When Do MBA Applications Open? A General Timeline to Help You Plan
When it comes to plotting out your MBA applications, knowing when to start and what to expect can feel like trying to solve a puzzle without the right pieces. You may be wondering, when do MBA applications open? Is there anything you should be doing now before applications are available? When is the optimal time to start working on your application materials?
A clear MBA application timeline is critical to navigating the process smoothly and avoiding last minute stress. In this article, we provide you with a handy roadmap, ensuring you know exactly when to begin researching programs, preparing your application materials, and submitting them.
So, When Do MBA Applications Open? Let’s Start There
The top MBA programs typically start accepting applications for the upcoming cycle in June or July. Round 1 deadlines fall in September or October and Round 2 deadlines usually occur in January.
That said, it’s a good idea to begin your preparations in the spring or early summer, even before MBA applications officially open. You can and should tackle many things now – taking the GMAT/GRE exams, researching different schools, talking to alumni and current students for insights, creating a strong MBA resume, and clarifying your post-MBA career goals.
Doing so is like giving yourself a head start in a race. You’ll have more time to prepare and make sure your application is the best it can be.
Next, Consider Which Application Round You Are Targeting
Another important consideration is which application round you are targeting for your applications (or maybe you will apply to a few programs in Round 1 and others in Round 2). Knowing your end point will help you work backwards to an appropriate MBA application timeline.
As we sit here in early June, we expect clients targeting Round 1 applications to be able to answer ‘yes’ to many of the following questions:
- Have you taken the GMAT/GRE? Do you plan to apply with your current score? If not or if you’re planning a retake, remember that the extra study time will compete with your essay and application prep.
- Have you begun other parts of the application process? This includes researching your target schools, attending info sessions, and connecting with alumni and students. Rushing these important steps can compromise the quality of your applications.
- Do you have enough time outside of work for the application process? Consider the next two months. Writing multiple drafts of your essays (usually 10-20) takes time. Can you dedicate enough time?
- Will your work experience match your target schools’ averages? While an extra few months of work experience likely won’t transform your leadership profile if you are less experienced than average, it certainly can’t hurt – particularly if you can angle for an impactful project or contribute substantially to an existing initiative.
- Have you been promoted or gained more responsibility? Admissions committees value career progression and leadership. A promotion is a great way to demonstrate these qualities – if there is a chance you will have an elevated title on your resume come December / January, it might make sense to delay your applications to Round 2.
As you consider these questions, you’ll gain clarity about the timing that works best for your MBA journey. If your answer is ‘no’ to almost all of the questions, it might be worth delaying your application until Round 2 or even until next year (note that we don’t typically recommend submitting applications in Round 3).
A General Round 1 MBA Application Timeline
If Round 1 applications make sense for you, here is a general timeline to keep in mind:
Once applications open in June/July, you ideally want to hit the ground running with the following:
- Essay Preparation – Take time to craft compelling essays that showcase your background, achievements, and future goals. Tailor your essays to each school’s requirements and let your unique story shine through. Note that many schools release their essay questions even before their applications officially open so be on the lookout and start early if you can.
- Recommendation Letters – Submit the names of your recommenders within each application so that the recommendation forms are sent to those individuals for completion. Give them ample time to write thoughtful letters highlighting your strengths and potential.
- Application Completion and Review – We find that applicants often underestimate the time and thought it takes to complete schools’ ‘data forms’ (i.e., the actual application). Many involve short answer questions that can feel like miniature essays. Look at these early so that you’re not surprised and scrambling. Review your application materials meticulously, checking for any errors or inconsistencies. Ensure that all sections are complete and well-presented.
A General Round 2 Application Timeline
The Round 2 timeline can simply track a few months behind that shown in the graphic above. Below is some additional detail context on what goes into the key tasks and milestones:
September – October (or before!):
- Achieve your desired GMAT/GRE score.
- Finalize your school choices and conduct thorough research.
- Work on your MBA resume and make it ready for submission.
- Reflect on your unique experiences and goals.
- Complete the first drafts of essays for each school.
- Seek feedback from trusted friends or consultants.
- Fill out the online applications (data forms) for each school.
Mid-November – Mid-December:
- Revise and polish essays for each school.
- Send your application for School 1 to someone for comprehensive review.
- Complete the first drafts of essays for the remaining schools.
- Incorporate feedback and iterate on essays for all schools.
- Seek feedback from alums or other reviewers for Schools 2 and 3.
- Complete the data forms for Schools 2, 3, and 4.
- Stay in touch with recommenders and address any questions they may have.
- Submit your applications before the deadlines.
- Stay organized and manage your time effectively.
- Be prepared for potential interviews.
- Stay positive and confident throughout the process.
We hope this article helped you move from general questions like, ‘when do MBA applications open?’ to a more nuanced thought process about how your individual applications will come together. We know that the MBA application journey can be complicated and overwhelming (we’ve been there as MBAs ourselves!), but with determination and proper planning you’ll put your best foot forward and increase your chances of success.
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