You’ve made the decision to apply to business school, which is great! But as you educate yourself more and more about the MBA admissions process and realize how competitive it is, you wonder how many schools you should apply to in order make sure you have choices once the admissions cycle is over.
So what is that number?
The short answer is that it really depends on the factors that are important to you in an MBA program, your risk tolerance, and your demographic/profile; below are some guidelines that should help you think about that decision.
What factors are important to you in an MBA program?
You should take some time to prioritize and determine the factors that are important to you in an MBA program. If, for example, brand and/or location are key factors, then perhaps there are only certain programs that you would be happy attending. If this is the case, then you need to be comfortable with the fact that if you are not admitted to the few programs of your choice, then you would be fine reapplying and/or continuing on your professional path without the MBA degree. In this case, only applying to a few schools may the right number for you. However, for most applicants, while brand and/or location are important, there are many other factors that play a role in the decision to apply to MBA programs; for these candidates, applying to at least 5-6 schools (that include stretch, target, and safety schools) is appropriate. Through my experience, I have found that 5-6 schools is typically what most candidates are able to handle in one round in order to craft quality applications.
What is your risk tolerance?
If you have a high tolerance for risk, then you may be fine taking the chance applying to only a few schools. However, if you have a low tolerance for risk, then applying to a greater number of schools in order to maximize your chances of admission is the way to go. To provide perspective, I have worked with clients across the entire spectrum, from clients who have applied to only 1-2 schools (high risk tolerance) to those who have applied to 10 schools (low risk tolerance).
What is your demographic/profile?
Overrepresented demographics, such Indian male engineers, should be applying to a greater number of schools purely given how competitive the demographic is (I typically recommend applying to at least 8 schools, and this can be split across Rounds 1 and 2, if necessary).
But in addition to the demographic, another key aspect to keep in mind when determining the number of schools to apply to is your profile. If, for example, your GPA and/or GMAT/GRE score are low, then applying to a wider number and range of schools is advisable.
While these guidelines should help you formulate the right number of schools for you to apply to, remember that this number is more of an art than a science. If we can help you think through this decision, please feel free to contact us!
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.