Applicant Strategy

Now that applications have been released, it's time to get serious about your approach.  The moves you make now could impact not only your admissions decisions, but also your workload over the next few months.

Hopefully you have already been working to prepare for application season.  You’ve had all summer to gather documentation, visit with former bosses and put some thoughtful cogitation into your story and how it will fit within various MBA programs.  School selection is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle; arguably the most important piece!  Even though choosing your target schools is critical,  you must also ruminate on the batting order of your application process.

Knowing not just where, but when you will apply can either streamline or radically disrupt your application approach.

Firstly, there’s deadlines to consider.  Since there’s no standardization, of course every school has a different process and different timelines.  If you are targeting an early action program, you will clearly need to prioritize that school in your list.  This also means adjusting potential school visits and budgeting time for interviews down the road (hopefully).  Even schools who have regular first round deadlines, you have to come up with a plan of attack if you want to save headaches and stress when d-day (deadline day) comes.  Obviously, you can just arrange your workload to finish earlier deadline schools first, but this may be oversimplifying things.

Since it’s recommended that you let finished applications marinate before you submit them, you should come up with a plan to finish all of your applications early, giving you some margin on the backend to make adjustments.

One way you might consider approaching the order of operation is to “practice” on  your safety schools’ applications first.

Often, MBA applicants use their second or third choice schools to flesh out their story and work the kinks out of the narrative, so to speak.  This approach pays off in several ways. Firstly, the pressure is off to get everything right up front.  If you were working on your top choice first, you would likely end up taking too much time to write essays and organize your thoughts, since you “have to get this one right.”  Utilizing a more casual approach on a couple of schools that you would happily drop if your real target offered you a seat will get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), which is often a big hurdle.  Sounds simple, but writer’s block sets in early and often when you’re trying to sum up your life story and passion in just a few words.

Once you have a few core essays written for your alt-schools, you will likely begin to see holes and areas for improvement. 

Seeing how something looks on paper is a very effective way to ignite the creative juices to make it even better.  Of course, fleshing things out with a consultant or guide is a great way to hone your story in a way that makes it even more impressive or compelling.

Utilizing the process of shelving applications, or putting them aside without submitting them and working on the next school, allows for the story to marinate.  Working on schools one at a time helps you focus and stay true to each school's culture.  When doing this,  I have never seen a case where a client did not want to go back and make tweaks after working on subsequent packages.  Just like a painting or a film, the fine details and editing tweaks are often what make the difference between a masterpiece and a flop.  In any case, make sure you plan out the next several months on paper.  Get your deadlines locked in on your calendar and schedule time with yourself (actual appointments!) to sit down and work on specific tasks.  You’ll be glad you did so in the end.

To find out more about your options and how we can guide your business school application process, email us at or contact us via