This article is sponsored by Personal MBA Coach. With summer coming to an end and round 2 deadlines falling in January for most schools, it is easy for round 2 hopefuls to put their MBA applications on the back burner. However, Personal MBA Coach advises that all round two applicants get started today. Even if you are not ready to start drafting your application essays, here are five steps you should begin taking now! Think about your personal story. We devote the first part of each engagement with candidates crafting a winning personal story. This is the most important part of the application and it can also be the hardest. I advise my candidates to start this process months, if not years, in advance! The good news? Everyone has a personal story. So, what should you include in your personal story? This will differ for every candidate but across the board I can tell you, not everything! No one wants to read 1,000+ words with a chronological flow of your life. Instead, you must be focused, logical and unique. This is also not the time to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. In fact, authenticity was a key theme discussed by admissions representatives at this year’s GMAC conference. Instead, think about what is most important to you, what drove your career and personal decisions and what connects these all together. No candidate is perfect; instead, we chart the best course we can with the hand we were dealt, and the best essays show this. Fine tune and articulate your career goals. Most business school applications will ask you to think about your career goals. This is a very important question. Admissions directors want to know how you will make the business world better when you leave their campuses and they want to know what your unique mark will be. The best career essay will do two things: Connect your past career to your future goals. Whether you plan to take your career in a completely different direction, make a small career pivot or return to the same company post-MBA, it is important to connect your past to your future. Include career goals that are focused and attainable. Your career essay should generally include both a short-term and long-term goal (though of course pay attention to each specific question’s wording) and these goals should be specific. No one is going to hold you to what you put in your essay, but it is important to think through and convey your plan. Your goals should also be attainable. Do not expect to become the CMO one year after business school. Look at sample job postings in your target companies and the required experience to determine what might be feasible for you. Finalize your school choice and schedule campus visits. Research the programs that best fit with your long-term goals and ideal learning environments. Pay careful attention to each school’s culture and the industries where its graduates are most often placed. Make sure that you have some “reach” schools, some “more likely” schools and some “safer” schools, especially if you want to ensure you get in this time around. My average candidate applies to 5 schools and it is important that you have a well-rounded list. Next, schedule campus visits! If it is realistic based on your location and work schedule, you should try to visit the campus before applying. There is no better way to get to know a school, and for many schools, admissions committee members want to see that you are truly interested in their programs. Whether you visit or not, look for current students or alumni in your immediate or extended networks and take the time to talk to them now! Learn about their experiences, what sets their programs apart, etc. Select and prepare your recommenders. Selecting the right recommenders is a very important part of the application process. It can be tempting to select the person with the most prestigious resume or the person easiest to discuss your business school plans with. I encourage you instead to carefully weigh your options and choose recommenders who know you best, can write great letters and can compare you to other applicants. Once you have selected the right person, you also have to prepare them carefully. We often hear of candidates who ask someone to write the letter, ensure it gets submitted and call it a day. This can be a big mistake! Your role in the LOR process should be much more involved than this. Customize your resume. A business school resume differs from a professional one. These resumes accomplish two different goals. For a professional resume, you want to show potential employers that you have the specific skills and experiences they are looking for. You are selling your ability to do the job. For an MBA resume, on the other hand, you want to show how you have been successful and demonstrated leadership. You are selling your future potential. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, Personal MBA Coach regularly helps applicants navigate their applications each year. Our comprehensive support includes mock interviews with a team of former M7 interviewers and customized GMAT/GRE tutoring with tutors who scored in the 99th percentile. Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for over 11 years with a 96% success rate.