The month of November 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, no clear-cut answers to these questions exist.
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 will conclude that you did not pay full attention to your application and therefore may not really care about their program.
One thing some candidates may not realize 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.
As you prepare your application(s), try to keep a clear head and a focused mind. Every once in a while, a concerned business school candidate calls us and says something along the lines of, “Star491 wrote that Wharton won’t read past the 500-word limit, but IndianaHoops09 wrote that 10% over the limit is fine. Meanwhile, WannabeTuckie says…” Reading this may amuse some of you, but the truth is that many MBA applicants have difficulty not visiting the various message boards, and some have even more difficulty not believing everything they read there. At the risk of stating the obvious, most message boards are completely unregulated, and you should be skeptical when reading the opinions expressed by anonymous posters. For every individual who claims to know something authoritatively, you can always find another individual who claims to know that the opposite is true. Round and round we go…
Thus, our message is to ignore anonymous message board posts. Although this is valuable advice now, as you complete your applications (ideally with your sanity intact), it will become even more valuable as the admissions season progresses and many posters begin to make unsubstantiated claims about admissions statistics (offers given, GMAT scores of accepted candidates, etc.). If you tune out such noise now and put your energy instead into creating your best possible application(s), you will be far better off.