Considering an MBA? When should you get started?

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Considering an MBA? When should you get started? Applying to business school is both exhilarating and daunting. It’s a competitive endeavor and every year, after watching talented friends go through their own application experience, people are curious: “How do I improve my candidacy?”

This is such a terrific question – one that is best asked long before you apply to school. When you’re asking yourself this question, you’re ready to grow.

It turns out, there are many ways to grow. While it’s never too late to start, there are some steps that require LOTS of time and others that require only a few months. We’ve structured our advice below based on your possible timeline. All else being equal, the more time you leave yourself to improve your candidacy, the more likely you will succeed, both in getting into a school that excites you, and thriving once you are there.

Still in college? It’s never too early to prepare for an application – the great news – the same things that will prepare you to be a great candidate for any graduate school are often the same things that make you a successful job candidate or thriving young entrepreneur.

  • Nail your GPA: this is one factor in the admissions process that cannot be changed once you graduate from school. Been doing well this whole time? Great! Don’t slack off during the final semester! It’s harder to explain down the road!

  • Deepen your impact at school: Thought of organizing something for a club you are a part of? Do it, and document the results. It will help MBA admissions committees extrapolate your future leadership potential.

  • Try something new: If you have time, consider a study abroad, start a venture (i.e. business, student club), or take a casual hobby to the next level (i.e. record a song if you’re into music, complete a half-marathon if into running, enter a creative writing contest). It will lend new credibility to your existing passions.

Applying in 2-3 years? Start preparing now! This time offers the most potential to impact your candidacy – determining what schools are “target” schools for you. It offers time to achieve some great things at work and in the community, with a focus on leadership. Some of the more effective things to do to improve your candidacy include:

  • Join 2-3 community organizations, and aim for 1-2 tangible impacts through your community involvement. This can include organizing fundraisers, mentoring someone through their college application process; one of our clients wrote about just trying to keep a troubled teen out of jail.

  • Join school email distribution lists and start following the news flow from schools you are targeting. It will provide an early guide on which schools will be the right fit for you. This should help get you started.

  • Search your network for people at your target schools and reach out to learn more about their experience. It is never too early to see if a school is a right fit for you and to build your nuanced understanding of how a program will help you to achieve your goals.

  • Consider ways to push beyond your comfort zone including a transfer to a new region, an expanded role, or a volunteer role that requires you to lead.

  • Add another dimension to your life. If analytical, consider mentoring others to showcase your softer leadership