Nov 20, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Applying to business school is as competitive as ever. While you may have the grades and the experience, you also need the presentation. Top-up your game and make yourself a shoe-in. Take a look at these four trends in the application process and get going.

1. Video Presentations

Your personality matters—students who are serious about going to business school need to show and business schools need to see it before they let you in.

In September, the Financial Times reported that videos can make or break a student’s application. Minh Huy Lai, managing director for Insead’s MBA program said, “With videos, we detect the level of English, body language, confidence and public speaking skills.”

Mr. Lai added, “With videos there is no cheating” because candidates must answer questions directly.

Toronto’s Rotman school also introduced video question in 2012. Niki da Silva, managing director for the full-time MBA program said that the videos offer a level of efficiency in the process that was missing before.

Video applications are popular at the Yale School of Management, too. Winning videos are “articulate, authentic, and insightful.” Yale’s director of admissions, Laurel Grodman said, “If a candidate sheds more light on their essay, that can also help them.”

At Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management also uses videos as part of their screening process. Kate Smith, Kellogg’s assistant dean for admissions said, “Communicating effectively via video is crucial.”

Your takeaway? Watch some application videos. Then make one. Knock it out of the park.

2. Fewer, more focused questions

Pay attention: while there are no longer pages of essay questions, many business schools are asking tougher questions—and sometimes only one.

Harvard Business School is one example. Chicago Booth has taken it a step further and abandoned the traditional essay questions for an alternative format.

Pros of the single essay question? If you’re applying to multiple places—and you should—writing one essay per school saves some work for you. It’s also your opportunity to shine.

Cons? It also means that you have to write original essays for each application. Most schools ask different questions. You can’t recycle your essays—and now with fewer application questions, you really have only one shot.

Make it count.

3. Early applications

To optimize your chances, you need to apply in the earliest rounds. What does this mean? You need to make a schedule and stick to it. Before you apply, get your GMAT score where you want it, tighten your essays, and get that video application wrapped up.

Look at the dates for the earliest rounds of the application—and work backwards. Figure out how much time you need to get your materials ship-shape.

Being an early applicant also shows that you are serious and spent time planning. Since business requires that you are serious and can plan, applying early puts you in good stead.

If you’re a strong applicant applying to a second-tier school, applying in the first round could put you as a top choice and result in a scholarship.

Bottom line? The earlier the better. If that means putting off your application for a year, you may want to come up with an alternate plan.

4. Climbing GMAT scores

If you want to compete in the business school application process, you need to do your homework. Kaplan recently reported that GMAT scores at top MBA programs are on the rise.

What does this mean? It means that you need to be on your game on test day.

You should spend a minimum of two to three month preparing for the GMAT. Top scorers spend at least 120 ours studying and reviewing material.

You also need to make a careful list of places you want to apply. This means researching online, visiting campuses, and talking with students and alumni.

Follow all the rules for deadlines. Get your GMAT score up to par, show interest, and apply early.

With hard work, preparation, and a sense of what to expect, you will get into business school.

Your takeaway? Business school is more competitive now than ever. If you want it, you have to work for it.

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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