IvyWise Resources

MBA Application Timeline

By Nellie, IvyWise MBA Admissions Counselor

Are you thinking about applying to business school? Just like with the undergraduate admissions process, the earlier you start the better! However, many prospective MBA applicants are unsure of how or when to start.

Most prospective MBA graduate students will spend a year on the application process, and a big chunk of that is doing a lot of self-reflection and deciding why you want to get an MBA in the first place. After that, it’s all about finding the best-fit programs and putting together applications that show your best-self.

Here is our recommended MBA application timeline to help you tackle the MBA application process.

January – April: Self Reflection

Preparation for the MBA admissions process begins with the first and most critical step: self-reflection. Applicants sometimes overlook this process in a rush to get their applications out the door. For others, self-reflection is not an easy task. Before you dive into preparing your applications and begin to evaluate what schools to consider, you should consider asking yourself these questions:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my most impactful career accomplishments?
  • What kind of career do I want to have? Think in terms of industry, function, and discipline.
  • What skills do I want to build?
  • What types of experiences or opportunities will help me build the skills I want to develop?
  • Why do I want an MBA? How will an MBA help me achieve my goals?

Self-reflection is vital to the entire business school application as you will use these insights about yourself in your essays and interviews to tell a compelling story about why you want to pursue an MBA.

January – April: Study for GMAT or GRE
April – July: Take the GMAT or GRE

Most MBA programs will require an official GMAT or GRE score as a part of the application process (yes, some schools are allowing for waivers of exams – IvyWise can help advise on if this strategy is best suited for you). It is best to start the standardized exam process at least six months before the application deadlines. This will allow for you to take the test a second or third time should you need to. Many students need to take the test multiple times in order to reach their target score. Start by taking a practice test to help you assess where you stand. After you have taken a practice test, consider taking a GMAT or GRE prep course. IvyWise recommends test prep tutoring to help you prepare for these standardized tests. Our team of expert tutors recommends only preparing for either the GMAT or GRE – not both. However, in some cases it might be worth switching from one to the other if you’re not seeing the score improvement you need on one.

March – April: School Research

Prospective applicants will need to conduct research to identify MBA programs that would be a good match based on their personal, academic, and professional background. School selection is an important part of the process. You will need to research school programs, visit campuses, and network with students, alumni, faculty, and admissions committees in order to determine which programs will support your goals. At IvyWise, we work with MBA applicants to help them decide which schools to apply to and how to increase their chances of acceptance through application preparation.

May – July: Networking/Letters of Recommendation

Most MBA programs will require 2-3 recommendation letters. You should tap into your professional network to identify people who could have a positive influence on your application. Plan to spend time building relationships with these potential recommenders as you will need to discuss with them why you want to apply to business school and give them plenty of advance notice in order to write their recommendations.

May – August: Essays

Essays are a crucial part of the preparation required for your applications. You will need to spend time brainstorming and thinking about what you want to highlight in terms of your career, goals, strengths, impact, etc. We recommend that you start working on your essays after you are done with the GMAT or GRE.

MBA Application Deadlines

The majority of business schools offer three rounds of admissions.

  • Round 1 deadlines: September or October. Round 1 is best suited for applicants who are well-prepared with their applications, have a great GMAT/GRE score and good grades, solid work experience, have engaged their recommenders, and who are coming from over-represented industries like consulting and finance.
  • Round 2 deadlines: January. Round 2 is better suited for applicants that can still make meaningful improvements to their overall profile. If you need time to raise your GMAT/GRE score, conduct more school research, or prepare better application materials, you should apply in Round 2.
  • Round 3 deadlines: late March to mid-April. Round 3 admission is the most competitive as there are only a limited number of spots available given that space has been allotted to earlier admits from earlier rounds.

Most business schools will tell you there is no preference between Round 1 applications versus Round 2 applications.

Generally speaking, we advise MBA applicants to apply in Round 1 as long as you are not compromising the quality of your application. Before applying, each applicant should consider which round is best for them as an individual.

IvyWise Core MBA Application Advising Process

An MBA application consists of the following parts:

  • Personal Story & Career Goals: Being able to communicate your unique personal story and setting realistic post-MBA goals is essential to the business school application process. You should be ready and able to discuss why you want an MBA? How an MBA can help you achieve your career goals, and why now is the best time for you to apply.
  • Essays: This is where applicants will need to write their compelling story demonstrating passion, direction, and authenticity.
  • Resume: One page view of who you are professionally.
  • Online application form: This includes background information, employment history, and sometimes includes short answer questions. It is important not to overlook or underestimate this section.
  • Letters of Recommendation: You should select individuals who are well acquainted with your performance in a work setting, preferably from a current or former supervisor.
  • Interview: If you are invited to interview, accept the offer! It should be noted we do not recommend preparing for the interview until you have received an invitation.

Other required documents:

  • Official transcripts of all academic work completed at the baccalaureate/undergraduate level and beyond.
  • GMAT or GRE scores that are no more than five years old.
  • All international applicants whose native language (language first learned and spoken at home) is not English, or who did not complete a degree from an institution where English was the language of instruction, are required to take the TOEFL or PTE. If you earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction, the test may be waived.

The MBA admissions process can be complicated, and understanding the timeline is critical to developing an effective application strategy. At IvyWise, we work with MBA applicants through every step of the MBA admissions process, from self-reflection and GMAT/GRE prep to building a balanced list of best-fit programs and polishing up your applications. The earlier you are able to start your applications the better you will do in the MBA application process, so contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about how IvyWise can help you reach your MBA admissions goals.

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