To choose the right MBA program for yourself, you will need to answer the following questions:
- What’s the maximum number of schools you plan to apply to?
- What is the risk exposure you wish to have?
The answers for those two questions will help to refine your list further.
While you can technically apply to an unlimited number of schools, you need to think of your referees.
While schools have tried to make the process smoother with initiatives such as the Common LOR, it will take at least 15 to 20 minutes per school for your referees to fill each form.
Also, applying to schools has an associated cost – think US$200 per school. In other words, if you were to apply to 21 programs, you would need to allocate US$4,200 just for application fees.
The typical recommended number when it comes to Elite MBA programs is to look at 5 to 8 programs. The number of reach programs will also determine your final number. If you are not risk averse, you might apply to just a few reach programs and no back-ups.
You also of course need to consider:
- What are my goals?
- What am I aiming to get out of the MBA?
If your goal is to switch industries, you probably want a 2-year program so that you can do an internship and have more career development support from your business school. On the other hand, if your company is sponsoring your MBA and you’ll be returning to the same company, or if you simply want to be away from work for a shorter period of time, you might consider schools that offer 1 year MBAs.
You might also be looking to go to a program with particular strengths – be it in tech, consulting, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, product management, data analytics, or others. This can also of course influence your list. On the other hand, if you are simply looking for a recognized global brand to boost your credentials, that will of course influence your school list as well.
Sample MBA Shortlists
Meet Lucy and Laura. They are both Elite MBA applicants (with identical profiles) looking at very similar programs (M7 and S7 only), and yet are going to end up with a different number of schools.
Lucy wants to apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, and wants to make sure she starts her MBA at a top school next Fall.
As she already has 3 schools in her list, it would be advisable for her to add 4 or 5 programs to her list with a mix of M7 and S7.
Her final list could be looking like:
This list of 8 schools will maximize her chances of getting into one of the M7 while ensuring that she will secure at least one offer at either Yale or NYU. In total, Lucy applies to 8 schools.
On the other hand, Laura doesn’t believe much in her chances of getting into one of the top 3, and decides to only include one of those in her list.
As a result, following the same logic as above, she will only have to apply to 6 schools to achieve an outcome similar to Lucy’s. Laura’s final list could look like this:
- Harvard / Stanford / Wharton