You and Your B-School Application

When it comes to applying to business school, think of yourself as "the product." Your application is your marketing document. Marketing yourself doesn't mean that you should exaggerate or embellish the facts. It simply means that you need to make a lucid and convincing presentation. Everything on your application should contribute to an overall picture of yourself that clearly demonstrates that you belong in the class and will make a solid contribution to the learning of your peers.

Sell yourself. Your application should look like it's the only one you are submitting. The admissions committees don't care if you cranked out 6 applications in 2 weeks—they only see one application, so make sure it's worth it.

When Should You Apply?

Understanding how each school's application cycle operates can help you determine the best time to submit your application. Some schools use "rolling admissions," which means they review applications on an ongoing basis and commit to responding within a given time period after receiving your completed application. Other schools set specific deadlines so that everyone applying by a certain date will get responses at a scheduled time, generally 4-6 weeks after the deadline.

There are potential risks and rewards regardless of when you apply. However, the general rule of thumb is that it's better to apply early rather than later. This holds true because as the deadline approaches, candidates are competing for fewer spaces. Also, by applying early, you are showing a strong interest and commitment to earning your MBA.

Can you apply too early?

Possibly. At the start of the admissions season, committees need time to "calibrate" the yardstick by which they'll measure candidates that year. They may still be trying to get a feel for the strength of the applicant pool as it does vary from year to year. As a result, schools may be less consistent in their judgments and also less likely to give you—or anyone—the benefit of the doubt. And because the application season is just starting, they are under little or no pressure to fill class slots.

In addition, because there are fewer applications in the early stages, you may be scrutinized more closely. And typically the first period contains very strong applicants. That being said, at the start of the application season, there are more places available than there ever will be that year. So overall it's important that you apply when you have the best application possible.