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How Many MBA Applications Is Too Many?

How Many MBA Applications Is Too Many?

Photograph by Alex Telfer/Gallery Stock

How many applications do MBA wannabes submit? How many should they submit? The subject is getting murkier and murkier.

For years the conventional wisdom was that your average MBA applicant submitted about 3 applications: The average GMAT test taker submits score reports to 2.9 schools, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

But new research suggests that for many B-school applicants the number is far higher. More than 48 percent of the 652 respondents to a recent survey said they either applied or were planning to apply to five or more graduate business schools, says Stacy Blackman, founder and president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, the admissions consultancy that conducted the survey. The findings surprised Blackman, who says most of her clients apply to one to four schools, with the average being four.

Specifically, the survey showed that 21 percent of respondents applied to five business schools, 14.5 percent applied to six, 4.5 percent applied to seven, and 8.3 percent applied to eight or more.

The discrepancy, says Blackman, could be a result of wishful thinking on the part of applicants. She adds that students responding to her survey might plan on applying to five schools when they first begin the application process and then realize how much work it is to complete customized applications for each school.

Aiming for more applications is in an applicant’s best interest, says Blackman. “People get really hung up on one or two schools,” she adds. “You really want to diversify. I think applying to four to six schools is smart.”

Indeed, getting fixated on certain schools seems to be the norm. More than 50 percent of respondents said reputation was the deciding factor when deciding which school to attend, and more than 66 percent said rankings were extremely important. In fact, virtually no one said rankings were unimportant even though business schools often downplay their significance, says Blackman. Still, she hopes business school applicants realize that reputation and rankings are fleeting, she adds, and that they should seek the school that fits them the best.

Other interesting findings from the survey include:

■ Although there’s been lots of talk about whether to take the GRE or the GMAT, and about 800 business schools are now accepting the GRE, only 2.9 percent of respondents said they either did or would submit the GRE, whereas more than 97 percent were opting for the GMAT.

■ Career advancement now outpaces career change, 43.3 percent to 38.8 percent, as the most important reason to pursue business school.

■ Respondents said they planned to find jobs in consulting (33.2 percent) and finance (26.3 percent), which falls in line with actual job placement at top MBA programs. What’s new is that 26.5 percent said they would pursue entrepreneurship as a career path.

Di Meglio is a reporter for in Fort Lee, N.J.

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