Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.
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 will 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, these questions have no clear-cut answers.
First and foremost, your focus should be on quality over speed. As a candidate, you are far better off completing applications to three schools with 100% effort than applying to five schools and putting forth just 60% effort. MBA admissions offices notice sloppy mistakes, and they will conclude that you did not pay full attention to your application and therefore may 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. Submitting applications 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 individual’s professional and personal schedule, written communication skills, risk profile, ambitions, and other similar factors. So approach your applications methodically, recognize what is realistic, and then work aggressively—but not haphazardly—toward your end goals.