The MBA App Process
Most of the mba-related bloggers are going to post one of these reflective posts wherein we look back and think about what we would have done differently.
1) Know what you want to do
Most candidates know that they want to change careers or they want to make more money. For career changers like me, this part is easy. If you're one of those who just wants to enhance your career by getting an MBA, I hope you have a BS in BS because you're going to need to BS your way through essays and interviews.
Remember your goals and remember that there are smart people and idiots everywhere. My girlfriend's new aparment is owned by an entreprenuer who has one of the most successful restaurants in our entire metro area. He came here from Detroit to start it when he was 20. He's got 125 employees now. Not bad for a pizza place. If you met him and first learned that he didn't go to college you might perhaps think he's a dumb guy. I would say he was very smart, and already knew what he wanted to do. Point #1 outweighs just about everything else in your career. I'll say it again. There are smart people and dumb people everywhere. EVEN AT HARVARD.
2) Don't get caught up in rankings
You might say to me - "Well, you should say that because you're not going to a top 20 school." Some of my evidence for this comes from the story in point #1. Your education might open doors, but it's up to you to actually do something to achieve your definition of success. Where you went to school is not actually that important. Jerry Rice went to Mississippi Valley State university and will retire as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. The CEO of my current business got his MBA from Robert Morris College. The stuff in b-schools is all relatively the same - some schools just focus on one thing or the other.
3) Start studying early and relaxed for the GMAT
Unfortunately it IS important to do well on the GMAT to ensure that you'll get in. You might even qualify for scholarships or assistantships if you do really well. I had a 3.71 in Electrical Engineering and a 660 GMAT, and, trust me, schools focus more on the GMAT than on the undergrad GPA. I got very little in the way of merit-based financial aid. DO NOT CRAM FOR THE GMAT. Most people who did really well (700+) did not cram. I did and my score reflected it.
As for books, use the Official GMAT Guide, a stopwatch, and an error log exclusively. It's all you need.
4) Research your schools
Based on point #1, this should be easy. You'll know what you're looking for and you'll know not to worry too much about rankings. Go where you feel you'll have the best opporutnities.
5) Start your apps early
Write your essays, have your fairly intelligent friends proofread them, walk away for a few days, and then come back to them and revise. Then repeat the process until you are comfortable with what you wrote. I wouldn't suggest paying a service to look at your essays unless you like the idea of tossing 50 bucks in the toilet and flushing (unless you have absolutely no confidence in your writing ability and there's no friends or family you can turn to for help).
In short, know what you want to do. Then, start early - if you do not, your personal life will take a huge hit during the b-school app process.