How Many Business Schools Should You Apply To?

by on August 30th, 2012

Congratulations on your decision to earn your MBA! As you join the fewer than seven percent of Americans with an MBA, your degree will significantly impact your life and advance your career. With the many rankings of programs, you may be tempted to apply to all the top MBA programs with the hopes of getting admitted into one. Not so fast: to save yourself time, money and effort, you should apply to select programs that are aligned with your interests.

Recent research has shown that MBA applicants plan on applying to six, seven or even more programs after taking the GMAT. The same research, however, has concluded that three to five schools might be in the applicants’ best interests to save them serious stress and the possible fixation on a school that may be out of reach. (Not to mention spreading themselves too thin across too many applications, as opposed to focusing on a select few.)

Picking three to five schools can be a difficult task unless you’ve got a perfect GPA, amazing work experience and a GMAT score through the roof. Choosing schools with a larger student body might help your chances, as well as aiming for top programs that have a slightly lower median undergraduate GPA or a wide GMAT score range. It is also recommended to choose three to five very diverse, different schools to widen the opportunities offered.

It is also extremely important to focus in on your specific field of interest. Stanford and Harvard business schools are prestigious, but did you know that some programs that rank lower might be tops in Accounting or Executive specializations? Make sure that you are not too focused on a school just because of its rankings or prestigious alumni! As with your undergraduate applications, make sure your MBA programs vary in competitiveness but are all schools that you would be thrilled to attend. There is also never a hurt in adding a reach and safety school into your batch of applications.

Start with a big list of schools but narrow it down based on location, specializations, admissions requirements and coursework. Nearly every program posts its average undergraduate GPA, the median and range of GMAT scores for its applicants and the percentage of applicants that are admitted. It will behoove you to save your school visits and time spent on applicants to the narrowest form of this list. You will be a happier and less stressed applicant – and you will know more about each of the schools that you choose to apply to.


  • Hi,

    I have 2 question regarding 1)retaking GMAT exam. Does it matter if someone got 700+ score on his 3rd attempt ? there is positive movement in score for every successive attempt 2) Applicants age: I am 38.Does this hurts me in my application, given a 3.2 GPA,710+ GMAT and 15 years of experience with 5 years in management.

  • With 15 years of work experience, I'm assuming that you're considering Exec MBA programs - you have too much experience to consider traditional, full-time programs.

    • thanks Marc,
      I havent decided EMBA/MBA but i was more inclined towards MBA FT.. do you think i may not be a good fit for MBA-FT

  • There was 53 yr old enrolled in my full time mba program (top 20 state school). Anything is possible..don't let age or any so called expert tell you otherwise. In your case it may make more sense to do an executive mba, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't apply to a full time program. As an older candidate you need to have clearer goals and make a convincing case about why you need an MBA.

  • Matt thanks a lot for your replies. Things are a little less blury now.

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