Get a top-rated Mini-MBA Certificate for $199 $49 (till 29th Feb)

How to plan your MBA Application Timeline

How to plan your MBA Application TimelineSo you’ve decided that the coming year is going to be the year for you; when you finally take charge of your career and make it happen for yourself. If your New Year resolution is to get an MBA application (or two?) in next year, this article would be a good place to start.

If you went back to see if we wrote ‘next year‘, you saw it right the first time, planning and preparing for your MBA application has to be ideally a year-long thing; maybe even longer.

The post is an attempt to apprise MBA wannabes on when to do what as well as give a quick overview of the main components involved in the application.

Bear in mind that these are not all the ingredients that go into making a strong application but just the main components. The ingredients is a separate matter altogether best left for another day.

Without further ado, here’s how your list should ‘ideally’ look like for the coming year (and beyond).

Sample MBA Application Timetable

MBA Application Timeline Planning

So there you have it. But now let’s have a slightly deeper look as some of these things might appear a bit counter-intuitive or confusing.

GMAT Study Planning [Feb – Apr (Attempt 1) | Jun – Jul (Attempt 2)]

Though we have made our suggestion, but this can really vary from candidate to candidate. While some might be able to crack it in a month’s time, some others may need 4+ months. But start early here.

The reason you see two bars on the time-chart is if in case you have to take another shot at it.

The score does set the tone for many reasons as it is one of the most controllable factors in your hands. You will find a lot of free tips/resources on our website on getting your GMAT study plan in good shape.


There still remain a handful of schools out there that insist on this even if majority of your education is in the English language. While you can try for a waiver, there are some that will not budge. The list keeps changing so you have to firm up your target list and then take this. It is not a difficult test at all if you are decently well versed with the language. Don’t fret over and it in many cases, just best to get done with it well in time.

Read this to get a basic overview of TOEFL Format and Preparation.

Post MBA Goals Finalization [Jan – Apr]

This ideally should be the basic motivator you are contemplating an MBA at the first place.

If you haven’t yet read it, pick up a copy of Beyond the MBA Hype to debunk some myths associated with the MBA.

Even after you have an idea of the goal, the articulation itself needs fair amount of research and thinking though.

Remember, this is the main component of your application (baring some top schools who have started omitting this question altogether of course) so make sure you know what you are aiming for and are also able to convince the ad-com that you can make it happen.

If in doubt, there is always the MBA MAP to help you out on this aspect.

Research and/or Visit Business School Campuses [Mar – Jun]

This one goes sort of hand-in-hand with your GMAT prep. If you are early enough, you could even utilize the five free schools you get to send the score to. But don’t try and over-optimize here.

Take your time as this will dictate not only your next 1-2 years, but the career thereafter. Make a LOT of effort in connecting with the school community.

If you can, visit your target school to (cliché alert) understand the school’s culture. We do not recommend making a trip just for this – the expense is just a bit too much frankly; but if you can maybe club it with a personal/professional trip, it is a great thing usually.

In today’s digital world, schools are putting a lot of effort in ensuring the geographic distance does not put international candidates at any disadvantage. That said, we are at least a few years away from getting there.

Writing your Essays [Aug – Oct ]

The MBA essays really are a window to the real you – both as a person and as a professional. This is really where the art comes in and it stops being purely plain old logic and analytical skills.

An often times frustrating experience, many candidates claim to have found their ‘inner self’ through this experience. While that may not happen to you, but be true to yourself here and leave at least 2 months before the application deadlines for this; R1 deadlines are mostly in Sept-Oct timeframe barring a few exceptions.

Once you’ve poured your heart out, make sure to get a second look on it from friends / family / MBA guide – the third is where we can come in.

Plan your Recommenders and Recommendations [Aug – Sep]

Recommendations are a way for the committee to check the veracity on some of the claims you may have made. It is also their chance to judge your potential and fit with respect to your strengths.

This process is fairly collaborative since most recommenders would be senior professionals; you will in many cases, need to hand-hold and help them along the process.

Once you have your basic story in place, that’s when you should start this process. Do not keep it for the end as some recommenders may take their own sweet time because of their time constraints.

Fill the Online MBA Application Form [Aug – Oct]

This should preferably be your first step of the application after the GMAT.

Do not rely on third party websites to get information on essays and other component. Always go to the mother source i.e. the school website.

There are many cases where schools have ‘hidden’ questions in the application forms which comes as a surprise to several candidates (and even MBA consultants).

