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Congratulations on your decision to earn your MBA! As you join the fewer than seven percent of Americans with an MBA, your degree will significantly impact your life and advance your career. With the many rankings of programs, you may be tempted to apply to all the top MBA programs with the hopes of getting admitted into one. Not so fast: to save yourself time, money and effort, you should apply to select programs that are aligned with your interests.

Recent research has shown that MBA applicants plan on applying to six, seven or even more programs after taking the GMAT. The same research, however, has concluded that three to five schools might be in the applicants’ best interests to save them serious stress and the possible fixation on a school that may be out of reach. (Not to mention spreading themselves too thin across too many applications, as opposed to focusing on a select few.)

Picking three to five schools can be a difficult task unless you’ve got a perfect GPA, amazing work experience and a GMAT score through the roof. Choosing schools with a larger student body might help your chances, as well as aiming for top programs that have a slightly lower median undergraduate GPA or a wide GMAT score range. It is also recommended to choose three to five very diverse, different schools to widen the opportunities offered.

It is also extremely important to focus in on your specific field of interest. Stanford and Harvard business schools are prestigious, but did you know that some programs that rank lower might be tops in Accounting or Executive specializations? Make sure that you are not too focused on a school just because of its rankings or prestigious alumni! As with your undergraduate applications, make sure your MBA programs vary in competitiveness but are all schools that you would be thrilled to attend. There is also never a hurt in adding a reach and safety school into your batch of applications.

Start with a big list of schools but narrow it down based on location, specializations, admissions requirements and coursework. Nearly every program posts its average undergraduate GPA, the median and range of GMAT scores for its applicants and the percentage of applicants that are admitted. It will behoove you to save your school visits and time spent on applicants to the narrowest form of this list. You will be a happier and less stressed applicant – and you will know more about each of the schools that you choose to apply to.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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