Why don't people just apply to every MBA program in the top-20?

JohnnyLlamma45's picture
Rank: King Kong | banana points 1,935

I get that this would be a massive pain, but if you have sufficient time and money it seems like the best way to ensure you slip in somewhere. The main obstacle I see would be that it could be pain for your letter of rec writer, but I understand a fair amount of schools are moving to a common recommendation form, so it should be easier to apply to a bunch of schools now. Is there a reason people only apply to a handful of schools? I have this nightmare of getting in nowhere.

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Comments (14)

Most Helpful
Jun 24, 2018

I applied to 8 schools this past cycle it was almost a full-time second job. Additionally, when it comes time to interview, I was having to fly out two to three times a week - which is a huge burden, whether you are working full time or not. My opinion is that applying to 20 schools would be nearly impossible to execute while maintaining quality, even with the most dedicated effort - you are likely underestimating the time and care you need to put into each application. In sum, consider:

  1. Crafting essays that are introspective and powerful, taking the time to write and re-write them. This takes a ton of time.
  2. As you mentioned, letter of rec burden. Not all schools are on standard, and 20 schools IMO would be an unreasonable ask. I felt bad about asking for 8, even with the standardization across some schools.
  3. Assuming a decent hit rate, and even interviewing across multiple rounds would be a HUGE burden. The flights, hotels, food - everything - all comes out of your pocket, and the interviews often hit near each other. Think about keeping each school's facts in order across possibly 20 interviews, when you can have three or so in one week, for multiple weeks on end.
  4. Connecting with current students / alumni across 20 schools would be very difficult. Same if you try to visit. I would recommend doing both of these things if possible.
  5. Multiply approx. $200 times 20 - that's just the application fees.
  6. Not all schools are the same just because they are in the top 20. There are truly distinct differences between top B schools, and many will not mesh with your goals and interests. Spend the time figuring out which schools align best with what you want to get out of the experience. If you are not truly engaged with the school, and passionate about why you want to attend, it will come across in your essays and interviews.
  7. Finally, all of this needs to be done while working a full-time job (presumably)!

My advice would be to strengthen your profile so that you are competitive at your goal schools, and shoot for a list more along the lines of 4-8 schools, ideally across rounds 1 and 2.

    • 12
Jun 27, 2018

Great comprehensive answer - thanks!

Jun 26, 2018

Agree with all of the points made here. There are definitely diminishing returns to applying to more schools and the quality of your applications would start to go down at some point. I personally only applied to 4 schools, and the most I've heard is around 7-8. I can't even imagine juggling 20 school visits, student/alumni chats, interviews, etc.

Jun 24, 2018

I did 7 in one round and it was a pain in the ass. There were also only 8 schools I thought we were attending given my goals and preferences (M7 + Haas) and I decided not to apply to Haas after visiting. Regarding interviews, if you are interviewing with alumni and not admissions officers, you can usually do these locally if you live in a big city. The only exceptions I know of where you have to go to campus to interview with admissions officers are HBS, Sloan, and I think Stern.

Jun 24, 2018
Frank Slaughtery:

I did 7 in one round and it was a pain in the ass. There were also only 8 schools I thought we were attending given my goals and preferences (M7 + Haas) and I decided not to apply to Haas after visiting. Regarding interviews, if you are interviewing with alumni and not admissions officers, you can usually do these locally if you live in a big city. The only exceptions I know of where you have to go to campus to interview with admissions officers are HBS, Sloan, and I think Stern.

Most interviews are with students or admissions officers though and the interviews are all day affairs. Wharton, Tuck, YSOM and Booth for example more or less expect you to come to campus if you live nearby.
I visited 5 schools before applying and had 5 interviews, which meant 10 vacation days over the course of a few months exclusively devoted to interviewing for business schools.
Can't imagine going through that with any more than 5 schools in a round.

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Jun 25, 2018

Does visiting schools help you in terms of getting admitted or is it just to see whether you would personally like going to school there?

Jun 27, 2018

Curious on this as well.

Jun 24, 2018
Entrepreneur Hero:

Does visiting schools help you in terms of getting admitted or is it just to see whether you would personally like going to school there?

It depends on the school. Some make a point to tell you to visit (Haas, Tuck, Columbia come to mind) and ask you on the application if you have. Others say not to worry if you can't. They all keep track though and I'm sure it's a bad look if you don't visit a school that's an hour train ride away.

For those that do on campus interviews, it's a complete waste of time as you'll have to go through the tour, class visit, etc. again once you interview.

By and large, the whole application process is horrible and filled with unnecessary hoops to jump through.

Jun 25, 2018

How do you know they're tracking it? What if you live far away from the school?

Jun 26, 2018
Entrepreneur Hero:

How do you know they're tracking it? What if you live far away from the school?

You think that's a difficult thing to do for these schools? They have events and they have sign up sheets, and they might even remember your name. Not that difficult.

If you do an official visit, I'm sure they have some sort of record.

Although I have not filled out apps yet, I think they ask you in the written app if you visited or attended events.

Jun 24, 2018
Entrepreneur Hero:

How do you know they're tracking it? What if you live far away from the school?

Tuck as an example asks on the application and if you don't sign up for application initiated interviews (which need to be done on campus), you need to provide a reason why.
It depends on what you mean by far away. If you live in Chicago and don't bother to come to campus, it probably puts you at a significant disadvantage.
If you live in New Zealand, obviously there is going to be more leeway.

Jun 24, 2018
reformed:
Frank Slaughtery:

I did 7 in one round and it was a pain in the ass. There were also only 8 schools I thought we were attending given my goals and preferences (M7 + Haas) and I decided not to apply to Haas after visiting. Regarding interviews, if you are interviewing with alumni and not admissions officers, you can usually do these locally if you live in a big city. The only exceptions I know of where you have to go to campus to interview with admissions officers are HBS, Sloan, and I think Stern.

Most interviews are with students or admissions officers though and the interviews are all day affairs. Wharton, Tuck, YSOM and Booth for example more or less expect you to come to campus if you live nearby.
I visited 5 schools before applying and had 5 interviews, which meant 10 vacation days over the course of a few months exclusively devoted to interviewing for business schools.
Can't imagine going through that with any more than 5 schools in a round.

i did my booth, kellogg, and columbia interviews off campus. only MIT made me come to campus from the interviews I received.

Jun 25, 2018

Schools will say that visiting doesn't strengthen one's application, but I think visiting gives you a real feel for whether or not you fit with the school's culture. This is a huge decision to make.

If you have a real sense of the school's culture, your interviews and essays will be that much more compelling. Each school is unique in it's own way.

Jun 25, 2018