Applying to MBA programs can be a lengthy process—but it doesn't have to be stressful. Pulling together a strong MBA application can take a year or more, especially when you factor in GMAT preparation, school visits, and MBA essays. That's why it's important to think about your MBA application timeline in advance. Take a look at the following tips to determine when to submit your business school application.

When to apply to MBA programs

1. Apply when you're ready.

Simple, right? The bottom line is this: in order to be accepted to the MBA program of your choice, you need to put your best foot forward. Is your GMAT score as high as it needs to be? If not, take the test again. Could your essays be better written? Give them another look and consider hiring a consultant. You should look at every component of your application to see if there's anything left to improve before submitting.

2. Get your foot in the door.

Unfortunately, application deadlines come and go regardless of whether or not you feel ready to submit! And the higher up your desired program is in the MBA rankings, the more small improvements can make a big difference. If application deadlines are right around the corner but your GMAT score could be better, consider applying now and providing an update later. Most MBA programs accept updated scores or additional recommendation laters a few weeks after their deadlines—but it's best to ask well in advance!

3. Apply for the right MBA round.

If you can, play the odds! Most MBA program applications have 3 rounds:

  • Round 1: This early round is for applicants who've already identified their top choices and are ready to submit their applications before the bulk of applications reach the admissions office.
  • Round 2: The largest round, where most applications are submitted. The odds of acceptance are roughly the same as the first round. Some applicants submit applications for schools lower on their list during this second round.
  • Round 3: The final round. Odds of acceptance are typically lower at this point, and there's typically less scholarship money available. If you're a great candidate, you'll still have a good shot, but it will be more competitive.

Remember: MBA applications are a marathon, not a sprint! Competition for the best MBA programs is fierce, and it's important not to submit until your application is strong and competitive. There are a wide range of MBA programs designed for students of all ages and from a wide range of professional backgrounds, so don't feel bad about waiting until the time is right for you.

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