Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.
For some reason, Thanksgiving weekend in America tends to signal the beginning of the rush toward second-round business school application deadlines. Many candidates who are just beginning to contemplate their MBA applications tend to call us and ask, “How many schools can I apply to at this stage?” or “Am I too late to start my applications for Round 2 now?” Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to these questions.
First and foremost, you should focus on quality before speed. As a candidate, you are far better off completing applications to three schools with 100% effort than to five schools with 60% effort. MBA admissions offices will notice sloppy mistakes, and they will consider that you did not pay your full attention to your application and may therefore not really care all that much about their program.
One thing some candidates forget—or do not realize in the first place—is that they do not need to commit to a specific number of schools up front. We typically suggest that candidates master one application and then apply what they have learned to the next. Applying to five schools simultaneously can generally be problematic, but if you make significant progress on one school’s application and then begin work on the next, you can be confident that you will complete each one with a degree of excellence.
The ideal number of target schools varies from candidate to candidate, and depends on each one’s professional and personal schedule, written communication skills, risk profile, ambitions, etc. You should approach your applications methodically, recognize what is realistic and then work aggressively—but not haphazardly—toward your ends.