Few investments in your life will have the same potential payoff as the investment you make in your education. Investing in a graduate degree now while you’re young will pay off in the form of higher earnings over the course of your long career. But what if I told you there was another investment of time and energy for you to make now that also has a big payoff: the GMAT exam.
Taking the time now, as an undergraduate, to prepare for and take the GMAT exam and putting a great score in your pocket has a potentially huge payoff later in the form of gaining an admit to a premier graduate business school.
Of course, if you plan to pursue one of the many pre-experience business master’s program types—like Master in Management, Master of Business Analytics, Master of Finance, or Master of Accounting—taking the GMAT as an undergrad is a much more obvious choice because you’ll be jumping directly into business school after completing your bachelor’s degree.
But what if you plan to pursue a full-time MBA program, which typically require applicants have a few years’ professional experience before beginning? The choice to test now may seem less obvious to you. Why test now when I won’t be applying for a couple of years?
Why take the GMAT as an undergrad?
Taking the GMAT as an undergrad has a number of advantages that can set you up for success. Here are five factors to keep in mind as you make your testing and business school plans.
1. Test now while you’re sharp—and while you have the time to prep
Exams are tough enough in college. It’ll only get more difficult once you’ve graduated and your hard-earned math and verbal skills get rusty. What’s more, your mind is a lot more elastic now as a student than it will be in the future. You’re in peak learning mode now as an undergrad, and gaining a grasp of key GMAT concepts will be easier for you now versus later.
“Students who take the GMAT while in college don’t have a whole of inertia while learning GMAT concepts,” says says Rajat Sadana, co-founder of e-GMAT. “…a lot of students aiming for a high score can do so more easily.”
And while you may feel busy now as an undergrad, once you get into the working world, your time will be even more limited. Part of the advantage of taking the GMAT as an undergrad is that it’s much easier to fit GMAT prep into your schedule now versus once you’re clocking full-time job hours.
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“In my experience, most college students can easily put in 30 hours preparing for the GMAT. Compare this to working professionals, who struggle to put in 20 hours while studying for the GMAT every week,” says e-GMAT’s Rajat. “This difference in time investment could be the difference between getting an admit to a top 10 schools versus getting one to a top 30 school.”
2. After you graduate, you can focus on building your admissions profile
The GMAT exam is just one aspect of the holistic admissions review. When applying to MBA and business master’s programs, admissions committees take into account your complete application, which will include your resume, essays, letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, and likely admissions interviews as well.
“To receive an admit from a top school, you need a solid profile and a really good GMAT score,” says e-GMAT’s Rajat. “If you’re done with your GMAT while in college, you can focus on building that profile and demonstrating those leadership skills schools are looking for.”
With your best GMAT score in hand, after you graduate with your bachelor’s degree you can focus your time and energy on building a great admissions profile without the burden of reserving time for GMAT prep. For example, maybe you’ll have time to devote to a volunteer organization that will round out your resume and demonstrate to the admissions committee your passion for helping others.
3. Banking your score now gives you maximum flexibility
Not sure where or when you want to apply? Your score is good for five years—you have plenty of time to decide. Your score will be ready when you are.
Keeping your options open and your plans flexible can be highly valuable to you early in your career. You never know when life is going to throw a great opportunity your way, and keeping your plans flexible is the best way to be reactive to opportunities when they present themselves.
For example, if a great new opportunity presents itself at work that would otherwise disrupt your business school timeline, having that GMAT score already taken care of and in your pocket means you have the flexibility to take that opportunity and elect to apply in a later admissions cycle.
4. Take advantage of on-campus resources
You’re on campus—where else do you have access to professors, study groups, test prep sessions, and recent test takers who can give you the inside scoop?
In addition to your mind be primed to learn at this moment in your life, you have access to a tremendous amount of resources right now as an undergrad—resources that will largely go away when you graduate and are on your own in the working world.
Testing now as an undergrad means being able to take advantage of those resources, and that could mean the difference between earning your best score and compromising on a score you know you could do better than.
5. A GMAT score shows that you mean business
One of the best parts about taking the GMAT exam is that it demonstrates your commitment to business schools. Prepping for and taking the GMAT shoes schools that you're serious about a business career and aren’t weighing other graduate school options. Your GMAT score showcases you and proves your mastery of the skills that are most relevant in any business classroom or career, including logic, problem solving, data sufficiency, and critical reasoning.
What’s more, employers value it, too. Recruiters from top investment banking and management consulting firms consider GMAT scores during their hiring process.
Are you ready to get started?
There are several free Official GMAT Prep resources from the makers of the GMAT exam that are the perfect way to get introduced to the test.
You can take the GMAT™ Mini Quiz for an instant estimated score range and then download the free 8-week Study Planner to be your guide as you begin your prep. Use the Free Starter Kit + Practice Exams 1 & 2 to establish a time and score baseline and pinpoint your weak areas to maximize the return on investment of your prep time.