Do's and Don'ts of Applying to Business School

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Nov 11, 2019

If youre applying to business school this admissions season, now is the time to set your strategy. Here are some of our top tips, a.k.a. the do's and don'ts of applying to business school, to ease your journey as you navigate this challenging process.

Testing strategies

In a sea of highly qualified candidates, the GMAT is an important screening tool, so take this element of your application seriously, as its very much within your control.

DOtake a class in order to prepare rigorously. Establish and adhere to a study schedule and practice exams in a realistic environment. One basic key to success is familiarityboth with question type and the computer-adapted format.

DONTwait until the last minute to sit for your GMAT. Take care of it early in the season, before you have to hone your focus on other aspects of the application.

DOplan to take the exam more than once. Calmer nerves and more experience often lead to a higher score the second time around.

DONTcancel a score, no matter how badly you think you have done. Schools will evaluate only your highest score. In any case, it will provide valuable information about your testing strengths and weaknesses. And you may be surprised that a score is not as low as you expected.

DOconsider sitting for the GRE. Because the GRE isnt reported in class profiles and isnt a factor in b-school rankings, if you struggle with the GMAT but have good grades and other strong credentials, submitting a GRE may make it easier for a school to take a chance on you. If you do well on the GMAT, though, submit it.

Narrowing your school list

DOapply to your dream school, even if its a stretch. This is your only chance, so dont leave yourself open for regrets later.

DOapply to at least four schools of varying levels of competitiveness to maximize your chances of success.

DONTapply to more than six schools. This is an intense and time-consuming process. Applying to too many schools leads to burnout and diminishing returns.

DONTrely solely on rankings when deciding where to apply. Only you can decide which program is the right fit for your personality and goals, so engage in first-hand research by visiting schools and speaking with current students and alumni.

Recommendation letters

Letters of recommendation are an essential part of the admissions process---some top schools have said they are the most important part---so choose your recommenders carefully!

DOuse references from your current and most recent jobs. An academic reference wont be able to answer the most common recommendation questions. Insights from your supervisors help create a picture of you now. The admissions committee isnt as concerned with how you behaved eight years ago.

DONTbe tempted to seek a letter of recommendation from the CEO of your company, or another high ranking person, if he or she hardly knows you. The admissions committee always prefers placement over prestige, so make sure your recommender knows you well enough to comment in a thoughtful way, with supportive examples that help flesh out the candidate they see on paper.

DOprepare your recommenders and manage them closely. These references are a small but crucial test of your management abilities. If you cant ensure that your recommenders submit on time or follow other directions, what does this say about your skills as a manager?

The interview

As with all aspects of this process, its important to prep for the interviews. The subject matter of the interview will be you, and you will be expected to be the polished expert.

DOpractice out loud, rather than just mentally preparing answers. Conduct mock interviews with a friend, or speak to yourself in the mirror.

DONTopt to interview on campus if you would perform better off campus. Set yourself up for success by choosing the environment where youll feel most relaxed.

DOfollow up with a thank you note, via E-mail or regular mail.


Many schools welcomereapplicants; it shows you are seriously interested in the program. If you approach the process correctly as a reapplicant, you can feel cautiously optimistic.

DObe sure to highlight how you have progressed since your previous application. Demonstrate professional and personal advancements. Help the admissions committee understand how youve evolved and become a better applicant since your last attempt.

DONTcompletely overhaul your application. Some schools ask you to submit an entirely new application, but too much change can signal that youre not being honest.

DOapply to new schools in addition to the old ones. If you were unsuccessful the first time, it may be because you applied to the wrong set of schools.


We hope these do's and don'ts of applying to business school help you navigate the many challenges that arise during the process. Remember, if you need guidance with your application strategy, interview prep, or editing services, we're here to help!