5 Times it Makes Sense to Apply to Only One MBA Program

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This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.

While the majority of applicants target four to six MBA programs, deciding how many business schools to apply to is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some candidates decide to focus all of their energies on a single business school. The reasons range from the personal to the professional to the financial, and believe or not, this single-minded approach can pay off and actually increase your chances of getting in. Here you’ll find five scenarios where putting all of your eggs in one basket is a perfectly valid decision.

Location-specific requirements: Most applicants take location into consideration when coming up with their school list. Sometimes candidates prefer an urban environment over rural or warm climate versus cold. Often the location preference is industry-specific, such as applicants keen on finance who look exclusively at schools in or near New York City.

If you need to remain in your current region, or want to live in a specific city, you may have only one desirable MBA option available. Or, if you have the needs of a spouse or children to consider, you’ll likely search for a way to attend business school without uprooting the lives of your loved ones. The location requirement holds especially true for applicants considering part-time or evening MBA programs who plan to continue working while they earn their degree.

When we first met Olivia, she was living in Los Angeles and married with a small baby. She could not entertain the possibility of moving her family or planning extended time away for two years, and the only local school she wanted was UCLA Anderson School of Management. Olivia poured her heart into the Anderson application and once admitted, managed to juggle the demands of home and school like a champ. It was chaotic, but by staying local she minimized the upheaval and had the support of her family during this hectic and rewarding time.

Company sponsorship: If you are one of the lucky ones who will attend business school on your company’s dime, you may have to contend with the caveat that they will only sponsor a particular MBA program, or only a part-time program. If you plan to stay at the organization long-term, you might view the limitation on where you can earn that MBA degree educational subsidy is probably worth.

Highly specific career goals: The one-application approach can make sense for a person who has a very particular career path–say, healthcare, technology, real estate, etc. You might be very interested in a specific program offered by one school, or a teaching method, or a set of professors.

If you can determine which MBA program will likely connect you with the company you want to work for, and if that company only recruits at one program, then there’s probably only one place you really want to earn the degree.

One former client, Jeremy, had a good job at a tech startup in Menlo Park. He only wanted to remain in that world – exploring other startups, networking with tech entrepreneurs and executives, and remaining looped into that scene. He also wanted to keep working a few hours a week during school. Stanford Graduate School of Business was an ambitious choice, but the only school that his heart was really in. Fortunately, the gamble paid off and he received an admission offer from this prestigious program.

Joint application with partner: While this demographic makes up a small percentage of applicants, it’s a significant one. You’ll need to explicitly convey to the admissions committee that you and your partner are both applying to their program, as many schools consider couples applying together as a special case.

Schools generally don’t want to break up families or relationships, so if both candidates meet admission requirements, you may have an easier shot at entry. As you try to determine which school to target, research clubs and support available to married students and find out how other applicants presented their case to the admission committee.

Intuition: Some applicants have had their heart set on a single school ever since the idea of pursuing an MBA first started percolating. If you fall into this camp, you’ll have an easier time than many other applicants explaining to the admissions committee why X program truly is the only place for you.

Showing how you are a good fit for the program, and proving your utter commitment to attending that school, reassures the admissions committee that you will accept an offer of admission if given the chance. The admissions committee always had yield in the back of their minds when making admissions offers, and no school likes it when accepted candidates turn them down for a competing program. As an added bonus, it’s much easier to research and prepare for a single MBA application and completely tailor it to one school, as opposed to creating several unique applications at the same time.

Whatever your reasons for having a single b-school on your mind, make sure that your academic and professional profile is in line with the requirements and expectations at that particular school. This approach requires pragmatism and optimism in equal measure.

Image credit: Flickr user Stefan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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