Since 1996 we’ve helped thousands of MBA applicants achieve their dreams of admission to top business schools. This experience has convinced us that even the smartest and best qualified applicants need to plan their admission strategies carefully in order to achieve their desired outcomes. We’ve seen a lot of incredibly qualified candidates — some that rival even the most experienced MBAs out there.
But, that being said, no candidate is ever a lock at top schools like Harvard and Stanford. This is especially true with the incredible admissions competition that has developed over the past several years and the continuously shifting targeting done by the top schools in their quest to attract those students they feel will be the most recruited.
Unless the candidate has distinct reasons for applying only to certain schools, and by distinct reasons I mean something like, “I don’t want to leave to New York City so Columbia NYU are my only choices,” or “My significant other is a partner in a law firm in Chicago and I don’t want to leave them here for two years so I’ll only be applying to Kellogg or Booth,” we’d suggest a two-pronged approach.
By that, we mean splitting your applications into two rounds. In the first round, apply to those reach schools that if you receive an interview, you’ll know you’re in great shape and you’ll have less reason to worry about
applying to safety or lower tier schools in the later rounds.
Then in the second round, you should apply according to the initial results from the first round or, if you’re having initial success with interview invitations, go for it and stay with the more competitive schools.
This two-pronged approach gives you time to reassess your situation and
reposition yourself you are looking for a competitive advantage in the admission process to a stretch school.