Everyone’s MBA journey is different, and there is no one ideal timeline that makes sense for everyone who is interested in pursuing this career-defining degree. But whenever the inspiration strikes you, no matter what your life and career circumstances are at that moment, it’s important to take a moment to organize your thoughts and plan how to most effectively work toward your acceptance into an MBA program.
If you are considering pursuing graduate-level business education, take a look at this sample MBA application timeline to get an idea of how to best strategize your efforts and achieve your goals.
4 Months Out: Initial Research
So you’ve decided to pursue an MBA. That’s great! But now you need to start asking yourself some important questions to help you narrow down the list of potential MBA programs to ones that are right for you. First and foremost, why are you interested in earning an MBA? Do you plan to work in a specific field or industry after graduation, and do you have a title in mind that you’d like to pursue?
These questions can help you identify programs that offer a curriculum that can help get you where you want to go. For instance, if you know which area of the business world you want to work in, try to find MBA programs that offer concentrations in areas like marketing, finance, and business analytics. And if you are hoping to land a job in a specific location like Silicon Valley, focus your search on universities with deep connections in the region.
You should also think about how you’d like your MBA to be delivered, or what you would like the experience of your coursework to be like. Are you willing to step away from your current job to commit to a full-time residential program? Are you more interested in an evening or weekend program? Or would you prefer a hybrid or fully online MBA experience? Consider what lifestyle sacrifices you are and are not willing to make as you take on the commitment of an MBA program and identify schools that can meet your needs.
3 Months Out: Start the Conversation
Now that you’ve narrowed your list down to a few schools you think may be right for you (or you’ve even identified the business school you think is “the one”), it’s time to jump into the next phase of your MBA timeline. Your next step should be to get in touch with someone from the admissions team at your business school of choice who can help you navigate the rest of the application process.
Many MBA program websites feature an easy-to-find form which you can fill out to provide some brief contact information about yourself and request additional information about the program. You can also call the phone number listed on the program’s website directly, or in some cases, schedule a call with an advisor for a later time. Advisors can help you learn more about the course content and structure of the program, understand its admissions requirements, gather your application materials, and potentially seek out financial aid options. Don’t pass on the opportunity to make use of these important resources.
2 Months Out: Clear Application Hurdles
Once you know where you’re applying and what it’s going to take to complete the application, you must then start taking the necessary steps to work through the process. If your desired program requires scores for the GMAT or GRE, schedule your exam and set aside time to prepare to succeed on it. Now is also a great time to revisit your resume and make any tweaks and updates necessary to ensure it captures all your accomplishments and paints a picture of you appropriate for the MBA program of your choice.
Two months out is also a good window in which to request recommendations from trusted colleagues, supervisors, or professors. With this much time built in, they should have no problem completing a thoughtful and illuminating letter before the deadline. And if your program requires a personal statement or admission essay, be sure to start it ahead of the application deadline to ensure you have time to do your best work on it.
With all of these materials in order, it’s time to submit your application. Complete all fields of your program’s online application, make sure all your documents are uploaded correctly, take a deep breath, and hit submit. You’re one step closer to a career-transforming degree!
1 Month Out: Post-Application Steps
For many MBA programs, there are some important steps left to complete after you have submitted your application. In many cases, business schools do not require that your recommendation letters be submitted at the same time as your application. If any of your recommenders are dragging their feet a bit, you can politely remind them to complete their letter promptly to give you the best chance of being admitted. Some programs also want to interview promising candidates for admission via telephone or video conferencing app; schedule and complete this interview at your convenience if this is the case for you.
You can also work on applications for sources of financial aid during this time. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for aid from the federal government and from your university, and explore the other financial aid options that may be available based on your area of study, professional field, veteran status, or other factors. Keep in mind that some aid sources require you to know where you will be attending graduate school before you can apply, so leave time to get those applications completed as soon as you receive your admission decision.
Last Weeks: Final Preparation
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to the MBA program of your dreams. There are just a few logistical hurdles left before classes start and the next phase of your professional journey begins. You’ll need to accept your offer of admission, enroll in your first term’s set of classes, and pay your first tuition installment prior to beginning the program. You may also need to attend an orientation, either in person or online, depending on the nature of your program.
But even with all of these program-related preparations to take care of, don’t forget to take a moment for yourself. Ensure your professional and personal responsibilities will be covered during your time in an MBA program, and that your coworkers, friends, and family members know that you truly appreciate the support they are going to give you. And perhaps even take a vacation before your classes begin; you’re going to have less free time in the coming years, so you want to make the most of what you have now.
Earn Your MBA Online, on Your Time at SCU
The Online MBA from Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business is your opportunity to build a stellar Silicon Valley network and train to succeed at leading-edge organizations. Plot out your application timeline today, and accelerate your career with SCU.