Requirements of the MBA application process can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. From earning a great GMAT or GRE score to acing the admissions interview to writing the perfect essay, there are many steps that must be completed before you can be accepted into an MBA program. Although timelines may vary, it can take six months to three years to complete four or five MBA applications after you’ve taken the GMAT or GRE for some prestigious programs.
MBA Application Deadlines and Rounds
Unlike most graduate school programs which have one application deadline, most MBA programs have three rounds of applications. During each round, the business school admissions team evaluates applications and selects admission candidates who best meet their MBA program requirements.
Round 1 typically occurs in the fall. Round 2 during the New Year. And round 3 in the spring. Check each school’s deadlines carefully because deadlines often vary.
Let’s look at the factors candidates should consider during each of these rounds. Note, however, that there are only so many positions available in each class; therefore, it’s typically best to apply as early as possible.
The admissions team is unlikely to turn down a good candidate hoping to find a great candidate in later rounds. Therefore, all things being equal, if you make a convincing case in round 1, your application has an increased chance of being accepted. Once again, the earlier, the better.
With variety being a requirement in the selection of the cohort, if your profile is likely to be over-represented in the cohort (e.g., lower GMAT score or a more traditional MBA background), an early application is a must. International students should also apply as early as possible.
Scholarships and financial aid are more likely to be available to early applicants, as well.
There are some valid reasons to wait until round 2. Candidates who can improve their GMAT score or who are likely to receive a promotion at work will generally find it advantageous to wait until such events occur and then apply for round 2.
Although it can be risky to wait to apply in round 3, applicants should never apply until they’re ready.
When applying in round 3, you’ll need to position yourself very carefully. Let the admissions team know how you can add value to the cohort professionally, academically and/or geographically. Round 3 applicants need to set themselves apart from the pack.
How Long Does It Take to Apply for an MBA Program?
A sizable amount of effort goes into the application process. According to Poets and Quants (P&Q), a fully prepared MBA applicant will spend, at minimum, 154 hours putting together the core components of their application. David White, founding partner with Menlo Coaching in the Netherlands, suggests that a year and a half to two years is the optimal amount of time for gearing up to apply to business school.
P&Q has put together several timelines covering various intervals of time if you need a little help planning out what needs to be done over a given time period.
Ultimately, completion of all MBA application requirements depends on you, your timeline, your shortcomings and assets, and the time you have to dedicate to the process. For example, according to BusinessBecause, it can take between six and 60 months to determine your career goals. This is just one of the many factors you need to consider before you’ll be able to complete a successful MBA application.
What Goes into a Successful MBA Application?
One of the most basic and important aspects of the application process is introspection – coming to grips with who you are and determining what an MBA will do for you and your career. This should be one of the very first activities you do, well before writing your resume and essays and before seeking recommendations. According to BusinessBecause, this can take between six and 18 months.
It will take months to years to accrue the experience and gather together the information and documents needed to create a successful MBA application package. Let’s look at them now.
Transcripts of Records
Previous academic performance provides evidence of success in the academic rigor of an MBA program. You must have a four-year bachelor’s degree and will need to supply transcripts of all college/university/graduate institutions you’ve attended since high school.
GMAT and GRE
Test scores are becoming more and more competitive which means it’s very important to demonstrate your academic prowess on these tests. Applicants may need to take advantage of a test-prep program or have to take the test multiple times. This process could take months to years. According to BusinessBecause, test prep can take anywhere from six to 36 months.
Resume and Professional Experience
When applying to a business school, your resume is often the first thing the admissions team reads. It assists the team in determining if you have the mindset and experience necessary to succeed in their program. According to P&Q, it takes approximately 12 hours to complete the writing of a good MBA application resume. According to BusinessBecause, resume preparation can take anywhere from six to 36 months.
Your MBA essay should reveal your values and personality and portray your goals and how the program will help you achieve them. Your essay also gives you a chance to explain any negatives in your stats, such as a lower than hoped-for GPA. It should be concise and well-thought-out. According to P&Q, a good MBA essay will take at least 60 hours to complete. Harvard business school advises that you “don’t shine away your personality” as you edit and polish your essay. According to BusinessBecause, writing the essay is the most time-consuming aspect of the MBA application process and can take anywhere from three to six months.
Video Essays / Video Questions
For many schools, video essays are an essential requirement of the MBA application process. The video essay provides a glimpse of your personality, giving the admissions team a better understanding of who you are and the opportunity to assess your interpersonal skills and how well you think on your feet. A video essay may be recorded directly on the school’s platform or recorded offline and uploaded. MBA essay tips and examples of sample questions can be found here. The time needed to prepare for this step will vary from person to person. Take as long as required to become comfortable with the sample questions and others you may find on the internet. Also, make sure you take the time needed to become comfortable on camera.
Work with your references, selecting individuals who can write the strongest possible recommendations for you. Work with them to ensure the letters highlight the same qualities you’re trying to emphasize throughout your other application materials. It’s important your application’s combined materials tell a unified story of you as an applicant. According to P&Q, this should take approximately 12 hours.
Other MBA Application Tips and Questions
Let’s look at a few other MBA application tips and questions.
How many years of pre-MBA work experience should you have before applying?
Many people recommend a minimum of four years. Although this is often a personal decision, many MBA programs only require a minimum of two years of professional work experience. However, exceptions may be made for someone who has grown up working in a family business, those who have started their own business or those who have completed internships or co-ops.
Can I apply for an MBA program directly after finishing my bachelor’s?
Although it can be done at some schools, others require a certain amount of work experience to enter their programs. Check with the schools to which you intend to apply to determine their requirements.
How much does the MBA application process cost?
Application fees vary between schools and can be as low as $35 and generally don’t exceed $300. This may not seem like much except when you apply to multiple schools. When applying to four schools, for example, the cost could be as high as $1200.
MBA Campus Visits & School Networking
MBA campus visits and school networking covers a much broader time period – six to 96 months according to BusinessBecause. Networking is an ongoing part of your career. Many applicants, in fact, rely on support and advice from their old college friends and peers. These relationships may help in your MBA application journey – providing references, helping you determine your career goals and guiding you in introspection. Sometimes, our friends know us better than we know ourselves.
Are you ready to take the next step toward earning your MBA? The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has multiple career-focused Master of Business Administration educational options. For more information on how The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga can help you pursue your career goals, contact us.