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Timeline for Applying

It is often said that timing is everything. When it comes to applying to MBA programs, this adage certainly rings true. The timing of your applications (e.g. which application round you apply in) can make the difference between getting in and not getting in. Poor timing of your applications can also cost you a lot of extra money in deposits or application fees while you wait to hear from your other choices.

Apply As Early As Possible, But Don't Sacrifice Quality

The top MBA programs either have application rounds with different admissions deadlines or rolling admissions. For schools that use rounds, typically there are 3-4 different deadlines ranging from the early Fall to late Spring. These schools often advise students to apply in the earliest round possible. Many schools also tell applicants to apply in the round when they feel they will have the strongest application - meaning that retaking the GMAT and applying in the Spring with a higher score rather than applying with your current score in an early round may be more beneficial. We still recommend applying in an earlier round rather than postponing. It is not uncommon for a school to ask an applicant to take the GMAT again or strengthen her application in another way. Applying in an early round allows you time to fulfill requests from the admissions committee. In addition, business schools do not accept an equal number of applicants in each round. For example, one of the top Ivy League business schools nearly filled its Class of 2006 with the first round applicants leaving little room for applicants applying in other rounds.

Schools with rolling admissions assess each application when they receive it and typically promise a response within a certain number of weeks. Like the business schools with admissions rounds, business schools with rolling admission advise applicants to apply as early as possible. Again, the considerations discussed above apply.

Coordinate Deposit Deadlines

Although applying earlier may increase your chances of being accepted, it may also end up costing you additional money if you do not coordinate the deposit deadlines for each school. For example, say you applied to Tuck on the day of the deadline for the first round and submitted your application to Notre Dame's rolling admissions process the same day. Notre Dame promises to respond within a few weeks, but Tuck takes a few months to make a decision. Given that Notre Dame requires a deposit within 45 days of receiving your acceptance letter, you will have to either forfeit your place at Notre Dame - which means you filled out and paid for an application for no reason - or pay the deposit to hold your spot. Initial deposits are typically non-refundable amounts of $500 to $1,000. In this case, it may have been beneficial to coordinate the dates, so you would get a response from both schools around the same time. Or, if Notre Dame is considered a safety for you, you may wish to wait until you hear from Tuck before applying to Notre Dame. Either way, it is important to be aware of the application and deposit deadlines to avoid getting caught in a bind.

We recommend using a spreadsheet to help you keep track of and coordinate the deadlines. You may need to call the admissions office to find out when deposits are due as this information is not usually published on the school's website. The application deadlines and dates by which you will be informed of their decisions should both appear on the school's website or in the prospective brochure.

Go4BSchool Hint:   If you need to postpone making a deposit for a week or so (perhaps you are waiting to hear from another school), try calling the admissions office and asking for an extension (without mentioning why). More likely than not, you will be granted a bit of extra time to make your payment.

Don't Sit Idle

Business schools usually post their online applications in the late summer/early fall. Some of the early deadlines fall shortly after the applications are posted. Although you cannot start working on the actual applications until the fall or late summer, you can start preparing to fill them out, since most applications comprise the same components. We recommend completing the following tasks the summer before you apply:
  • Update and revise your resume
  • Think about how you want to market yourself in your applications
  • Start writing answers to the essay questions that most schools ask:
    1. Why do you want an MBA?
    2. Why do you want to go to our school?
    3. What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  • Think about who you want to write your recommendations

For more information about the business school application process, click here.

Still trying to decide where to apply? Click here to get your chances of admission and see where you stand.

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