The road to your MBA can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here’s a calendar of what b-school applicants should be doing, and when.

September – October


  • If you haven’t already taken the GMAT – or if you’ve taken it before but aren’t happy with your score – plan to take the test before you start working on your applications in the fall. You’ll have fewer things to distract you from test preparation that way. For information on registering for and scheduling a test, visit the GMAC’s website ( You are also cordially invited to review our GMAT prep section.

  • Are you unsure if you need a GMAT prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) to discuss your situation. We’re here to help you!

School and Program Selection:

  • Define your most important search criteria and use it to narrow down your school choices. If your top priority is to begin a full-time MBA program next fall, count on applying to several schools. There’s no need to apply to every school out there, but it’s risky to apply to just one or two, particularly given the jump in application volumes this past year. The number of schools you ultimately decide to apply to will depend upon how high you rank a safety school and the time and resources you have to work on applications. Depending upon your demographic, you may need to seriously consider applying to a few more stretch schools to maximize your opportunity for studying at a selective school.

  • You should already know what kind of program you want to apply for: full-time, part-time, or EMBA.

  • Make plans to visit schools this fall if at all feasible. Call or write the schools to ask about scheduling a visit.

  • Begin networking with current students and alumni of your targeted schools.


  • Request copies of your college transcripts for yourself. You’ll use these to refresh your memory about your school performance and decide how strong a factor your undergrad record will be in your case for b-school admission.

  • If you have a low GMAT score and/or a low GPA from college, think about building an alternative transcript to demonstrate your academic qualifications. Good performance in a suitable course can reassure admission committees of your ability to handle MBA coursework.


  • Think about what you do outside of work. Will those activities support your case for b-school admission? Would you benefit from increasing your level of commitment, or by getting involved in additional groups or activities? (If you are applying for this fall, however, beware of the perception of expediency that might arise if you begin new commitments now.)


“It’s a good idea to create a grid in which you match your stories to the essay set for each school’s application. This gives you a visual tool to see if you’re properly communicating your positioning across the entirety of the application before you begin writing individual essays.”

– Senior Admissions Consultant Nicole Witt. Nicole earned her MBA at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, where she served on the admissions committee.

  • Most of the top schools released their applications and essay questions over the summer. Download the forms (or bookmark the sites) for the schools you are interested in.

  • Draw up a schedule of which schools you want to apply to, and in what rounds. Note the deadlines that you will have to meet. Be sure you can clearly demonstrate a good fit with each school. Most likely, this will require considerable customization from one application to the next. Leave yourself adequate time to prepare a strong application for each school and understand the different tradeoffs at each school between applying early or applying with a more complete application.

  • Start formulating story themes and developing your most potent ‘wow’ factors.

  • Begin drafting your application resume. In only rare instances should it exceed 2 pages and, more likely than not, it should be kept to one page. Can an admissions officer quickly skim your resume and understand the feasibility of your post-MBA career goals? Did you succinctly highlight your career progression? Remember that the target audience for this resume is likely far different than the recruiting audience for your industry. Accordingly, be sure your resume is prepared in accordance with a business school admission friendly format.

  • Select your recommenders. Will you benefit from an additional, optional recommendation to substantiate a story theme or ‘wow’ factor, highlight your strengths, or, possibly, mitigate your weaknesses? Can your selected recommenders discuss your candidacy in adequate detail? Advise your recommenders on which points they need to make to best compliment your story. Writing up the points that you want them to discuss is often a good starting point.

Our MBA Admissions Timeline page will be updated on November 1.

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