MBA Application Timeline Template

MBA spelled out

Applying to business is a long process and it can be a confusing one. When do you start? How do you decide what schools you should apply to? Who do you ask for letters of recommendation and when do you ask? We’re here to help with a structured timeline for applying to MBA programs.

Table of Contents

About this Application Timeline

Our application timeline template is designed to cover the 20 weeks, or about 5 months, before your application deadline. This may seem like a really long time, but it will fly by. We’ve structured it this way to give you time: time to research, time to study for your GMAT/GRE, time to work, and live your life.

It may be tempting to cram everything into the month or two before your deadline. But this is bad idea. What we hear from applicants, and have experienced ourselves, is that the application process takes longer than expected. You don’t want to approach it like a last minute essay you are writing the night before it’s due. This is a major step in achieving your career goals – be sure to take the time to make your application the best it can be.

What About GRE and/or GMAT Test Prep?

Too often we see prospective MBA students say they are going to concentrate fully on their GMAT or GRE prep and then start their b-school applications. Consider this a strong word of caution against that approach!

Here are three reasons to integrate your application prep with your test prep:

  • Proper Test Goal Setting: Doing research and constructing your list of schools to apply to will help you know what, exactly, you need to accomplish on the GMAT or GRE. Over the years I’ve worked with students who come to me with a score goal, but when asked why that goal can only say “I’ve heard it’s a good score.” While it’s definitely true that there are general benchmarks for programs (70th percentile for good schools, 90th percentile for top schools), MBA admissions are often more nuanced. Knowing exactly what schools you want to target and, more importantly, what they value will you help you to set appropriate score goals. A good GMAT/GRE score is the one that gets you into the MBA program of your choice.
  • Time Management: As mentioned above, applying to b-schools can take way longer than expected. One of the most common mistakes I see applicants make is to devote so much time to their test prep that they rush through their applications. This can lead to unpolished, unprofessional applications. MBA programs aren’t just looking for people who can crush the GMAT. They are primarily looking for the world’s future business leaders. You want your application to showcase all your best qualities, including your ability to follow directions and put together professional quality materials. Devoting a few hours each week to application prep will help you do just that.
  • Maximizing Your Test Prep: This one may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true! One of the most effective tools in your test prep arsenal is simply taking a break to let your brain reset. We often need to step away from a difficult lesson or question set and then come back with fresh eyes. These breaks are a great time to turn your attention to application tasks. Not only will this give your brain a break from complicated GMAT problems, but it can also keep your eyes on the prize. Test prep is a slog, we know, and it can get you down over time. Taking some time to focus on your end goal – an MBA program – can help keep you motivated and excited.

How to Balance Test Prep and Applications

We recommend devoting 2-3 hours a week to work on your applications, although this amount of time will likely grow larger the closer you get to your deadlines. At times you’ll need a dedicated hour to just focus on applications. But in the early weeks taking 15-20 minute breaks during your test prep to do bite sized application tasks will get you far.

If you use Magoosh for test prep and have our MBA Admissions support added-on, you’ll be able to integrate your application work and study schedule right in your dashboard. If you are using other tools, you should write down your application tasks at the beginning of each week. Keep them in the same place your study plan is and remind yourself to check in on your application progress. After a little bit of time this will be like second nature.

The 20-Week MBA Application Timeline Template

Anything labeled “In Magoosh” requires an active Magoosh MBA Admissions plan.

20 Weeks Before Deadline: The Basics of the Application Process

  • Commit to applying to business school
  • Tell family, friends, and mentors about your commitment to b-school

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

19 Weeks Before Deadline: Research Your School/Program List

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

18 Weeks Before Deadline: Strategically Shorten Your List

  • Finalize your school/program list

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

17 Weeks Before Deadline: Set Deadlines in Your Calendar

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

16 Weeks Before Deadline: GMAT vs. GRE Decision

15 Weeks Before Deadline: Start a Study Schedule

  • Take a practice test (either Magoosh or official) — this will tell you the baseline you’re starting from.
  • Select a study schedule to follow in your Magoosh test prep account

14 Weeks Before Deadline: Your Admissions Brand

  • Complete the Index to assess your likelihood of admissions success

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

13 Weeks Before Deadline: Highlighting Your Best Self

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

12 Weeks Before Deadline: Transcript and Letters of Rec Planning

  • Obtain your college transcripts.
  • Fill out the details in your application forms.
  • Prepare your list of recommenders and send them a request — if they say yes, consider sending them your Personal Achievement Template and meeting with them in person to discuss.

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

11 Weeks Before Deadline: Optimize Your MBA Resume

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

10 Weeks Before Deadline: Resume Review

  • Complete the first draft of your resume
  • Get your resume reviewed for clarity by a peer/mentor

9 Weeks Before Deadline: Essay Brainstorming + Schedule Your Exam

  • Make any changes to the final draft of your resume.
  • Create a list of essay prompts for your school/program list — determine where you can reuse/adapt the same essay.
  • If needed, schedule an exam retake at least 1 month out from your first application deadline — if you need more time to reach your score goal, consider applying to a later round.

In Magoosh, watch the following videos:

8 Weeks Before Deadline: Start Your Personal Statement

  • Start writing your Personal Statement.

In Magoosh, do the following:

7 Weeks Before Deadline: Continue Work on Your Personal Statement

  • Continue writing your personal statement.

In Magoosh, do the following:

  • Complete the “Writing Introductions” and “Write Your Intro!” steps in the “Write” section of the Guided Writing tool.

5 Weeks Before Deadline: Continue Work on Your Personal Statement (Really!)

  • Continue writing your personal statement.

In Magoosh, do the following:

  • Complete the “Effective Personal Statement Paragraphs” and “Write Your Body Paragraphs!” steps in the “Write” section of the Guided Writing tool.

4 Weeks Before Deadline: Get Feedback on Your Personal Statement

In Magoosh, do the following:

3 Weeks Before Deadline: Assemble the Components of Your Application

  • Make any changes to the final draft of your Personal Statement.
  • Obtain your letters of recommendation.
  • Adapt your personal statement for each program you are applying to.
  • Complete the first draft of any short response essays for program.

In Magoosh, do the following:

2 Weeks Before Deadline: Proofread and Final Review

  • Complete the final draft of any short response essays for program.
  • Proofread all writing samples (Personal Statement and short response essays, resume) for program.

1 Week Before Deadline: Submit!

  • Submit your test scores for all programs.
  • Finish filling in your application form for program.
  • Review and submit your application for program.
  • Press submit on your application!

Bonus: 1 Week after Deadline: Prep for Your Interviews


  • Jen Jurgens

    Jen has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and is a PhD candidate in U.S. History at Emory University. She’s worked in education, test prep, and admissions for over 12 years and has helped thousands of students in that time.

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