Thursday, October 15, 2009

When is the Right Time to Apply for an MBA?

So, you’re planning to apply for business school, but are unsure about the “best” time to apply. Should you wait until you have significant professional accomplishments to share with the admissions team? What about application rounds – is there a round you should target if you’re planning to apply for Fall 2010?

If these are some of your questions about the business school application process, you’re not alone. However, like the components of your MBA application, the “best time” to apply to business school will truly vary by individual.

My admissions colleagues and I see successful applicants who bring with them a wealth of experience from many years in the business world – and we also see successful students who apply to business school early in their careers. When reviewing your application for your potential for professional success, we are typically more interested in the quality of your experience rather than the quantity. Think about the impact you've already had on your organization, whether you've led a team, a project, or an intiative. Be prepared to share examples of your teamwork and leadership experiences.

In this, as in all areas of your application, you will want to do your research with each school you are targeting for admission. Some schools will require a certain number of years of experience. Other schools will welcome applications from talented applicants who may not have significant professional experience. Regardless of when you apply, if you spend time thinking about examples of your potential for professional success, you’ll present a stronger application.

If you’ve decided that you’ll be applying for b-school this year, you’re now likely deciding what application round to target. You should research each school you are targeting for their specific admissions deadlines and preferences. Some b-schools operate on a rolling basis, with more spots available for admissions early in the process. Other schools have strict scholarship deadlines that typically occur earlier in the admissions year.

You may also have personal reasons for applying early in the process. An earlier application submission often means you will receive an earlier decision. This will allow you more time to make your decision, plan for a move, or participate in pre-MBA programs.

Does that mean earlier in the process is always better? Not necessarily. Your application to business school should represent the best picture of you, your strengths, and your possible contributions to your future classmates. It’s important for you to apply when your application is at its strongest. That may mean applying in a later round so you can study for your GMAT, take time and care on your essays, or allow your references to submit a strong, thorough recommendation.

So, what’s the bottom line? The timeline for applying to business school will vary by individual. Your decision to apply this year or in the future will depend on personal factors as well as admissions guidelines. If you do target this year, remember to get in contact with each school you are targeting to get their feedback regarding your application. When you have taken time to put together an application that adequately reflects your strengths and are prepared to embark on your MBA journey, that will be your “best” time to apply.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about your MBA application or timeline. I’ll be happy to help!

Krystal Brooks
Assistant Director – Masters Admissions
Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon

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