old fashioned alarm clock

When to Start Prepping Your MBA Apps

Many applicants wonder about how early they should start in this process. Here is my answer: EARLIER THAN YOU PROBABLY THINK!

Please take this to heart!


Keep in mind you need to:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Outline
  3. Draft
  4. Redraft
  5. Edit


  1. Recommendation talking points
  2. Essays
  3. Resume
  4. Application boxes
  5. LinkedIn profile summary

It takes me a while to get to know you, and so even if you are sitting at home jobless, I urge you to allocate 2 months at least. 2 months is always the minimum advisable time for essays alone, NOT essays mixed in with GMAT messiness.

If you do not have a decent score sorted out, it is hard to estimate your odds and therefore hard to get momentum for that HBS app.


Here are some key questions for you to ponder:

  • How many programs do you plan to apply to? If you have any shaky stats, apply to 5 or more. If so, then earlier.
  • How much do you work? Do you travel for work? If you work a lot of hours or travel for work, then earlier, earlier, earlier!
  • Aside from work and work travel, how busy will you be – with a new baby, will you need to spread out the time you spend over a longer period of time? Or can you work on apps several hours per week? If you do not have big chunks of time, then earlier.
  • What is the *FIRST* deadline of the first program? And the 2nd? If there are several deadlines clustered around one date, then we should prepare all those apps simultaneously, so earlier.
  • How similar or different are the applications? Can you do any repurposing? Is the letter of recommendation stuff similar or different? For example, Columbia usually has a goals essay and that should likely be similar from one school to the next. However, their “which leader do you admire” question essay you probably cannot repurpose. Usually repurposing content is obvious and a turn off to the admissions committee so make sure to allow time to modify it. It needs to directly answer the specific question asked.

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