GMAT/GRE, developing your strategy and story, and writing your essays are just a few of the steps in the process.

So how can you manage to do it all successfully?

Below are four tips that will help you handle your work obligations as well as enable you to put together compelling MBA applications.

Use a calendar to schedule what needs to be done

While you may have a sense of what needs to be done at work and with your MBA applications, using a calendar to block off time for different tasks will help you immensely and ensure that you are able to systematically accomplish your goals.

For example, mentally telling yourself that you will study for the GMAT/GRE on the weekends does not necessarily mean that it will translate into productive study time (and in fact, such a broad goal may actually overwhelm you).  Instead, block off specific times on the weekend when you plan to study – this will help you to be more focused and to utilize your time most effectively.

Prioritize tasks that need to be completed

When there is a lot on your plate, it’s very important to prioritize.  With limited time, this means learning to say no if something does not help you to further your goals.  Each day, we are faced with tasks and activities that could be postponed until a later date or perhaps outsourced to someone else.  Think about the top three to four tasks that you need to accomplish for that day and focus on those; having many tasks on your to do list will just cause stress and result in nothing being done well.

Take breaks during the day

Often, candidates run on overdrive to get everything done, but this just results in burn out.  It’s imperative to schedule time to take breaks in order to recharge your batteries; this will help you to approach your tasks refreshed and with a clear mind, which in turn, will help you to be more productive.

This could be as simple as taking a quick walk, having coffee with a friend, or spending time engaged in activities and extracurricular activities that you really enjoy (note that your participation in extracurricular activities is a crucial aspect of the MBA application)!

Get enough sleep and rest

When there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done, the tendency is to find additional time by reducing the number of hours of sleep.  But as we all know, being well rested and getting enough sleep are extremely important with respect to helping us to function optimally.

You may be able to operate on less sleep for a few days but it will eventually catch up to you, leading to tired and unproductive days.  Don’t ignore your physical and mental health throughout this process.

While there is a lot that needs to be accomplished while simultaneously working and applying to business school, with some planning and prioritization of tasks as well as much needed breaks and rest, you will put yourself in the best position to achieve all of your goals.

Shaifali Aggarwal is a graduate of Harvard Business School and the founder of Ivy Groupe, a boutique MBA admissions consulting company.  Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out.  With this approach, Shaifali has successfully helped hundreds of applicants gain admission to top-tier MBA programs.  Because of her deep knowledge of the MBA application process, she has been quoted in U.S. News; she has also been a contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, and The Muse. 

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