The Magic Number

When application season is in full swing, the first question you must answer is:  how many schools should I apply to?

Life would be easy if we could all hit a homerun on the first at-bat.  But not only is that improbable, when it comes to applying to business school, it’s downright impossible.  Even if you have a golden resume and a platinum profile, there’s no guarantee you’ll get into your top choice business school.  Things have gotten so competitive with top schools, in fact, that you will likely be rejected from as many or more schools than you are admitted. 

Deciding how many schools to apply to is going to heavily affect your free time this fall.

Applications take time to hammer out.  Every school has a different slate of questions to answer and hoops to jump through.  Even if you utilize common applications such as the Consortium, you still must tweak it for each school and submit additional requirements unique to each institution. 

A good rule of thumb is to apply to an additional three schools for every 20 points under 700 on the GMAT. 

So even if your GMAT is above 700, you should apply to at least three schools.  That’s right!  Don’t take your 750 GMAT to Wharton only—newsflash—they could fill their entire first year class with 750’s.  If you score a 680, you’d better be applying to six schools. Only getting a 660?  Make that nine schools.  One might begin to do the math and think, “maybe I should just boost my GMAT score?”  Well, you’d be pleasantly surprised at how much your odds of admission goes up with a high score.  While it’s not all about the GMAT, the test does have a good track record for indicating success in the first year of business programs.  Plus, schools know that if you are smart (a trait which is often connected to high GMAT scores), there is a lower risk of your having trouble with the curriculum. 

Applying to multiple schools can seem overwhelming at first.

Make sure you formulate a plan to tackle multiple applications.  Find a good consultant to guide you and try to do only one school at a time, shelving each application while you proceed through the others.  You will likely discover tweaks you can make to all of them with each successive one.  Once they are all finished, you can polish them up before submitting, but make sure to remain organized on the due-dates.  You’d hate to finish one only to miss a deadline. 

For information on how we can guide your business school application process, email us at or go to