The decision to apply to business school, especially to b-schools in the US is not a simple one. There are multiple factors that you have to consider. The most important one is your motivation. The right reason for applying to b-school simplify the application process, the wrong reason reduce the chances of a successful b-school application round.
While our personal motivation varies, amongst the successful candidates I interview for a slot at a top ten Ivy League MBA program, the common theme is the desire for self improvement. The self improvement drive is closely linked to another personal attribute. Self Awareness! Staying away from philosophy, my definition of self awareness describes a candidate whose self image is defined by his own personal and professional experiences. He doesn’t need the world to tell him what he needs to do with his life, he is already aware of it. His decisions are driven by his personal self assessment and while he may take your input into consideration, the final call is his own call.
This has interesting implications for your b-school application. For one it suggests that great candidates do not decide in March that they will take the GMAT in August, get their recommendations in September, write the b-school application essay in October send in their applications in November just in time for the early application deadlines for US business schools. Great candidates have been constantly thinking about self improvements and the next big step in their life and careers. While there are exceptions, most admitted and accepted business school applicants I have worked with have been thinking about going to business school for multiple years. And their desire to apply to b-school is not linked with a desire to switch careers (from consulting to banking, or from banking to consulting), but a deeper sense of achieving their personal potential. Business school is part of their grand plan to rule the world.
In one sense these self aware/self improvement driven candidates already have an unbeatable edge over the other candidates in the b-school applicant pool. The reason why they are self aware is because they have already made interesting personal and professional choices. Choices that have created interesting experiences and interesting lives. They don’t have to make an effort to engage the b-school admissions teams, the b-school interviewer or even their b-school classmates after acceptances. We are already interested in them because of the paths they have walked and the decisions they have made.
So if your grand plan it rule the world and a step in that plan is an MBA from a top ten Ivy League program, here is my sincere advice. Star early and lead an interesting life. It will make things so much easier for you when you sit down and write that business school essay.