Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.
For some reason, the conclusion of the American Thanksgiving weekend tends to signal the beginning of the rush toward second-round application deadlines. Many candidates who are just contemplating their applications tend to call us and ask, “How many schools can I apply to at this stage?” The answer to this question is not that simple.
First and foremost, the answer is “quality before speed.” As a candidate, you are far better off completing applications to three schools with 100% of your effort than to five schools with 60% effort. MBA Admissions Offices will notice sloppy mistakes, and they will weigh the fact that you did not show consideration in your application and thus may not really care all that much about their program.
One thing some candidates forget or do not realize is that they do not need to commit to a specific number of schools up front. Most often, we suggest that candidates master one application and then apply what they have learned to the next. Generally, attacking five schools simultaneously can be problematic, but if you make significant progress on your application for one school and then launch into the next, you can do so with the confidence that you will be completing each with a degree of excellence.
The number of target schools varies for each candidate, depending on the his or her professional and personal schedules, written communication abilities, risk profiles, ambitions, etc. You should approach your applications methodically, recognize what is realistic and then work aggressively—but not haphazardly—toward your ends.