How Much Time Is Required To Apply For An MBA?


If you’ve been following along with the first two posts in MBA Prep School’s three-part MBA Application Timeline series, you have a checklist of what needs to be completed in the year before you submit your MBA applications. Unfortunately, with a full-time job and a multitude of other responsibilities, it can be difficult to budget enough time to produce strong applications. We’ll take you through the estimated amount of time needed for each part of your application prep based on MBA Prep School’s years of experience gathered while coaching hundreds of MBA applicants.

Here’s the headline: believe it or not, a fully prepared MBA applicant applying to 3 separate business schools spends no less than 154 hours crafting the core components of his or her application. Let’s break that number down.

Here’s how you can best budget time for your MBA application:

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses: 12 Hours

In previous posts, we recommended journaling over the year leading up to your MBA application to help you account for your day-to-day responsibilities, strengths, weaknesses, and career goals. Having a realistic view of your strengths and weaknesses early on will give you time to figure out how to best showcase your strengths while deflecting your weaknesses in your application materials. Use this time in the early stages of the application process to identify your key differentiators, leadership capabilities, and unique strengths.

  • Solidify your career goals: 20 Hours

Most top schools will ask you about your career goals in their essay questions or application forms. You need to prove that you have focused and realistic short- and long-term goals which you need an MBA education to achieve. These goals don’t have to be about saving the world, but they do have to be both ambitious and genuine; they should reflect your real interests and what you’re passionate about. For all these reasons, we recommend that you invest around 20 hours in career planning work over the course of several weeks.

  • Select your target MBA Programs: 18 Hours

With your career goals in mind, find the schools that will best prepare you to achieve them. Business school rankings have little to do with whether or not a particular business school will help you reach your specific goals – look into the school’s culture, top professors, and career placement statistics for recent graduates in your chosen field. Putting in the time for an in-depth review of the schools that you are interested in via school visits, meetings with current and former students, and desk research will ensure that the school you attend is the best fit for you and your goals.

  • Match Your Qualities With Each School’s Fit Qualities: 10 Hours

Speaking of “fit,” once you have your shortlist of schools, take some time to research your chosen school’s fit qualities to make sure that you can demonstrate the attributes that the admissions committee will be looking for. Having a clear-eyed understanding of each school’s fit qualities will be invaluable when you are creating your application resume and writing your essays. Use the differentiators and unique strengths from your journaling and self-assessment work to guide you.

  • Craft Your Application Resume: 12 Hours

A majority of schools will require you to submit either a CV or a one-page resume. Seek out resources (like our next blog post!) that explain what exactly the AdCom is looking for in an MBA application resume. Use those tips on multiple iterations of your resume document to produce a resume that makes your career progression and most impressive achievements crystal clear to the reader.

  • Write Application Essays: 60 Hours

The amount of time that we have budgeted for the writing process may seem excessive, but creating strong essays is well worth the time commitment. You should have approximately three to five drafts of each essay by the time each is completed. Don’t know how to start? Add an hour to your essay budget and check out MBA Prep School’s six-part Essay Bootcamp Series for tips on the most common essay prompts.

  • Work With Your References: 12 Hours

Select references who will be able to write you the strongest possible recommendation letters and collaborate with them (to the extent that they are comfortable with) throughout the letter writing process. Do what you can to make sure that their letters emphasize the same fit qualities that you are trying to highlight in your other application materials so that your combined materials tell a cohesive story of who you are as an applicant.

  • Complete Your Application Forms: 10 Hours

Take enough time and care in completing your application forms to ensure that you have accurately included all of your awards, achievements, and relevant personal information.

While you’re budgeting time for MBA applications, remember to account for extra time for MBA interview preparations and practice, which can vary based on your current interview skills. Typically, interview prep takes about 20-30 hours.

Investing a substantial amount of time to complete each step of your MBA application will give you an edge over the tough competition and help you present your absolute best self to admissions committees.

If you’re enjoying MBA Prep School’s articles on Poets & Quants, then you’re going to love their 5-Star reviewed eBook entitled How to Apply for an MBA. Download your copy of MBA Prep School’s step-by-step guide on how to earn a spot in the world’s top MBA programs.

Learn from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and the other top MBAs how they wrote essays that got them in!

Tyler Cormney  is the co-founder of MBA Prep School, a full-service, boutique MBA admissions consulting firm that specializes in helping aspiring MBA candidates realize their dream of attending an elite business school. As a graduate of both Harvard Business School and USC’s Professional Writing Program, Tyler draws upon his unique blend of creative writing, strategic thinking, and coaching skills to help applicants stand out from the competition for a place in the most selective MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.

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