Applicants Invest 90 to 140 Hours To Apply

MBA admissions at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School, Duke University’s Fuqua School and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business received the ultimate accolade from applicants today (May 12).

According to a new survey published by a group representing business school admissions consultants, MBA candidates named those schools the top three MBA programs that got to know them best in the application process.

That’s especially a coup for Tuck whose head of admissions Dawna Clarke has said her goal has been to create the most customer-friendly admissions office in the business school space. Following the top three schools were Stanford, UC-Berkeley Haas School, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (see table below).

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Source: AIGAC 2013 survey

Some 377 applicants responded to the survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). This year’s respondents were significantly below the 1,451 last year or the 1,962 in 2010. The organization said there were fewer responses because the survey was fielded later in the application season than in prior years. Nearly one in six of the respondents (57%) said they used the help of admission consultants in applying to business school with the five most popular schools being Harvard Business School (25% of the respondents applied here and 13% were accepted), Wharton (22% applied and 14% gained acceptance), MIT Sloan (21% and 10%), Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (21% and 9%), and Stanford Graduate School of Business (18% and 4%) (see table below).

Source: AIGAC 2013 survey

Source: AIGAC 2013 survey

The survey–based on an open Internet questionnaire that anyone would fill out–covers a vast array of admissions and MBA issues, from the the most important factors that lead to choosing a business school to what kind of boost in income is expected once the degree in on a person’s resume.  Among other things, AIGAC found that the average MBA applicant spends between 90 and 140 hours on the application process, excluding some 21 to 30 hours studying for the GMAT exam. After GMAT prep, writing essays for applications was the second most time-consuming activity in the application process, accounting for 16 to 20 hours. Merely deciding which schools to apply to also took a good bit of time: according to respondents, school selection consumed 11 to 15 hours (see table on following page).

  • That sounds about right. Most online prep courses have a minimum of 30 hours of instruction — going over the instruction alone is 30 hours. What about the time spent learning about the GMAT, or doing your own practice questions or your own practice test. The practice test itself is 3.5 hours — budgeting time on a Saturday morning requires rearranging your schedule. Reviewing that test may take another 3.5 hours or even more.

    And if you do poorly and retake?? There goes another 50+ hours, easily a total of 100+ hours..!!

    That’s why many students opt in for help. Efficient course + mobile access + motivation are important ingredients.

    When it comes to preparing for the GMAT, doing it in an efficient manner is really important. After learning core concepts, you should be doing gmat practice questions on your own with video explanations by experts. It’s especially helpful if you have commentary for each question from an expert, so you can review exactly why answer choices were right or wrong.

  • Sourav

    Hi Obaji,

    Congrats! That is great to hear. Would you mind sharing your GMAT score ?

  • cornell

    I agree about Tuck and Fuqua. Booth is no super elite though. Not by a long shot.

  • PhD747

    I cannot believe that people answered that they have only studied arround 30 hours for the GMAT. In fact, having into account that some people must have been honest -saying that they studied arround 100 hours or more-, it can be guessed that some just have responded that they did not studied at all. That is not what it can be inferred from forums such as gmatclub and beatthegmat. Or MBAs surveyed are a bunch of liars, or the article is wrong.

  • Africa

    I am also an international student trying to get myself into a top Business school in the U.S. You inspire me Obaji. I’ll also write my unique story in my own humble words. Thanks

  • 2cents

    Well… this doesn’t seem personal at all?

  • Overrated

    We all see how terrible Ross truly is

  • P&Q is biased

    You forgot to mention that Booth has a high admissions rate.


    Turned down Booth for Columbia.

  • What?

    Yale SOM is conspicuously missing, which is surprising considering lower ranked schools were included in the survey.

  • JohnAByrne

    For a school like Oxford, I don’t believe that AACSB accreditation means all that much. So it would not concern me at all. Accreditation becomes significantly more important at second- and third-tier schools without global or national brand recognition.

  • MBAapplicant


    I’ve a question about something you didn’t mention before, the business schools accreditation, the three main accreditation bodies are, AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS. I pose this question just to understand what does it mean for some top school such as Oxford Said to be not accredited by the AACSB for example? is it that big weakness? is this a legitimate reason to choose another program other than Oxford where I was admitted?

    I really look forward for your valuable insight on this issue.


  • NYCAndy

    No surprise — Chicago Booth is on the rise and is now a super elite school along with H/S/W. Fuqua is getting a lot of traction among schools ranked between 7 and 12, and has gained in stature. Tuck is known for being a gem of a program. No surprises here…the hard work that these schools have put in over the last 4 or 5 years is now paying off.

    On a side note, it’s not surprising to see Columbia getting a 2.3 rating when it comes to getting to know the applicant. This is reflected in Columbia’s leadership. Dean Hubbard is busy promoting his books or consulting for major banks. He gives arrogant interviews to P&Q where he says that only 4 or 5 b-schools are worth attending. Columbia has terrific alumni and faculty, and attracts top talent. But the leadership up top is sorely lacking.

  • Abdul Rehman

    To ace the GMAT (99th percentile) — you need at least 100 hours of solid prep. Anyone who claims to do it in significantly less time is either a genius or a liar.

  • Obaji

    I am an international student, currently enrolling in Columbia. when I was advised by many consultants that I’ve no chance in the top schools, I ignored them and used my own humble english to tell my unique story, I got into Tuck, Columbia, and INSEAD. You can’t imagine how happy I’m just to prove they were wrong.
    Advise: Just tell your story honestly and straightforward in a simple and direct words, if you have enough credentials believe me you will get in.

  • One And Done GMAT

    21-30 hours for GMAT prep is NOWHERE near enough. I think you need at least 6 weeks of dedicated studying (if you’re still working, that is) with about 10 hours of studying a week (practice test time included). Basically if it doesn’t feel hard…you’re not studying hard enough.

  • Nick

    Wow, a poll by Association of MBA consultants coming out with a survey that shows over 90% of applicants who’ve used consultants would recommend them! Conflict of interest anyone? Who would trust such a “survey” of less than 400 students when a top-10 Bschool gets over 3000 applications and some get 5000. This gem of a “stat” cracked me up: Nearly one in six of the respondents (57%) said they used the help of admission consultants in applying to business school.