As an MBA applicant, you are no doubt trying to determine the “correct” number of b-schools to target. Maybe you think there’s only one program for you. Or maybe you feel uncomfortable applying to fewer than 7. No matter the number of targets, you want to maximize your chances for admission.
Here are 5 questions to consider as you build – or edit – your dream list of MBA programs.
- Which schools align best with my background and goals?
Research the published profile of the last few classes at a few of the schools you’re considering. Where do you see the largest percentage of students who came from your academic major and current industry, and who accepted post-MBA jobs at companies that you’d like to join?
- Which schools are most – and least – likely to admit me?
Obviously, the more selective the school, the harder it is to get admitted. So, look at the published stats for the most recent admits to see where your GMAT score ranks within the “middle 80%” and where your GPA is reasonably close to the median. While there are exceptions, applicants with a competitive academic profile are more likely to have a chance for success than those whose numbers fall short. Get a head start on this process by getting our free, expert evaluation of your MBA candidacy right away.
- Which schools would I happily and proudly attend if they are the only ones to admit me?
Your ultimate goal is “admission” not just “application.” So, if you can’t envision yourself actually enrolling there if it is the ONLY school that accepts your candidacy, then take if off your list! The best way to determine your comfort with an MBA program is to make a campus visit where you can speak with students, administrators and faculty about your expectations and get a feel for the culture. But even with limitations posed by COVID-19, you can still reach out to current students to get a “feel” for the school’s culture.
- How much time do I have to prepare stellar applications?
Producing an authentic, complete and compelling application takes real effort. And producing multiple recommendations can burn out even the most dedicated recommender. The time you devote to each app means that you have less capacity for other apps, so make each one count. Working with a professional admissions consultant like The MBA Exchange can help you achieve the optimal mix of quality and quantity.
- Do I want or need merit-based financial aid?
Business schools tend to use scholarships, fellowships, and grants to entice applicants whose profiles would enhance the MBA program’s reputation and ranking. So, the more of a stretch it is for admission, the less likely it is that you’ll be offered merit-based aid from that school. And a five-figure scholarship can make a lower-ranked school suddenly more appealing than paying full freight at a school that’s ranked higher. So, before you include a program on your final target list, consider the impact of receiving or not receiving merit-based financial aid.
One final word of advice: Once you complete your first MBA application and understand the amount of analysis, planning and execution required, you’ll have a much better sense of how many apps you can prepare. So, don’t “over think” the selection process before you actually get started.