Does the couple that studies together really have more fun? In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing MBA advice for couples considering applying to business school.
For some professional couples, there comes a time when both partners realize that pursuing an MBA degree is the key to exploring new career paths. However, the MBA admissions process is challenging enough for one person. Couples face additional considerations as they figure out their priorities and application strategy.
Finding an MBA program that meets your needs must mesh with your partner’s preferences as well. This is one of the hardest parts of applying jointly to business school. You’ll want to avoid any unwelcome compromises or resentments that might damage your relationship. Start by making a list of target programs where you both will be thrilled to study.
Here are tips to help you and your partner successfully navigate the application process and chart your course for career growth together.
MBA Advice for Couples: School Selection
No two candidates – even couples – are alike when it comes to test scores, leadership experiences, professional background, or extracurricular interests. Before applying to b-school, make sure each application is competitive. Unfortunately, the strength of one candidate won’t compensate for an unqualified partner.
In addition to applying to the same set of schools, couples can expand their range of options by focusing on cities or regions where both would thrive. Think in terms of applying to schools in the same area.
For example, you might apply to NYU Stern and Columbia in New York City, or the Wharton School in nearby Philadelphia. West coast fans can consider Stanford Graduate School of Business or UC Berkeley Haas in the Bay Area.
Other possibilities include Harvard Business School or the MIT Sloan School of Management in the Boston area. In the Chicago area, options include the Kellogg School of Management or Booth School of Business. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, you have UCLA Anderson School of Management and the USC Marshall School of Business.
A smart strategy for couples open to this option is applying to identical schools in Round 1. Then, expand to nearby schools in Round 2 as a backup plan.
Campus visits and info sessions are also essential for couples, even if they need to take place virtually this year. Take the time to get a good feel for each school and connect with current married or partnered students who can provide insight into their own application experiences. These resources can give you a better sense of how accepting the school is of joint applicants.
MBA Advice for Couples: Timing Your Applications
It may go without saying, but you should both apply in the same round. This makes the decision much easier when you know whether you both got in.
Also, if possible, apply in the first round to leave some wiggle room, if needed. The MBA application process can become all-consuming. With two people balancing full-time jobs with test prep and essay writing, you might find that one of you is struggling and needs extra time to pull together the best possible application.
A different approach for couples who know the region or city they ultimately want to work in is to stagger your MBA enrollment. One person continues to work while the other goes to business school. Then, the other person enrolls in an MBA program once their partner has graduated.
MBA Advice for Couples: Loop in the AdCom Up Front
Admissions committee members are compassionate human beings, not mere number crunchers. If both applicants are qualified to attend and are a good fit with the program, the admissions committee will usually try to keep couples together.
Some schools explicitly ask in the application if you’re applying jointly with a partner. But even if they don’t, it’s essential to share that information with the admissions committee. This is crucial if the rejection of one applicant means the partner wouldn’t attend if accepted. Both you and your partner should use the supplemental essay to explain that you’re part of a package deal.
Also, make the admissions team aware of your joint application intentions as early as possible. When attending events on the road or on campus, touch base with representatives to explain your situation. Show them why you and your partner would make an excellent fit for their program. Jenna, a former NYU Admissions Officer on the SBC team added,
“Stern normally does consider the applications together if they applied as partners. I had a SBC client last year who was able to leverage this in order to have CBS match a scholarship where her partner was also a scholarship recipient, but in that case they were equally competitive.”
Your relationship status will likely come into play when the admissions committee is hesitant about just one of you. If the school feels that one candidate is outstanding and knows that he or she will only attend if the partner also gets in, chances are good that both will receive admissions offers.
Enjoy the Ride
An MBA is an emotionally intense and enriching experience. One of the best things about attending business school as a couple is witnessing each other’s growth in this unique environment. That, and taking pride in each other’s accomplishments.
“Our time at HBS has brought us closer together,” said Kate Kingen and Patrick Garrison in this Harvard Business School blog post. “We met while working after college, so we did not know each other as students. Having the opportunity to learn, grow, travel, and meet a whole new set of people has been a wonderful new chapter in our relationship together.”
From the support you can give each other during the application process to coming home at the end of each day during the degree process to share and debate your respective classroom experiences, going to business school with your partner may turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made for both your career and personal life.