How to Apply to Accelerated "1-Year" MBA Programs

One trend we're seeing these days is the desire of some candidates to dispense with the frills and just hammer out their MBA in the quickest time possible.  Obviously, this means that we're talking "1-year" programs a lot.  As is so often the case, we figure we'll bring part of that conversation online.  

Here are some of the things we're sharing with clients: 

1. Defining "1-Year."

Have you ever had one of those debates with someone about what counts as a year?  In the NBA, a "year" is a nine month season that actually spans two calendar years, from October to June.  A fiscal year means something different from a calendar year.  The 2018 U.S. News and World Report comes out in 2017, as does the 2017 Acura MDX.  It's hard to keep it all straight and the same is true for accelerated MBA programs.  Some are indeed a year.  Some are 10 months.  Some are 13. Or 16.  But when people say they are looking for a "1-Year" program, they are often referring to all of these.  So for purposes of this post and for any discussions you might have with our first, a "1-Year Program" means a "program without a summer internship."  

2. Finding the Top Accelerated Options.

For whatever reason, gathering together a robust list of all the top accelerated options is not as easy as you would think in this Information Age.  I suspect that will change now that so many people are flocking to such programs and there will be money to be made for some enterprising soul who will build a website devoted to accelerated MBA programs.  For now, we encourage people to frame their research thusly: 

Start in Europe.  

  • The culture of European programs is such that 1-year programs are not uncommon, as they are in the U.S.  INSEAD is well known for featuring a blistering pace and no internship opportunity as part of its 1-year program.  IE, SDA Bocconi, HEC Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, and IMD all feature a 1-year option only.  ESADE has the option for a single year rather than two.  In fact, the only popular b-schools in Europe that do NOT offer a 1-year option are IESE and LBS.  All in all, if you want to move fast through this process, the continent of Europe is an ideal place to start your search. 

Look to the big U.S. players.

  • Don't get hung up on speed and then sacrifice quality by choosing a school who has just recently thrown together an accelerated program as a way to boost applications.  Look for programs in the U.S. that have been doing this for a while and doing it well.  Kellogg's 1-year program is very good, Columbia's J-Term is a great option, and even Johnson's 12-month program is a strong bet (although this one favors candidates who already hold an advanced degree of some kind). Emory is probably the only other U.S. program that offers a one-year option that we recommend.  Florida, Babson, and Arizona are other programs that might fit the bill if you are really in a jam, but we think that is where you start getting into trouble.  (If you are deep into your career, you might want to also consider the Sloan Fellows programs at MIT and Stanford, but that is a topic for a different post.)

3. Bearing the Burden of Proof, Career Goals.

We tell all applicants that the bear the burden of proof when it comes to things like career goals, school fit, and overall appropriateness of the degree path. In other words, don't assume everything speaks for itself and don't ask the admissions officer to play detective - explain everything in the most detail and in the strongest terms possible.  This is especially true for 1-year program applicants.  By the very nature of the program, you are saying "I don't think I need an internship to get where I'm going."  Okay ... why is that?  Do you have special training?  A job lined up?  Your own network that will handle the recruiting burden?  You HAVE to give them some sort of certainty that you've got the job part of this figured out, even as you increase the degree of difficulty of your own recruiting process.  This is why you often hear that 1-Year applicants are going back to their current company or returning to their own business or otherwise not even really going through the recruiting process.  It doesn't have to be that extreme, but you have to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that you can take care of yourself out there. 

4. Bearing the Burden of Proof, Maturity.

The other areas where you are guilty until proven innocent is in the area of maturity.  Blame Generation Y or Facebook or whatever you want, but the truth of the matter is that b-schools (typically run by people in their 30s and 40s) think that today's crop of 20-something applicants are lacking in social intelligence and EQ, which means you have to prove you've got a good head on your shoulders.  This is exacerbated in a 1-Year program context.  There's no time to sort of feel your way into it or slowly get up to speed with the culture - it's a sprint to the finish and they want to make sure the students can handle it.  You often see 1-Year programs favor slightly older students because those folks typically have more life and work experience and therefore should be able to assimilate more easily.  But old or young, your job when applying to a 1-Year program is to show you are friendly, collaborative, confident, and ready to hit the ground running.  This is extremely important and we really can't stress enough how much you need to pay attention to EQ in your applications.  

Overall, 1-Year programs can be a great option for taking a money-saving, time-saving, no frills approach to an MBA.  

But make sure you ask yourself the questions b-schools will be asking: why are you in such a hurry?  What about the internship?  How are you going to land on your feet?  Are you ready for this?  Will you miss something important?  If you can be honest with yourself about those questions and the program still nets out as the right fit, you will know you are well on your way to satisfying any and all concerns held by the admissions office.  

Now go out there and nail your applications to 1-Year programs before the rest of the world catches up to you. 

If you are interested in a free initial consultation, please email  Our boutique approach pairs you with one of the principals of our company, meaning you will be working with someone capable of walking you through the above steps and perfecting your application.

Finally, make sure to download our free How to Apply to HBS guide.