“Best” time for MBA candidates to apply?

The options for when to submit your business school applications can be overwhelming. This year or next year? Round 1 or Round 2? Rolling admissions, early decision, early action?

The process is stressful enough without having to commit to the timing of your applications. So, what’s the simplest, most reliable way to decide when you should click the mouse? Well, we suggest that you start by pondering and answering these 4 questions:

1. How selective are your targeted schools?
Are you aiming for an elite school with a single-digit acceptance rate like Stanford GSB? If so, then take their guidance literally – apply in Round 1 or, if necessary, Round 2. Such MBA programs deny enough highly qualified applicants each year to fill the incoming class at less selective schools. Make it harder for them to turn you away by being one of the first applicants to be considered. And, applying in Round 1 confirms that admission to their school is a priority for you.

2. When will your candidacy be most “competitive”?
The primary goal is admission, not application. If your GPA and GMAT are below average for the school you’re targeting, or if you have 2 or more years less than the average work experience, or if you have no non-work leadership roles, then what’s the big hurry? If applying 3 or even 12 months later will allow you to produce a more robust candidacy, then consider approaching your admissions campaign as a marathon instead of a sprint. A great way to discover how competitive you are and can become is to request a free, expert evaluation of your candidacy by a professional admissions consultant from The MBA Exchange.

3. Are you really ready to commit to one school if that means withdrawing apps from others?
This is a tough call for an applicant who has not yet been admitted — anywhere. But if you’re applying to a b-school with a strict and binding policy for those who apply “early decision”, then you have to project how it will feel if/when that school says yes to you. Will you feel relieved and excited when you tell the other schools that you’re stepping out of their admissions process? Or will you feel stress and regret that other schools on your target list might offer you admission, and possibly even financial aid, if you remain in play? Solution: a comprehensive consultation will enable you to list and prioritize your target various MBA programs based on the likelihood of your admission.

4. Are you reapplying to the same school?
If you’re pursuing a school that previously rejected you, the timing decision becomes even more complicated. First, you want to demonstrate to the adcom how very determined and passionate you are about their program by reapplying as soon as possible. After all, you’ve already lost a valuable year in terms of enrolling. However, it’s not enough to just knock on the same door twice with the same package. A reapplicant must convince the school that the candidacy is even stronger and more valuable than reflected in the original application. So, you’ll need to weigh “urgency vs. improvement” when deciding when to submit your reapp.

As application deadlines approach, we encourage serious applicants to decide when to apply as a key component of their overall admissions strategy. Once that decision is made, the timeline for building the candidacy and producing deliverables becomes clear and actionable, thus minimizing stress and maximizing quality.

So, what timing feels right for your MBA admissions campaign?