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Part 4 – Bringing It All Together

Today, Michael Cohan presents the fourth and final part in his series: Selecting MBA Programs and Schools to Target.

At Magoosh’s request and after their extraordinary patience, I have returned to complete the final installment of the Selecting MBA Programs and Schools to Target series I began a year ago:

After reading the other three parts of the series, you probably have a good idea of which programs you would like to take at which business schools, and you also probably have a good idea about your likelihood of gaining admission to these programs. So now what? Now you will have to select the business schools that make your final cut and then create a plan for applying to these schools.

Which schools will make the final cut?

How many schools should make the final cut? Well, that depends on your time and resources, the similarity among the applications, and your BATAS (more on that in a minute). But given reduced essay requirements and common recommendation questions, I recommend that people apply to more rather than fewer schools, especially if your target schools have very similar essay questions. Most applicants will want to ensure acceptance at a “safety” school. Tips for how to arrange schools into “safety”, “target,” and “stretch” categories are included in our free MBA Admissions Consultation.

But what is BATAS? BATAS is your Best Alternative To Attending School. I reworked a standard concept from the MBA Negotiations class that you have yet to take called BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). In negotiations, BATNA is the result if you do not reach an agreement. So you always want to negotiate terms better than your BATNA, because otherwise you would prefer this alternative to reaching an agreement. Likewise, you will want to choose schools with positive outcomes for your life that are better than the outcome of your BATAS. In other words, if your promotion prospects at your current job and other factors in your life yield a better outcome than the outcomes of attending every business school but X, Y, and Z, then you should only apply to X, Y, and Z. I had a client last year who felt that only HBS was better than his BATAS, so he applied only to HBS and, luckily, he was accepted. For another client, her BATAS was so low that it didn’t limit school selection and was thus ignored. The Return on Investment analysis discussed at the end of Selecting Suitable MBA Schools will help you determine the positive impacts of attending business school that you can then compare to your BATAS.

So now you have a rough idea as to the number of schools to which you will apply. Next, you need to determine which ones. Include those schools which are at the top of your preference list but are less selective, and exclude those schools towards the bottom of your preference list which are more selective. For the rest of the schools, keep as many as possible in the running if you have sufficient time remaining until the deadlines or if the schools have similar or easier applications. At this point, choosing the precise number is more of an art than a science.

Determining your application order

To determine your application order, you should look at similar variables:

  • Number of programs to which you are considering applying
  • Similarity between the applications of the programs to which you are considering applying
  • Ranking of those target programs in terms of your desirability to attend
  • Ranking of those target programs in terms of your likelihood of being admitted
  • Respective application deadlines for each target program
  • Respective admissions decision-making process of each target program
  • Time remaining until these application deadlines
  • Special circumstances that apply to your situation

In a perfect world, you would be able to apply in the optimal round for every school to which you are considering applying. But the real word has constraints on your time and application fees might prove costly. So here are a few things to consider:

  • Create a spreadsheet of your target school MBA application deadlines. Our MBAPrepAdvantage website contains a schedule of application deadlines for each business school sorted by round. You can export this to a spreadsheet by clicking the “Excel” button.
  • Rank your target programs and schools in terms of your desirability to attend and your likelihood of being accepted. Refer back to the part 2 and part 3 articles in this series!
  • Identify which schools have similar application processes, because this similarity influences the overall number of schools to which you can apply given a finite amount of time and resources.
  • Determine which of your target schools make decisions in a “by round” or “rolling process”.
    • A “by round” means that whether your application arrives at the beginning or the end of the round has no bearing on your chances of acceptance because the entire batch of applications is evaluated together.
    • A “rolling process” means that applying earlier is better. Some schools employ a rolling process throughout the application while others do so just for later rounds or between rounds.
  • Determine which of your target business schools have an “early decision or “early action” round.

Given the desirability and selectivity of your target programs and schools, you will want to maximize the number of schools to which you can apply in earlier rounds where an earlier application would make a difference.

For instance, Columbia has a rolling early decision round, which means that Columbia should be the first application you submit if you know you would attend Columbia Business School if accepted. HBS’s 2015 Round 1 MBA application deadline of 9/9/15 is 13 days before Stanford GSB’s MBA application deadline of 9/22/15, which is itself 15 days before Dartmouth Tuck’s 10/07/15 application deadline. So, all things being equal, you would want to file the applications in that order. However, if you are a real long shot at Stanford GSB, you might decide to push Stanford GSB to the next round if applying in round 1 would jeopardize your chances of completing Dartmouth Tuck’s early action round.

Just the beginning…

I could write so much more on balancing all of these variables to create an optimal MBA application plan and list even more examples. Tips for creating this MBA application plan are included in our MBA Application Consultation and School Packages pages. We also have an MBA Early Application Planning Checklist widget that might prove useful for you. Look at the “Engage” tab for ways to engage the admissions directors, professors, students, and alumni of each target business school to help you rank the schools and learn more about the programs for your application. Depending on how much time you have, certain parts of your MBA application will be in your control while others will not. For example, retaking the GMAT or GRE if your score is low might be possible, while fixing a mediocre GPA if you are applying in only a few months might not.

Once you have your MBA Application Plan, then you have to choose compelling stories, write impactful essays, create a powerful resume, and so much more. MBAPrepAdvantage would like to be your partner in navigating the MBA admissions process so you are accepted to your dream school! Give us a call at 305-604-8178 and visit our MBAPrepAdvantage website on business school admissions, which has all the information you could ever want on schools, careers, rankings, and test prep. Good luck!!!


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One Response to Part 4 – Bringing It All Together

  1. David DeMayo August 3, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Great blog…thanks for sharing!

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