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7 Tips for Working Parents: How to Prepare for the GMAT and Retain Your Job, Kids, and Sanity

By Ajay Amar, Ph.D., Jul 15 2015 06:58PM

Ginger, my former GMAT student, is headed to UT McCombs School of Business this August to start the Texas MBA program. As she wrote in this Facebook post, for her, time was in short supply: "A working mother of two energetic girls, I knew an MBA would greatly improve my ability to provide for my children while also setting an excellent example for them. But how could I manage studying for the GMAT, prepare the essays and application, and succeed at a demanding job, yet still be the parent I wanted to be? Well, I did it (woo hoo!), so you can, too!"

Here, in her own words, are Ginger's best tips for successfully preparing for the GMAT and applying to a top MBA program while juggling the demands of career and parenting.

Ginger's advice:

1. First, commit 100%.

2. Plan as far in advance as possible - more than a year - to allow time to learn about schools, prepare your resume and applications, request recommendation letters, and study for the GMAT.

3. Ask for and get help with childcare:

• I have a very supportive husband who was willing to take on the majority of childcare during the 6 week crunch time before the due dates of the exam and application. This support is a family investment so ask everyone to play a role.

• If you can, ask Grandmom and Granddad for help. I asked my parents to come in town for the holidays to entertain the girls while I studied.

• If you don’t have family around, invest in a temporary nanny or sitter to give you the extra time to focus. The investment will pay off.

• Utilize the creative services available for working parents like DinnerElf, a fantastic local business that cooks family meals in your home.

4. Time management is key: use those spare minutes wisely.

• Make flashcards for studying. Stuck in Austin traffic? Avoid road rage by reviewing those equations one more time.

• Dinner date with Dr. Amar: After work, I’d grab a sandwich and head straight to class, arriving early to study and review challenging questions.

• Don’t run errands: go online. Use services like Instacart and Blue Apron. Amazon even delivers the essentials like toilet paper and diapers. I did 100% of holiday shopping online. (Many of you probably do this already.)

• Utilize vacation and compensatory time off. If you have personal or vacation days to spare, grab the time to take a practice test in peace.

5. Make sacrifices: I skipped holiday parties and traditions this year in order to focus on studying and perfecting my application. It wasn’t fun, but it paid off (and my husband eventually forgave me for skipping out on the parties…at least I think he did...).

6. Get expert advice: Working with Elaine [Austin GMAT Review's admissions expert] was critical. She’d cut to the chase and provide frank, expert advice, saving me time, energy and brain space.

7. Fully engage in family time. With days spent working and nights spent in class, I was often MMIA (Mom Missing In Action) so I found time each day to engage with my girls and made that time count by giving them (and not the flashcards, phone, etc.) my full and complete attention.

Your Takeaway: Commit Fully, Waste No Time, and Get Help.

As you can see, not a second of Ginger's time was wasted. Using a winning combination of time management, prioritization, and focus, Ginger got a great GMAT score and won admission to the Texas MBA program during a very competitive admissions year. One key thing: Knowing the commitment that would be required, Ginger asked for and received the full support of her family, and she sought expert help with both the GMAT prep and application phases.

It's true that juggling career and GMAT preparation is difficult even without adding kids to the equation, but every year I work with parents who manage it successfully. Ginger did it, and you can, too.

Austin GMAT Review is the premier GMAT test prep company in Central Texas, offering structured GMAT courses and GMAT tutoring to professionals preparing to enter full-time MBA or executive MBA programs. Austin GMAT Review caters to busy professionals who don't have the time to sort through masses of generic study materials. Meeting with an experienced professor face-to-face in limited-size GMAT classes, students receive the personalized coaching that they need and strategies to excel on the GMAT.