In some cases, the forms are so detailed that the candidates run out of time and steam by the time they get to this.

Keep this ready in tandem with your essays so that you can hit that submit button well before the actual deadline date.

Interview Preparation [Nov – Jan]

Our stand on this could be a bit counter-intuitive. We do not recommend you start preparing for the interviews as soon as you’ve submitted the application. After the above gruesome process, it is fair to take some time off.

In most cases, it is ok even if you start preparing after getting an interview invite. This avoids any heartburn / frustration of wasted efforts and also ensures freshness of responses.

Do not overdo it – after all, rarely are these interviews a test of your ‘rocket science’ knowledge. A week or two is usually good enough for these, assuming you don’t have a serious hurdle to cross here (like interview phobia).

Planning for MBA Financing [Jan – Mar (current year) | Feb – Mar (next year)]

Like GMAT, this too has two legs, but unlike GMAT, those are a must do for financing. Many candidates end up applying without understanding the kind of money commitment an international MBA requires.

First get yourself acquainted with that. After that, do some basic fact finding on if you had to go without any financial assistance from the school, where will the funds come from.

Talk to a few financing agencies and have a high level plan in place even before you begin the application process. The real work on this begins after you’ve gotten an admit of course. This process can take time and that is another reason to try and target the R1 deadlines.

Planning for Round 2 (R2 Battle) [Nov – Jan]

If you started well in time, you hope that this is not something you have to do. But given the way results and interviews are structured, it becomes tough to wait for the outcome of R1 before beginning your R2 journey.

This should ideally begin soon after the R1 journey ends – maybe with a bit of a breather as mentioned above.

You may go down this track even if you are successful in R1 – one can always be more ambitious. This is also the reason why the process goes beyond the year really.

Mini-MBA | Start here | Success stories | Reality check | Knowledgebase | Scholarships | Services

Serious about higher ed? Follow us:


Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

29 thoughts on “How to plan your MBA Application Timeline”

  1. hello MG sir,
    i have completed my in CSE from Uttar pradesh technical university lucknow with 68.75 %. i also have completed my M.Tech with 78.5 %. i have published 6 IEEE conference papers and 1 paper in Springer book series. i want to do my PHD in computer network security from US. My GRE score is 298. can i get admission in a good institute of USA for PHD. should i go for PHD with this academic? please advise sir.

  2. Hi manish
    I am a final year student of electrical and electronics engineering from not so prestigious college from india.
    i want to pursue ms in banking field..
    Is this choice appropriate?
    And can u kindly guide about colleges to apply?
    I have got a job offer from icici bank as a PO officer and will undergo a training program in banking and finance as a diploma degree.

    • There aren’t an MS specifically in ‘banking’ that I am aware of Meghna – there are several in ‘Finance’ if that’s what you meant. If you already have a break in banking, be clear on the reason for pursuing an MS – it is for changing the field within banking or something else? Always think of what after a degree and don’t make a degree a means unto itself.

  3. Manish,
    Appreciate your opinion on Emba – preferably from ISB (I am Hyderabad) or IIM B EPGP. I have over 19 years experience in IT field / Management with over 14 + in USA. At my last job I was an IT Director at an MNC. I am currently running my own small IT company (for the past year) and would like to get back to corporate life – preferably PE or consulting.
    Question is

    1. Will the MBA help me get a job in an organization or will I be considered too Old?
    2. Which college (ISB or IIM) would you recommend from a placement perspective?

  4. Hi MG
    I am Nilesh Singh an electronic graduate having specialization in thermal power plant engineering. I am interested in pursuing EMBA(one year full time MBA for executives) from selected B schools in india (IIM A,B,C,L,I,XLRI,SP Jain, MDI ,Great lakes ). I will have 5.5 year of work experience as on 31 Dec 2016 (1 year teaching and 4.5 year in power and energy sector ) right now I am in Zambia Africa . I am planning to give my GMAT in September and I want to organise my planning ranging from taking GMAT to the final interview .so sir please throw some light on the planning section and also guide me in my preparation

    Nilesh Singh

  5. Sir,
    I m currently pursuing my from Uttar pradesh technical University which is considered a decent University for engineering.
    I want to know that how can i make my gmat profile good so that i can get into top Bschools

  6. Hi MG,

    I have completed my B-Tech and M-Tech in 2012 and 2014 respectively from WBUT with very good academic records. During M-Tech I had 2 yrs teaching experience. Presently working with IBM in client facing role. July 2017, I would be completing my 3 years in IBM. Had 7 publications including IEEE and various International Journals.

