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How long does it take to put together a great business school application?

how long does business school take

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My short answer is that for a single MBA application, I think you can indeed complete it in two months, but you may be sacrificing quality for speed, and that is not recommended.

At MBA Prep School ( ), we studied applicants who completed three applications in a single round. The figures and the work plan that I will share was the result of that study. I will suggest some adjustments given that you asked about applying to a single MBA program.

Before I start, let me acknowledge that this was not a "time and motion study" and no one used a stop watch. The results are based on anecdotal reports from clients who were deeply engaged in the process and produced successful, high-quality applications to three schools.

For three business school applications, we recommend budgeting an average of 15 - 18 hours per week for 12 weeks. That is around 200 hours of work. To give you an idea of the scope and scale of the project of applying to business school, I am going to summarize each step and provide our estimates of how much time a typical applicant may need to devote to each activity.

MBA Prep Step 1: Prepare to Apply (Prior to Starting Your Applications)

For the early birds, who have more than twelve weeks until the deadlines, we recommend using the time to make their candidacy that much stronger. There are things you can do in the preparation phase to increase your chances of getting in, but I will save those for another Quora post. Note that we haven’t included time for these preparation activities in the 12 week / 200 hour budget. Furthermore, the work plan assumes that the applicant has already completed the GMAT.

MBA Prep Step 2: Discover Your Strengths (Week 1; 12 hours)

In this step, you will complete a thorough accounting of your key differentiators, character strengths, career history, and leadership capabilities. The things you discover about yourself will serve as the building blocks for a powerful application.

MBA Prep Step 3: Define Your Career Goals (Weeks 2-3; 20 hours)

Defining a powerful set of career goals is incredibly challenging. You must find the intersection between your strengths, passion, and sense of purpose in order to define an inspiring career vision for your career goals essays. Some applicants, though not many, already have this figured out. Adjust your budget accordingly.

MBA Prep Step 4: Select Your Schools (Weeks 2-4; 18 hours)

You need to look beyond the magazine rankings, the school’s marketing messages, and the opinions of others and instead complete in-depth school research to find the business schools that are best for you. Here again, you may be able to save time if you already know where you want to apply. Nevertheless, you still need to budget time for school research because a generic answer to an admissions officer's question about why you are applying to his or her school will undermine your candidacy.

MBA Prep Step 5: Identify Each School's Fit Qualities (Weeks 4-6; 13 hours)

To prove you are a better fit than your competition, you need to find out what qualities the MBA programs you are applying to value

most and use that knowledge to shape and customize every element of your application – especially your essays. Our time budget assumes you are researching "fit qualities" for three schools; therefore, you can shave time off here if you are researching fit qualities for a single business school.

MBA Prep Step 6: Create Your Application Resume (Weeks 4-6; 16 hours)

Most schools will require you to submit a 1-2 page resume. You need to learn what admissions officers are looking for in an MBA application resume and then build a resume that will impress the admissions committee. If you already have a sparkling resume, then you are ahead of the game on this step.

MBA Prep Step 7: Write Your Essays (Weeks 6-12; Budget 91 hours)

The writing process is very demanding. From topic selection to final draft, there are really no shortcuts to creating great essays. Our standard estimate assumes that you will apply to three schools and complete three to five drafts of every essay. The first school's essays take the longest; so I wouldn't divide the number by three in your case. Instead, budget 8-10 hours of writing time for essay question you need to complete.

MBA Prep Step 8: Select and Support Your References (Weeks 6-12; 19 hours)

Selecting your references and supporting them along the way are critical aspects of a successful application. You need to guide your references to maximize the quality of the reference letters that accompany your application.

MBA Prep Step 9: Complete the Application Forms (Weeks 10 -12; 13 hours)

The application forms provide another opportunity to further differentiate your bid for admission. You need to summarize the awards and achievements that set you apart from others. For a single school, you probably only need about three or four hours for the forms. Proofread them very carefully. The time estimate assumes there are some short answer questions to tackle. It obviously doesn't take that much time to fill in your name and address.

MBA Prep Step 10: Prepare for Interviews (After submitting your application)

The admissions interview is the “final exam” in the application process. The preparation time is not factored into our budget for the application activities because this is work that takes place once your applications have been submitted. Some applicants will spend 20 - 30 hours or more preparing for interviews. Do keep in mind that a few business schools conduct interviews during the application round. If that is the case for the schools you are applying to then interview preparation time does need to be factored in to your twelve-week work plan.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this work plan for applying for an MBA helps you to create a time line that is realistic and manageable given the other demands on your time. My final thought is that you should indeed aim to complete your MBA application in eight weeks. A sense of urgency is always a good thing. By about week six-- before your references letters are submitted-- take a step back from the process and ask yourself (and others) if you have optimized the quality of every element of your application. If not, then you should definitely postpone submission until the second round.

Category: Personal Finance

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