How Long Do MBA Applications Take and Am I Behind for Round 2?

There are many takeaways we could share from our experience advising hundreds of MBA applicants over the last decade or so. However, we think one of the most important is that the vast majority of MBA hopefuls vastly underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare strong MBA applications.

We’re not saying this to scare you or to spur you to hire an MBA admissions consultant like us in a panic, we’re truly not. The message is simply that we’ve been around this block, so to speak, and we’ve seen the difference in application quality when someone scrambles at the last minute versus taking the time to do the process right. So, how long do MBA applications take? Are you already behind the eight ball if you are applying in Round 2?

The overarching headline is that, while it’s certainly not too late, if you’re applying to MBA programs in Round 2, now is the time to buckle down and make sure you are adhering to a realistic MBA application timeline. While January may seem far away, there is a lot that goes into strong MBA applications and an MBA application timeline can help ensure you don’t procrastinate.

Ideally, you already have a well-developed application strategy and personal brand that you’re leveraging to start thinking about how to approach one of the most critical and time-intensive aspects of the applications: the essays. If you’ve done this upfront work and are hitting the ground running right now, bravo!

If you’re sitting here wondering ‘how long do MBA applications take?’ because you’re just starting, below is a suggested MBA application timeline for how to best use the next nine weeks before the first deadlines hit.

Your 9-Week MBA Application Timeline

For the weeks below, we’ve listed what we would expect our clients to have completed or accomplished by the end of that week, give or take. Please note that by this point we expect that you have a GMAT/GRE score or firm test date already so that you can focus more on the actual application. If not, you can assume that test prep is concurrent to the items below.

A few key notes: we recommend at least five drafts of your resume (this small document is critical to your application) and 6-10 drafts of your first essay set. For each draft, we recommend getting feedback from a variety of different people – alumni of that school, co-workers, a consultant, and/or friends and family who know how the process works. You won’t know the background of the person reviewing your application, so it’s best to get multiple perspectives.

Many of our clients complete 10+ drafts of each essay set, and we normally do 5-8 rounds of editing on a resume. The number of drafts doesn’t correlate with English skills, time spent or overall intelligence. Iteration makes for a better product, so we view drafting as part of the process of getting to success. Many people think better when they can react to something on paper, so getting pen to paper helps spur the creative process. Below we laid out what this might look like at a minimum, but of course it varies by person.

To Dos for the week of November 6th (or ideally before this point):
  • Identify your application weaknesses (low GPA, light extracurriculars, etc.) and begin actively working to address / mitigate them
  • Craft a well-defined personal brand (i.e., your sales pitch for why you want an MBA and what makes you a compelling applicant) that has been vetted by at least three other people for being personal, differentiating, interesting, and visionary
  • Research target programs by registering for and/or attending school presentations; these can be webinars but ideally you make time to visit campus in person
  • Draft your MBA resume and send it to someone other than family (co-workers, friends, former classmates, consultant, etc.) for review
  • Prepare recommender prep packets then schedule meetings to explain the process and get your recommenders energized about your story and goals
To Dos for the Week of November 13th:
  • Iterate on your MBA resume
  • Draft essays for School 1 and send them to someone else for feedback on content, readability, and how well they address the key dimensions that the adcoms are looking for
  • Schedule conversations with current students and alums to learn more detail about their experiences and programs, so you have more context for your essays
To Dos for the Week of November 20th:
  • Finalize your MBA resume
  • Complete second and third drafts for School 1’s essays and have them reviewed by friends, family, co-workers and/or a consultant
  • Draft essays for School 2 and send them for review
To Dos for the Week of November 27th:
  • Continue drafting Schools 1 and 2 (as noted earlier, 6-10+ versions of essay set number 1 is normal; we generally see fewer iterations for subsequent schools)
  • Draft essays for School 3 and send them for review
To Dos for the Week of December 4th:
  • Check-in with recommenders to make sure they have a plan of attack
  • Continue drafting Schools 1, 2 and 3
  • Draft School 4’s essays send them for review
To Dos for the Week of December 11th:
  • Complete the application form for School 1 (focusing on the embedded ‘mini questions’, determining how to leverage all of the space to maximize the information you share)
  • Finalize School 1’s essays
  • Continue drafting on Schools 2, 3 and 4
To Dos for the Week of December 18th:
  • Send your completed School 1 application to someone to review in its entirety and provide feedback (optimally someone who knows about the process like an MBA alum, etc.)
  • Complete the application forms for Schools 2, 3 and 4
  • Finalize School 2’s essays
  • Continue iterating on essays for Schools 3 and 4
To Dos for the Week of December 25th:
  • Finalize essays for Schools 3 and 4
  • Send your completed applications to alums or other reviewers for final checks and integrate feedback
  • Check-in with recommenders
To Dos for the Week of January 1st:
  • First Week of Deadlines!

I know what we’ve laid out seems intense…because it is. And we hope it demonstrates why our answer to ‘how long do MBA applications take?’ is ‘probably longer than you’d expect’. But trust us that this process is not the place to cut corners. Your competition isn’t and it takes a lot of work to stand out.

We are still accepting clients for Round 2 and are happy to talk about how we can help. Please request a consultation here.

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