The essence of strategy is two-fold: (1) you look forward in your life to determine what you want, then (2) you reason backwards to determine what steps you need to take to get there.
So far we've determined you want a Top 15 MBA. Now we need to reason backwards.
Top 15 MBA programs accept 10-20% of applicants and reject 80-90%. Although people bitch about being a first year MBA student, the simple reality is that once you are accepted, you are 98% likely to graduate. So remember: your #1 obstacle to earning a Top 15 MBA is simply being admitted. Chart 3.
Given that, how do MBA admissions officers decide whom to accept and whom to deny?
Chart 4. As you can see, 1/3 of MBA admissions criteria are your work experience and academic record, which are quite tangible on your resume and transcript. If you are applying soon, you have little or no opportunity to improve how admissions officers will evaluate your tangibles.
Another 1/3 of MBA admissions criteria are your essays, references, and interview - the intangible criteria that make admissions officers' jobs interesting. Your intangibles should tell your story and communicate who you are, what you want, why you want it, and how you intend to get it.
The remaining 1/3 is the GMAT-CAT. Whether you apply from India or Indiana, China or California, the GMAT provides the only directly comparable, recent, and impartial assessment of your analytical ability. Top 15 MBA programs average 700+ on the GMAT. This 90th to 99th percentile GMAT standard is the most demanding MBA admissions criterion. For example, a 90th to 99th percentile grades standard would require a 3.8 or better GPA - a standard that no business school enforces.
At the UCLA Diversity Conference, the Director of Admissions said, "Don't even bother to apply if you haven't scored 650 on the GMAT" and "Don't even bother to apply for a fellowship if you haven't scored 700." And that "at least 650, preferably 700" threshold is only for women and American minorities (Black, Hispanic, Native American). The "at least 700, preferably 750" threshold is for everyone else. Top 15 MBA programs average 700-710 because women/minorities average 680 and men average 730.
Here is how Top 15 MBA typically use GMAT scores: Chart 5.