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Keep Calm and Press On: Managing Stress During the MBA Application Process

May 18 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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Applying to top business schools can be a highly stressful experience. With tight deadlines, complex essay questions, and intense competition, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, managing stress effectively is crucial to producing the best possible application. This article combines practical stress-busting tips and strategies from The MBA Exchange to help you maintain control and reduce anxiety before, during, and after the MBA application process. 

9 “Stress Busters” for MBA applicants

Based on thousands of client engagements and our own experience as b-school applicants, here are 9 timely tips

  1. Dress for Success at Home

When working on your MBA applications, comfort is key. Wearing comfortable clothing, such as well-worn sweats, yoga pants, old jeans, or your favorite college t-shirt, can help you feel more relaxed and focused. The idea is to create an environment that feels familiar and stress-free, similar to a cozy Sunday afternoon at home.

Research has shown that comfortable attire can positively affect your productivity and mood. By eliminating physical discomfort, you can concentrate better on the task at hand, whether it’s drafting essays or preparing for interviews.

  1. Set Up a Dedicated Workspace

Your work environment plays a significant role in your productivity. While lounging on the couch might be perfect for casual web browsing, it’s not ideal for MBA applications. Instead, treat your application process like a professional task. Set up a dedicated workspace with a comfortable office chair, a desk, good overhead lighting, and minimal distractions.

Creating a professional workspace helps signal to your brain that it’s time to focus. Studies have shown that a well-organized and properly lit workspace can enhance concentration and reduce stress levels, making it easier to tackle your application tasks efficiently.

  1. Start with Mindfulness

Devoting a few minutes to meditation can significantly reduce stress and improve your focus. One of the simplest and most effective techniques is breath awareness. Spend a few minutes each day practicing mindfulness by focusing on your breath. This can help clear your mind and prepare you for the challenges ahead.

Research supports the benefits of meditation for stress reduction. Regular mindfulness practice can lower cortisol levels, reduce anxiety, and improve overall mental well-being, making it an invaluable tool during the MBA application process.

  1. Create a Relaxing Atmosphere

Music can have a profound impact on your mood and productivity. Whether it’s soft Mozart, New Age tunes, the hum of a portable fan, or a cool “white noise” app, the right sounds can help you focus and stay calm. Experiment with different types of background noise to find what works best for you.

Studies have shown that certain types of music and ambient sounds can enhance cognitive performance and reduce stress. By creating a soothing auditory environment, you can improve your concentration and make the application process more enjoyable.

  1. Stay Hydrated and Calm

Having a soothing, favorite beverage nearby can be a great stress reliever. A big pitcher of pure, cool water is often the best choice. Avoid caffeinated drinks if they make you nervous, and be cautious with energy drinks due to potential health concerns.

Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining mental clarity and focus. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and decreased cognitive function, so make sure to drink plenty of water while working on your applications.

  1. Keep Snacks Light and Healthy

Eating a large meal before working on your applications can make you groggy, while working on an empty stomach can be distracting. Opt for light, healthy snacks that won’t mess up your keyboard or require utensils. Unsalted trail mix, fresh fruit, or veggie sticks are excellent choices.

Healthy snacking can provide a steady source of energy and prevent the distraction of hunger pangs. Choose snacks that are high in protein and fiber to keep you full and focused for longer periods.

  1. Take Care of Your Body

Sitting for long periods can strain your eyes, neck, back, arms, and hands. Take regular stretch breaks every hour or so to relieve tension and prevent discomfort. Simple stretches or a quick walk can rejuvenate your body and mind.

Incorporating regular physical activity into your study routine can improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and boost your energy levels. These breaks are essential for maintaining your overall well-being during the application process.

  1. Prioritize Quality Rest

A good night’s sleep is crucial for optimal cognitive function and stress management. However, if you can’t get enough sleep, a 20-minute power nap can work wonders. Avoid burning the midnight oil; great MBA applications are not built in a day.

Sleep is essential for memory consolidation, problem-solving, and emotional regulation. Ensuring you get adequate rest will help you stay sharp and handle the demands of the application process more effectively.

  1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Self-doubt can be a major source of anxiety for MBA applicants. To minimize stress and maximize productivity, get an accurate picture of your strengths and vulnerabilities. Consider a free evaluation of your MBA candidacy to gain insights and set realistic expectations.

Understanding your strengths and areas for improvement can help you focus your efforts more effectively. A professional evaluation can provide valuable feedback and increase your confidence as you navigate the application process.

Before Applying: Lay a Strong Foundation

Examine Your Academic Record and GMAT Score

Your undergraduate GPA is set in stone, but a strong GMAT score can be a perfect “do-over.” Prepare thoroughly, test, and repeat if necessary. If “test anxiety” is an issue, seek professional guidance. Remember, a competitive GMAT score can significantly boost your candidacy.

Choose Your Schools Wisely

To keep anxiety at bay, be realistic about your school choices. Applying only to stretch schools can be a recipe for anxiety. Balance your list with a mix of dream, match, and safety schools to increase your chances of success.

Consider Your Past, Present, and Future

Maximize the significance of your affiliations and connect your passions and strengths to your future aspirations. Address any gaps in your profile and leverage your strengths to present a compelling narrative.

While Applying: Focus on What You Can Control

Convey Who You Are Through Essays and Recommendations

Essays and recommendations are elements where you have the most control. Use this freedom to showcase your personality and strengths. Provide recommenders with topics and examples to ensure they highlight your best qualities.

Watch the Calendar and Be Precise

Missing deadlines is not an option. Ensure your applications are error-free, honest, and authentic. Allow extra time for potential technical difficulties and ensure everything is submitted on time.

A solid action plan can help you manage this phase effectively. The MBA Exchange can assist in creating and sticking to a plan, making the process smoother and less stressful.

After Applying: Manage the Waiting Period

Ace the Interview

If you’re invited to interview, preparation is key. The MBA Exchange can provide valuable insights and practice to help you succeed in this crucial phase.

Prepare to Wait

Waiting for admissions decisions can be the most stressful phase. Keep busy by excelling at work, engaging in hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. This period can also be a great time to decompress and recharge.

Navigate the Waitlist

If you find yourself on a waitlist, there are strategies to improve your chances of acceptance. The MBA Exchange can guide you through this process and help you take proactive steps.


Applying to business school is undoubtedly stressful, but by implementing these stress-busting tips and strategies, you can manage your anxiety and improve your productivity. Comfortable attire, a productive workspace, calming meditation, soothing sounds, refreshing beverages, modest munchies, regular stretch breaks, restful sleep, and accurate expectations can all contribute to a more manageable application process.

By focusing on what you can control, making a solid plan, and considering professional guidance from The MBA Exchange, you can navigate the MBA application journey with confidence and composure. Start implementing these strategies today and take control of your MBA application process, setting yourself up for success in the admissions process and beyond.