I can’t even tell you how many times I THREW AWAY my MBA application essay drafts and started over.

For weeks, I went in circles…getting to a certain point with one essay, then realizing that I had left something important out, or that I didn’t quite know what to say for that one tricky question… It was stressful. And frustrating. After volunteering for the Admissions Office at HBS and doing admissions consulting for over a decade, I’ve developed a system of ten sequential steps that helps eliminate confusion and the feeling of being “lost”.

Here’s a summary of the 10 steps you need (and how much time to spend on each one, at a minimum)

(click on this thumbnail image to see it full-size, then click again on the image to zoom in):

(Want a more detailed explanation of the steps in the infographic? I added some explanation in this post here)

I spent years developing ApplicantLab, an interactive software system that walks you through a personalized version of these steps. It tells you EXACTLY what to do, step-by-step, giving you advice, tips, and hints every step of the way. It truly is like having me sitting next you, guiding you. Sign up for your free trial now and see!

*Note: To the timeline above, add 4 extra hours if you’re applying to Stanford GSB, since “What matters most to you, and why?” is a tricky one (rightfully so). Add ~2 extra hours for HBS’s “What else do we need to know about you?” essay (note: this will fluctuate depending upon whether or not Harvard is the *first* school you are prepping an application for, or if you’ve already got a few applications under your belt. If possible, try to make HBS *not* the first school you apply to – I explain why in ApplicantLab).