This seems to happen more with international applicants, but not exclusively. However, we do tend to see it a lot with Indian candidates in particular. It could be a factor of how for many international candidates, the American style of school application is different, so they’re just learning what the process is about or maybe getting not-great advice that could work well in a different type of school ecosystem but isn’t translatable to the U.S.
Getting into bschool is not a numbers game, yet we see people approach their applications as if they’re trying to win a raffle: You put more tickets into the hopper and you’re increasing your chances. Right?
In our experience, watching applicant after applicant in season after season for more years than we care to acknowledge, those who submit more than 6 applications in one round tend to have significantly fewer outcomes overall than those who put in fewer. And those who submit 10 apps in one round almost always end up with nearly nothing at the end, except for those “safety schools” that they applied to only because they figured that’s what you’re supposed to do. And then when they got into the safety school, and only the safety school, they decided not to go there because hey, I’m good enough to get in there, I’m going to not go there and instead try again next year at all these others I failed to get in at before.
When you’re looking at Round 2 — especially if Round 2 will be your first applications — it can be mighty tempting to just want to submit to every school that catches your fancy.
And this is really misguided.
A) Every application is WORK — like, a tremendous amount of work. That’s especially true this year, when the app requirements have diverged more significantly from one school to the next than they have in the past, such that there’s almost no commonality from school to school’s essays and every single one requires its own concerted effort. If you’re starting now on your first applications, it’s unlikely you have a true appreciation for exactly how much work this is, and how different each application needs to be.
B) Every application is going to be stressful — and you’re going to get mighty sick of it. This will be particularly true (just guessing) for any of you for whom Round 2 is your first attempt at applying. No offense, but in many cases you ended up in this position because you just couldn’t knuckle down and do the work that’s required any earlier. Maybe now is when you have your GMAT finally done — either for the first time, or with a score you feel you can possibly have a chance with (even if it’s still low). Or maybe now is when you finally got your act together and built up the decision to sit down and write some essays — after procrastinating your way through August and September and running out of time completely for Round 1. You may have been planning to apply to bschool this year for forever and a day, but you haven’t actually put down the steps of doing it until now, when your back is up against the wall and that rigid deadline of Round 2 is breathing hot garlic breath into your face.
A + B = low chance of admits if you’re not careful
So why would you use that formula on huge numbers of apps?
Yes, you feel strongly that THIS IS THE YEAR and you really really want to get in this year.
You hate your job. You hate your life. You suddenly feel like you’re getting older and you need to make a change NOW.
We get it!
But cramming in higher numbers of MBA applications at once is not going to get you out of the rut that you’re in.
It’s only going to be a very expensive road to heartbreak in a few months.
Not only is each app fee quite pricey, but each app you submit that has a low chance of success means you’re making it harder to get in as a reapplicant. This is really what we mean by “expensive.” You’re going to set yourself up for payment of app fees twice — plus eating crow by telling your recommenders that you didn’t make it in, plus having to disappoint your mom after she already told all her friends that you’re applying to Harvard, plus having to figure out how to re-motivate yourself to keep working at this job that you hate, when all you’ve been fantasizing about for months now is the day you go give your boss the middle finger (metaphorically speaking) by putting in your two weeks’ notice. THAT’s the expensive part.
And then sucking it up to do all this effing essay writing again next year (in the summer next time, please) and paying app fees all over again (at a more select number of schools next time, but still not cheap).
Or, maybe not. Maybe that’s just a price that you have to pay. If your app is really that bad this year, and in the in-between season from March to July you have a come-to-deity moment that gets you truly motivated to fix the problems, and next year you start early enough and you retake the GMAT and you put in the WORK (see A above) necessary, if your original app was seriously sucky-poo then maybe you’ll so impress the adcoms with how brilliant you are in your reapplication that they fall over themselves in trying to issue you an admit.
(Or they’ll just know you sought out some admissions consultant to help you the second time around. Which doesn’t work against you in their evaluation, since they know the stakes are high, and they appreciate that you’re willing to do what it takes to improve and increase your ability to impress them, in the hopes of making it in. As long as it doesn’t appear that someone else produced the materials you’re submitting. Which, yes, they can tell.)
How many apps is a good number of apps for Round 2?
Here’s a general rule of thumb:
1. If you are putting in the work and you know you’re targeting the right level of school for you and you have valid and specific reasons for why you’re applying to each one then 5 or 6 apps in Round 2 is totally legit — provided that literally each of those variables is set to “true.” You can have some ambitious schools in the mix, certainly, but if all of the schools are stretch schools — and especially if you don’t even know that — then there’s a problem. But we don’t know what we don’t know, so that’s difficult advice to take action on. (Oh wait! Here’s an idea! The Comprehensive Profile Review is this little assessment-tool thingie that we offer, that will give you direct input on your list of school targets against the profile you’re presenting today.)
2. If Round 2 will be your first-ever apps, we don’t suggest doing more than 6.
Getting into bschool is not a numbers game.
More apps does not increase your odds of success.
More HIGHER QUALITY apps does, sure.
You may also be interested in:
- “How many apps?” in the ‘snarchive