Round 1 application deadlines for top business schools are just over a month away! Although some candidates believe they must apply in Round 1 to have any chance at securing a seat in their dream MBA program, it is important to submit your application when it’s as strong as possible. Furthermore, you want to apply to business school when you are the strongest possible applicant.
Last year in late August, I had some tough conversations with a client who insisted that he HAD to submit his applications in Round 1. He didn’t have a test score that he was at peace with; in fact, he had cancelled several GMAT scores. In addition, his essays weren’t close to being ready. In the end, he waited until Round 2 to submit his applications and will matriculate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall.
Go through the following checklists as you consider whether you are ready to submit MBA applications in Round 1.
Are You a STRONG Applicant? (aka Are YOU Ready?)
When looking at class profiles for top business schools, you begin to see trends. If your profile doesn’t stack up, perhaps you need to wait another few months or even until next year to apply. Answer the following:
- Yes/No – My test score (GMAT or GRE) is within the 80% range of at least one program.
- Yes/No – I am prepared for the quantitative rigor of a graduate business school program.
- Yes/No – My English language skills will allow me to prepare for class, be an active participant, and be confident that I can respond to a dreaded cold call.
- Yes/No – I have at least two years of work experience that demonstrates my progress and contribution over time.
- Yes/No – I have functional skills or industry knowledge that will allow me to contribute in class and group projects.
- Yes/No – I have experience working with and leading others toward a common goal.
If you answered “No” to any of the above, you probably shouldn’t be applying in Round 1. Take some time to assess your profile, and then take action to ensure that you will be competitive at your target programs. Depending on the areas where your profile is lacking, you may be ready for Round 2 in January. If you fall short in several dimensions, you should consider waiting until next year. See “12 Tips to Enhance Your Business School Profile,” “Five Tips to Build Your Quantitative Profile,” and “Build Your MBA Leadership Profile Through Community Involvement” for guidance on strengthening your profile.
Will Your Applications Be STRONG?
Assuming your profile and experiences make you a competitive applicant, let’s focus on how your applications are coming together and what additional work you must do in the next four to eight weeks. Answer the following:
- Yes/No – I have started an online application for every program to which I want to apply.
- Yes/No – I have entered my recommender’s contact information into the application and provided them with guidance on what is expected of them and when the recommendation is due.
- Yes/No – I have my undergrad and other transcripts handy.
- Yes/No – I have filled out the bulk of the information in the online applications.
- Yes/No – My short-term post-MBA goal includes an industry, function, and geography, and I have a few target companies in mind.
- Yes/No – I have revamped my resume so it is appropriate to submit as one component of my applications.
- Yes/No – I can clearly articulate “Why an MBA?” in a 30-second elevator pitch, in a short answer, and in a 500-word essay.
- Yes/No – I have attended events (webinars, coffee chats, virtual tours, and/or class visits) for each program to which I am applying.
- Yes/No – I have engaged with students and/or alumni to identify resources that I want to leverage at each program as well as ways I can contribute to the classroom and the broader business school community.
- Yes/No – I have started outlining and writing essays for several programs and can clearly articulate why each MBA program is right for me and how I will contribute to that community.
- Yes/No – I have one or more people lined up to review my application materials.
If you answered “Yes” to all of these questions, you are ready to submit! If you have more “No” answers than “Yes” answers, then you should probably wait until Round 2. If you have a few “No” answers, think about prioritizing the programs to which you should apply in Round 1. Perhaps you can focus on those that have deadlines in October to give yourself more time. Alternatively, if you are working on improving your test score, you might submit applications in Round 1 to a few programs that have lower average test scores. Many schools will welcome an updated test score after you submit (Harvard Business School is NOT one of them!).
In the end, figuring out when to submit your MBA applications is a very personal decision. You want to give yourself sufficient time to put together the best applications possible. If that means waiting a few months, then so be it. Your odds don’t change dramatically between Round 1 and Round 2, and you are better off submitting a stronger application later in the admissions cycle.
Need help assessing where you stand? Reach out to Stratus for a free consultation to discuss your profile and get guidance on application timing.