The Case For Applying To One School


How many business schools would you apply for? If your answer is “four to six”, you belong to the majority of applicants. But I believe “less is more”. Here’s a plea for boldness, or why you should apply to one or two schools and raise your chances of getting in.

According to Stacy Blackman, an MBA admissions consultant, about half of MBA applicants plan to submit five or more applications. Slightly more than one in ten candidates plan to apply to six schools,.

“There is a growing awareness of just how competitive B-school admissions are, and an understanding that there are more than one or two terrific schools for any given applicant,” Blackman told Poets&Quants.

But, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And from my experience, I know a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. It’s better to apply at fewer schools, more diligently, than to apply at more, and do so half baked. After all, you’ll end up going to just one school anyway. Why bother getting into five? So without further ado, here are some arguments in favor of one application.

You probably know which your single most preferred school is – and it will show.

If you’re serious about getting an MBA, you probably spent months looking at rankings, articles and websites comparing all schools. Chances are you even made a list of schools according to your personal taste. You know which school you really want to get into. (And if you don’t: get your priorities right and do this first!)

Why not submit just your application to just the one school you really think is for you, then? You’ll be much more genuine in that one application, and it will show. Conversely, you probably apply to other schools either because they are best ranked, or because they’re a “safe bet”. Neither is a compelling reason. That shows more easily than you think, too.

You’re worth more to a school if you apply to just that one

How about some reverse engineering? It’s a school’s worst nightmare – and it happens all the time – that after they accepted you, you decide to “pass” and go to a different school. For the admissions team, it’s annoying in two ways: One, they lose a prospective student to a competitor, and two, it makes their pool of applicants, and thus their own program, less unique.

By applying to just one school, and explicitly letting them know, however, you give a strong signal: No one is wasting anyone’s time. Admission officers often pass on candidates who are perfectly qualified for admissions but who they feel are likely to go elsewhere. By applying to a single school, you give admissions an incentive to admit you over a similar applicant: because you’re worth it. It immediately increases your chances.

A thorough preparation is half the battle – but you can’t prepare for five battles at once

In the optimal scenario, you should be confident the school will accept you the moment you submit your application. Impossible, you say? Well, “80 per cent of life is showing up,” Woody Allen once said. “People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.”