By Veronika Kuchinskiy, MBA2023
The MBA application to any top business school such as LBS and the GMAT/GRE can be a daunting experience for anyone, but if you have kids to look after it can seem like an impossible task. I know the feeling; I have been there around a year ago. I started preparing for the GMAT in March 2020 targeting to submit my application in round 1 in August 2020. However, Covid-19 hit and the pandemic forced me to work from home without childcare for my 2-year-old toddler for three months. Naturally, this situation left little time for studying for the GMAT and having sat the exam one week before giving birth to my second child in August, I did not achieve my desired score. I had to continue studying for the GMAT (and later the GRE) with a toddler and a newborn baby. Eventually I did achieve a decent score and managed to put forward my best application. Fast forward to autumn 2021, I am studying the MBA programme at my number one school choice – LBS! It has been a very difficult process, but the rewards are worth it. Having gone through this experience I hope to be of help to any mothers or mothers-to-be who are thinking of applying for an MBA programme, but don’t think they can do it. Yes, you can! Here are my top eight tips for the application process:
- Start studying for the GMAT/GRE more in advance than other applicants – this is common advice that is applicable to any candidate, but having a child means unexpected situations are more likely to occur. Your child could get ill, you have to go through school assessments, you have a demanding work project, or a pandemic could hit and you end up without childcare for months! Be prepared for the unexpected and control what you can, which is the amount of time you have to study for the exam. Choose a date when you would like to submit your MBA application and work backwards. Some people only need a couple of months, but many others might need a year to get the desired score. And those are often people without kids! Looking backwards, I would have started studying for the GMAT/GRE a year before my application submission to ensure I factor in unexpected breaks in study times.
- Consider taking the GRE instead of the GMAT – this was a golden discovery for me. I was struggling with the GMAT as I was unable to focus on long reading comprehension passages due to sleep deprivation after giving birth. No matter how hard I studied and how confident I was, my physical state on the exam days was terrible. Non-parent applicants talk about “getting a good night sleep, eating healthy etc.”. I was happy if I slept more than 3 hours in a row before the exam and had a chance to take a shower and eat something at all. Eventually, I realised I will not improve my GMAT score until my newborn baby gets older and starts sleeping better. This is when I started looking into the GRE. A lot of the concepts overlap so I was able to pick up the quant and some verbal parts very quickly. The main work was preparing for the vocabulary part of the verbal section. The structure of the GRE exam worked much better for me, and it might for you too. Take a diagnostic GMAT and GRE exam before deciding which one you want to prepare for. Often, universities don’t have an official minimum GRE score they require. Use the online tool for GMAT to GRE point conversion to understand your score. However, it is worth noting that some industries such as consulting might require you to have a GMAT score, best to research that before deciding which exam you want to take.
- Take the GMAT/GRE before giving birth – You might think that before giving birth you have less time with all the preparing for the birth, and the postpartum period, whilst having to wrap of work projects and prepare for maternity leave. Going from working long hours to the prospect of maternity leave where you can be at home and “just” take care of a baby (or two) might seem easy, but it’s not. The postpartum physical toll and lack of longer stretches of free time make it hard to study. Babies often sleep in short 40 minute cycles in the beginning and that doesn’t allow much time to sit and write a mock exam. It will likely be much easier to get the GMAT/GRE out of the way before a new baby arrives.
- Get all the help you can – the GMAT/GRE preparation and the application process require a lot of time. If you are working and have a child, you need to make sure you have the right support system in place that will free up your time for you to put your best application forward. I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive husband who was taking on the bulk of childcare whilst I was studying for the GMAT/GRE exams and preparing my application. Make sure you have the right set up, whether it’s support from your family or professional childcare support.
- Consider getting an MBA consultant – time is extremely scarce when you are a mum, and you want to make sure you use yours as effectively as possible. An MBA consultant can help you and improve and your application in a much faster time frame than you would be able to do on your own. Instead of rewriting my essay and answers to questions many times, I had a fantastic consultant who helped me prepare my best application in a short time. My consultant also helped me with the interview prep which was invaluable. Whether or not this is a viable option for you, do seek support from the Recruitment & Admissions Team and Student Ambassadors, they are also there to help you!
- Demonstrate motherhood as a strength in your application – Don’t hide the fact that you have little ones to take of, rather explain how much you have achieved in your career whilst having children. Be proud of everything you have learned in motherhood and demonstrate how you have applied this in your professional life. Likewise, elaborate in your essay what your experience as a mother can bring to the MBA programme.
- Consider applying in a later round – as mentioned before, having children means you get thrown unexpected situations at you. If you don’t manage to apply during your target round, don’t give up hope. Many top MBA programmes accept outstanding applicants in later rounds. I initially targeted round 1 in LBS, but only applied in round 3. I could have applied sooner, but that would not have been my best application. I listened to LBS’ advice and only submitted my application once I knew it was the best version.
- Demonstrate in your application how you will manage the MBA with a child – the MBA programme is very demanding and you will be pulled in various directions academically, socially and career wise. The GMAT/GRE tests in a way if you keep up with the quant and verbal pace of the programme. However, as a mother you will have many additional responsibilities should you be offered a place on an MBA programme. Your chances of receiving an offer will be higher if you can demonstrate that you have researched your chosen university, spoken to existing MBA mums, understand and visualise how you will manage the programme with your family responsibilities. You need to be confident that you have all the support and childcare in place that you need in order to succeed on the programme.
This blog post focused in particular on mothers and mothers-to-be. Fathers and expectant fathers have their own challenges, which are not less difficult than those of mothers’ but can differ from those of a mother in some families. Some of the above tips apply to fathers as well, for example taking the GMAT/GRE before the birth of a child.
If you are a mother or expectant mother and are thinking of applying to LBS, please feel free to reach out to me to discuss any further questions about LBS and the MBA programme in more detail.
Good luck with your application!