    Planing for a full time MBA programme next year. Please suggest whether I am having a strong profile for going for an MBA degree. Please suggest if any add-on certification or experience would enhance my candidature.

    Thanks and regards,
    Avishek Nag

  7. Hello Manish,

    I am looking to get admission into,

    1. IIM Udaipur – PGPX program in SCM
    2. SP Jain – PGPM Program

    My profile:
    Work Ex: 6 years in IT as Business Systems Analyst in Oil &Gas Enterprise Asset Management Domain
    Education: BE (ECE) 72% (Rajasthan University)
    12th 77%
    10th 84%
    GMAT Score: 640

    Could you please advice as to what would be a good choice in terms of college. I am looking for Indian colleges only, do I need to retake GMAT?

    • Arun,

      You seem to have a decent profile and good experience under your belt. If you think you can get that score closer to 700, you may be able to target the top schools in the country. The ones you have mentioned should ideally be backups.

  8. Hi Manish

    I am a chemical engineer from panjab university and have done my mba in marketing (full time 2 year) from spjimr mumbai. Have been working now for the past 6 years in marico I sales first and then as a brand manager for the last 3 years. I have had plans to pursue a second mba from the usa , but going through the posts above I feel the more I delay it the difficult it’s going to get. The prime reason I want to do a second mba is to jump shift my career trajectory and also I feel that I will be able to move abroad with this step. What are your recommendations on prospects on schools and a 2 yr or a 1 yr program. And ya my age is 30

    • Abhishaik,

      At your age/experience, there aren’t very many full time MBAs that may make things worth the effort. You should ideally be looking at the likes of Sloan Fellows/Stan MSx programs. They will be far more suitable so check them out.

  9. Hello Mr. Manish

    I have completed my B.E. from Manipal Institute of Technology with 7.42 CGPA. I have worked with tata Technology as design Engineer and then I went on to estabish my own venture for a year where I also served as CEO and cofounder. I would Like to know what are my chances and further improvement strategies to apply to top 10 B-Schools in the US, My startup was well received however due to some unavoidable circumstances we had to shut down operations. I have a number of extracurricular activities to support my profile apart from these as well.

  10. hello sir! currently i am pursuing B,E(2nd year student) from Ragiv gandhi technical university.i have scored 8.4 cg pa in 10th class and 76.4% in 12% class.What should i do to get admission in Harvard business school?

  11. Helloo sir!
    Sir I am pursuing BCA and i just completed my 1st year.Actually i want to do MBA From Abroad And with 100% Scholarship. so what should i do for this.!Which exams i have to clear.I know i am asking this question so early but This is my dream.!^-^

  12. Hello Sir,
    I am an engineering student in a not so prestigous college in India. I would like to join for one year mba or ms in any US institutes right after my engineering studies. I dont have time to gain work experience due to personal issues. Please help me now so that i can start working on it from now.
    This is what I live for!

  13. Hi,
    I am a serving defence officer retiring in 2022 after 12 years in indian armed forces. I am a engineer B.Tech in electronics and planning to get a jump start in my second innings through a MBA programme. I am looking at doing MBA through HBS / Stanford post my retirement . Need your guidance how to go about it.

  14. Hello sir,

    I am looking forward to pursue a MBA degree from a top-tier UK business school. I want to apply for enrollment into a course for next year 2022.

    A brief introduction of my study and work profile is as follows:-

    I will be having gaining 3 years of total work experience from Tata Motors in Aug by the time I start applying for the universities. I joined the company as a graduate engineer trainee in 2018, and have had 6months of sales experience post which I made a switch to engineering research centre within the company to understand the engineering function as well.

    Undergraduate degree – Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology – 7.77 CGPA
    12th class – 88.2%
    10th class – 9.4 CGPA

    I now want to do an MBA to land myself a job in general management/technology or management consultancy preferably in the UK. So, I want to understand if that could be possible considering the cross-functional experience I have gained within the company. And, if so, how to build a profile that would help me make the switch from core technical to a management one.
    I have extra-curriculars in sports where I have taken up captainship role and further planning to work in NGO’s to build a complete CV.

    Also, would this be a realistic approach to get an admit in top-tier colleges in the UK. And, are there job opportunities to stay back in the UK after completion of the MBA.



Leave a Comment