Business school applicants who want to maximise their chances of admission often face the question of how many MBA programmes to apply to.
The more applications you submit, the more opportunities you will have. However, this strategy can decrease the overall quality of your application package. How to strike the right balance?
The number of MBA programmes where you will apply depends on many factors. Will you study locally or abroad, how good is your GMAT score and when do you want to begin your MBA studies are all facts that can limit or increase your options.
A high GMAT opens more doors
As perfectly illustrated by the latest GMAC data, the higher the GMAT score is, the higher the number of programmes where MBA applicants submit their scores. In 2016, GMAT test takers worldwide sent out their scores to 2.2 programmes on average. However, those who achieved above 650 sent their scores to 3.4 programmes. Some business schools (B-schools) require a minimum GMAT that makes prospective students eligible for admission. Others admit applicants with a wide range of GMAT scores, but in this case it is best to secure a score above the average for the school. The minimum decent score for an MBA application is 550, but the average score of some of the most selective US B-schools reaches 730 (on the200-800 GMAT scoring scale). Clearly the higher the score is the more options you will have.
Check out: How to Prepare for GMAT – Essential Guide
Your career goals cannot match every MBA programme
MBA admissions committees expect you to have specific career plans and to present them in the application. You will be expected to have a clear idea about the industry you want to join immediately after your MBA graduation, along with potential employers or start-up business ideas and the position you are targeting. This means that you have better chances of admission at MBA programmes that can actually help you achieve your goals by the curriculum, network and career services.
This suggests that you should limit the choice of MBA programmes to those that fit your personal and professional goals very well. Moreover, have in mind that AdComs will be asking for your arguments on why you selected their specific MBA programme. You will be expected to give examples that justify the relevance of the chosen programme to your goals.
Even if you have your dream B-schools, you should evaluate in advance whether you have realistic chances of admission. You can always have on your list one or two MBA programmes that will be a stretch, but not more than that. The MBA application is quite an effort by itself and you want to invest it wisely and yield the best results you can.
The one and only
In addition, you can be really be focused on just one school because you have a gut feeling or reasonable argument that it is the one and only place for you. Again, be realistic and research whether you meet the requirements of that MBA programme and evaluate your chances of admission. On the other hand, do not put all your eggs in one basket. Stay open for other opportunities, as there is a great diversity of MBA programmes nowadays. Technology and globalisation give access to modular or online programmes that can be a good option in addition to traditional classroom programmes in the locations of your preference.
Prepare an outstanding application
What matters most in MBA admissions is the quality of your application package, test scores and interview performance. Focus on preparing an informative and convincing set of materials – the MBA application essays, your professional CV/resume relevant to the MBA application, letters of reference and the application form details. Preparing these documents takes twice the time you anticipate and they are unique for each MBA programme. Therefore, you cannot use the same essay to apply to several programmes, even if you might need to adapt or change the format of your CV/resume to the requirements of different B-schools.
Now, multiply this effort by the number of MBA programmes that you want to apply to. Factor in that the application deadlines of different B-schools can be quite close to one another. This results in a tight schedule for producing an outstanding application package. Finally, there are elements out of your control such as the letters of recommendation. You cannot expect your recommenders to write several letters of reference overnight. As with the MBA essays, each B-school has its own form and requirements for the letters of reference, so you cannot use a single or a general letter of reference for all your MBA applications.
MBA application budget
MBA application requires a budget of its own. Even if you have already passed the GMAT and TOEFL or IELTS and paid for your books, preparation courses or tutoring, the actual application incurs additional expenses. Each B-school has an application fee that can be several hundred euros or US Dollars. Translation and certified copies of your diplomas and academic transcripts, ordering additional test score reports and travel expenses for interviewing on campus just add to the cost of the application. Therefore, plan your budget in advance and plan the number of your applications accordingly.
How many mba programmes to apply to?
All of the factors discussed above give you the formula that will help you calculate how many MBA programmes you can afford to apply to in order to submit an application of high quality on time to B-schools where you have realistic chances of admission. This experience can be the first test of your MBA studies.