How Long Do MBA Applications REALLY Take?
Let’s cut straight to the chase: how much time does it take to apply to business school? An average application takes a minimum of 10 weeks — and that’s just for one.
Now, we know what you’re thinking...
“I work best under pressure!”
“I’m a great test taker.”
“I’ve always been faster than average.”
Prospective MBA applicants are full of reasons why they are quicker, better, and smarter than the average bear. We hate to break it to you but most of those applying to business school are just as on top of their game.
Also, you probably missed that we said *a minimum* of 10 weeks. Ideally you would get started as early as possible. This will allow ample time for each stage of the application process and leave room for revisions.
Here’s the breakdown of the stages of the MBA application and a general timeline of how long to can expect to spend in each stage.
MBA Application Timeline
1. GMAT/GRE: 6-8 weeks minimum.
To kick off the MBA application process, you’ll need to study for the GMAT or GRE. This single test is a preeetty big deal so you’ll want to spend at least 6-8 weeks studying for it. We recommend you dedicate about 12-15 hours a week… approximately 100 hours in total. That’s a lot of hours, we know. And no, it doesn’t matter how good of a test taker you think you are. Properly preparing for your GMAT/GRE will be your best defense against having to retake the test and will save you some time in the long run.
In the case that you do score lower than you were hoping, tack on another four weeks of preparation for your retake. This alone is reason to start the MBA application process as early as possible. Leaving plenty of time for test retakes will keep you from cutting in to the time you need to fill out your actual application.
However, in the case that your test taking absolutely must overlap with the time you need to fill out your business school apps, that’s okay. You’ll just need to refine your multitasking skills. The next step is something you can do while preparing for the GMAT/GRE. Just be sure to dedicate enough time to each individual task!
2. Get to Know Yourself & Get to Know the Schools: 6-8 weeks.
Now’s the time for some soul searching, internet sleuthing, and school visiting. If you want to be accepted to your perfect MBA program, you’ll need to know two things: Exactly who you are and exactly what each school is about.
5 things you’ll need to understand about yourself:
- Your personal strengths and weaknesses
- Your future goals
- Your learning style
- Your experience
- Your applicant profile
5 things you’ll need to understand about each school:
- Campus culture
- Teaching methods
- Extracurricular opportunities
- Career placement assistance and stats
- Acceptance statistics
These ten things just scratch the surface on all there is to know about your compatibility with different schools. To make sure you fully understand all of your options, go on campus visits. This may seem like a no-brainer but make sure to time your visits for while class is in session. Your time on campus won’t be nearly as valuable if you drop in over holiday break or during the summer.
It’s important you allow ample time to do this research so you can make an educated list of where you plan to apply. All MBA applicants should apply to about 5-8 schools: 2-3 reach schools, 2-3 on-par schools, and 1-2 safety schools. Choosing these programs wisely is the only way to ensure your success in business school.
3. Craft Your Resume: 2 weeks.
If you were planning to make minor tweaks to your professional resume and submit it with your MBA application, you’re about to be disappointed.
It’s essential that you create a brand spankin’ new resume for your b-school applications. Why? Because getting into business school is all about your soft skills. Sure, you’ll need to share your work experience and extracurriculars but the admissions committee is also looking to your resume for skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork.
Remember: this is your chance to make an outstanding first impression. Your resume should paint a clear picture of who you are, demonstrate your career progression, highlight your strengths, and give a peek into your personality… all within the constraints of a single page. This can take some time to master so be sure to plan ahead and give your resume the attention it deserves.
4. Write Your Essays: 6 weeks.
Ah, the most dreaded part of the MBA application: essays. Here’s some good news… If you spend some time in preparation and give yourself the proper amount of time to complete this portion of your b-school app, you have nothing to worry about.
Writing your essays doesn’t have to require late nights fueled by caffeine. In fact, it’s best to dedicate a few hours at a time to wring out your business school application essays. Pulling a writing marathon will actually make you less productive and negatively impact your writing.
Throughout your essays it’s vital that you show a strong sense of self-awareness. Confidently share the reasons you need an MBA, tell thoughtful and relevant stories about your experience, and don’t be afraid to discuss your mistakes and give examples to show how you’ve grown. As you do this, be careful not to come across as pompous. There’s a fine line between aware and arrogant. Make sure you don’t cross it.
5. Choose and Prepare Your Recommenders: 6 weeks.
If you thought that your letters of recommendation would require little work, think again. The key to getting excellent recommendations is to carefully select your recommenders, provide them with valuable information, and remain available every step of the way.
Your recommenders will need to know the following:
- Why you want an MBA and what you plan to do with it.
- Why you asked them for the recommendation.
- What the school is looking for in a candidate + which of your skills, experiences, and capabilities you would like the recommender to emphasize.
- The qualities you have demonstrated + specific examples the recommender can cite to support them.
Along with all the information above, provide your recommenders with a copy of your resume and clear deadlines. While this will require extra time, it will ensure that your recommendations complement your application and reinforce your personal brand.
6. Complete and Revise: 2 weeks.
Once you’ve completed all of the tasks above, it’s time to fill out the corners of your application and perfect it. Here are a couple more things you must do before you submit:
→ Short Answer Questions
Unfortunately, short answer questions are one of the most overlooked parts of the MBA application. Even though essays are significantly longer and require more time, short answer questions are just as important. The key to providing effective answers is to first understand exactly what each question is asking. Write a thoughtful, lengthy answer and then pare it down so only the most pertinent information remains.
→ Other Application Requirements
No two MBA applications are identical. Each school will require different forms and tasks. Some schools may have additional questionnaires while some may require video essays. Be sure to leave ample time to wrap up these final loose ends.
Newsflash: Reading your application over once for typos doesn’t qualify as a revision. When looking over your application, make sure you’ve embraced a holistic vision throughout, followed all the guidelines, and demonstrated distinct reasons for why you are applying to that school.
As you’ve probably already gathered, some of these steps can be done in tandem, depending on the applicant’s ability to multitask and the amount of time they can dedicate to their applications each week. Because of this, it’s difficult to provide a definitive length of time one should dedicate to their MBA applications.
We recommend you begin the MBA application process as soon as possible and are honest with yourself about how many of these tasks you are able to tackle at once. Trying to complete too much too quickly will result in a rushed, sloppy application. (And yes, admissions officers can tell the difference.) We understand that this process can be taxing so be sure to pace yourself and stay positive.