Whether you’re a long-suffering member of Thunder Nation, or a recent convert to the magic that is Steph Curry and the 73 game-winning Golden State Warriors, you’ll have found Monday night’s game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals infuriating. Sure, the Warriors moved on to face Cleveland in the NBA Finals, but not before dragging their fans through a maddening first half. What does this have to do with applying to business school? Lots. Even if you’re not an NBA fan, there are lessons in Oklahoma City’s Monday meltdown that you can apply to your MBA applications.
Part of OKC’s failure on Monday was not having an answer for the Warriors’ barrage of three-pointers. Golden State’s prowess from behind the arc should have come as no surprise;, they dominated that space all season long. How do you apply this to your b-school application strategy? By knowing who your competition is, and understanding what each school is looking for and how you fit in.
Take an honest look at your basic stats: GMAT or GRE score, GPA, years of work experience, and professional accomplishments, and determine which schools you match up with, which would be a reach, and which could be used as safety schools. (Psst… Use the School Matcher feature inside your Prep4GMAT app to help.) Where your stats don’t match up, decide whether you can make up for your weaknesses with unique strengths, or whether you’ll need to supplement your experience or raise your test scores. A school’s admitted student stats are not cutoffs, but they’ll give you a good idea of whether you can be a competitive candidate or not. Better to know, and be able to answer to your qualifications, than be taken by surprise or wasting your time.
After taking a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Thunder had two chances to close out the series and send Golden State packing. They failed to do so, despite maintaining long double-digit leads in each game. When OKC faced adversity, their game plan fell apart, and when they tried for heroics, they came up short. MBA applications take time, and need a long-term game plan. When you wait until round deadlines, you run the risk of making avoidable mistakes.
By planning ahead, giving yourself plenty of time to study for the GMAT, write a thoughtful personal statement, and gather the best recommendations, you give yourself control over the process, instead of falling behind and letting creeping deadlines determine the quality of your applications. While this wasn’t an option for the Thunder, wait for the next application round if you can’t submit your very best work. Better to apply in round two or three than to get rejected in round one.
There’s no doubt that OKC had almost all the elements of a perfect team — two of the NBA’s most talented stars, a well-rounded bench, excellent coaching — and they still weren’t able to prevail over Golden State. Worse, they beat themselves. High-level athletic competition is as much mental as it is physical, and MBA applications, not to mention the MBA itself and GMAT prep, is an exercise in mental toughness.
As test prep experts, we frequently hear “I’m just not a good test taker” or “I was terrible at math, I’ll never do well on the GMAT.” The truth is, the GMAT is a skills test, and each skill tested is one you can learn, practice, and perfect. Maintain your confidence and focus throughout your journey, and regardless of any setbacks. Believe in yourself, and trust your plan and process.
If your path to an MBA was a sports team, who would you be? The 1996 Bulls? The pre-Blake Griffin Clippers?