The 4-Week MBA Application

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 14, 2019)

As we get closer to application deadlines, we tend to receive inquiries from MBA applicants who wonder about the possibility to put together a solid B-school application in less than a month.

Applying to a top business school usually requires months of effort, and GMAT preparation alone takes a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks for most applicants. Furthermore, picking, reaching out to, and managing recommenders can be extremely time consuming. Finally, most MBA programs require applicants to submit university or college transcripts; obtaining them can turn into a long struggle, especially for international students (who also need to translate their transcripts and convert their grades).

Our recommendation is therefore to submit your MBA application when it is ready, even if doing so implies applying at a later stage. This is usually a no-brainer for early birds who after considering applying in round 1 realize that they need a bit more time to polish their essays and therefore decide to apply in round 2. Although considered more competitive, round 2  gives them an opportunity to submit a much more robust application.

However, skipping round 2 and applying in round 3 is a much bigger chance to take because of the limited number of spots available at most schools. Postponing MBA plans one year is often not  an option for applicants who have spent months crafting their story and just want to go to B-School in the fall. If you haven’t started putting together your application and feel that you absolutely need to submit it before the round-2 deadline, here are 10 tips that may help you achieve the impossible.

  1. Request time off from work. Putting together your MBA application in less than a month will quickly become a full time job.
  2. Schedule a GMAT appointment immediately, and pick a date as close as possible to your deadline. If your score is really low, you may have to retake the test and apply in round 3, but the rest of your application will be ready, and you won’t have to worry about it anymore. Once your appointment is booked, prepare for the test every day for several hours. We highly recommend using the following resources to prepare for your GMAT. If you need to take the TOEFL, apply immediately as well (TOEFL does not necessarily require a lot of preparation, except maybe for the speaking skills assessment. Plan to prepare for a couple of hours the night before the exam).
  3. Reach out to recommenders today. Take them to lunch or dinner this week. Pick them carefully, because by starting your business school application so late, you are indicating that you are managing the process poorly. Pick people who know you well (ideally in a professional capacity), and who are able to understand why you are asking for such a huge favor with so little time to work on it.
  4. Request college / university transcripts immediately. It will be harder than you think. Plan a trip to your undergrad institution. This is how I ended up getting my transcripts. December and January can be very busy for US and EU schools’ registrar services. Don’t expect them to prioritize your request, they won’t, unless you stand in front of them. 
  5. Create an account for all b-schools and “introduce yourself”. Make sure to take note of all deadlines – not just the official submission deadline – in order to avoid missing important milestones (e.g. Kellogg requests applicants to indicate a preferred location for the in-person interview before its official application deadline).
  6. Prepare a rock solid CV. This can be done in one or two days. Just try to keep it to one page, and quantify every accomplishment you mention. Ask a friend or a coach to review it and provide feedback. Your resume is one of the most important pieces of your application.  
  7. Download essay questions from the official application site. Then think about your essays night and day and add ideas / anecdotes to your draft document on a daily basis. Do not forget to mention why you are applying to a specific program. Fit matters.
  8. Keep track of everything. Create an excel tracker with pre-determined milestones for key deliverables (resume, essays, letters of recommendation, etc.). Don’t miss a single deadline.
  9. Talk to alumni and current students. You will not have the time to attend official information events. Talk to alumni and current students to confirm that their school is a place where you can see yourself. These conversations can actually feed some of your essays.
  10. Get help. Ask a friend, relative, or coach to review your key deliverables and brainstorm with you on a regular basis. You’ll need the extra hand and pair of eyes (to spot typos and grammatical errors). You’ll also need someone to check your progress and motivate you along the way.  

We’ve covered most of these action items in our 10-step guides to the MBA application. Feel free to contact us directly should you be interested in a free profile assessment (check our services page for details). And if you’re still wondering where to apply, give our free algorithm a try! It will allow you to estimate your odds of success at top B-schools including HBS, London Business School, INSEAD, Booth, MIT, Stanford GSB, Columbia, NYU Stern, or Kellogg.

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