Applying for an MBA program is a life-changing decision as it opens doors to numerous opportunities to excel in your career. One of the most significant decisions you will have to make during the application process is determining how many MBA programs to apply to in 2023.

Applying to MBA programs is also a significant investment of time and money, so it’s essential to do it right and maximize your chances of success. As an aspiring MBA student, it is essential to have a strategic approach to your application process, and this blog post provides guidelines on how to determine the right number of programs to apply to.

A question of numbers

There is no magic number when it comes to determining how many MBA programs to apply to in 2023. However, a general rule of thumb is to apply to five to eight programs. Applying to more programs can be very expensive and time-consuming, and applying to fewer programs might limit your options. There is no definitive answer to how many MBA programs to apply to in general. While a general rule of thumb is to apply to 5-8 programs, the actual number depends on your profile and circumstances.

If you have a successful career, ample time, and ambitious goals, you may consider applying to a smaller number of MBA programs. You can take your time and focus on applying to your dream schools before applying to any additional programs. If you aren’t admitted, you can improve your profile and try again next year.

If you’re feeling like you don’t have enough time, it’s better to submit a smaller number of high-quality applications than many rushed ones. Remember that the goal is to get admitted into business school. Consider eliminating some applications and using that extra time to make the remaining ones exceptional.

If you have significant weaknesses in your application, such as a history of legal trouble, or being terminated from a job for a valid reason, it may be beneficial to apply to multiple MBA programs. Although these issues don’t necessarily disqualify you from being admitted to business school, submitting more applications can increase your chances of admission. It’s important to address any weaknesses proactively and directly in the optional essay.

Head for the hills might the perfect motto of an informed MBA applicant

If it’s crucial for you to obtain an MBA this year due to career requirements or age, it is also best to apply to as many schools as possible to raise the likelihood of being admitted since time is limited.

If you’re unsure about the geographic region where you want to study and don’t have time to visit each school before applying, consider submitting more applications. Then, once you receive acceptance letters, you can narrow down your options and decide which school to attend while still keeping your options open.

When determining how many MBA programs to apply to, it’s important to apply to a balanced mix of programs. This should include a combination of 1-2 reach schools (where you may have a lower chance of admission), 2-3 target schools (where you have a moderate chance of admission), and 2-4 safety schools (where you have a higher chance of admission). This will increase your chances of being admitted into at least one program and allow you to weigh your options and make an informed decision.

Coffee, note pad, calculator and pain: the perfect tool kit for any MBA applicant wondering how many programs to apply to

Quality over Quantity

Applying to several programs may seem like a good idea, but it can be overwhelming and may decrease the quality of your applications. It is better to dedicate more time and resources to fewer programs than to spread yourself thin over many schools.

Another critical factor to consider when deciding how many MBA programs to apply to in 2023 is your application strategy. Your application package should be compelling, authentic, and tailored to each program you’re applying to. Consider creating a shortlist of programs that are a good fit for you and allocate ample time and effort to each application. You should also seek feedback from diverse sources, such as friends, family, mentors, and MBA admissions consultants, to strengthen your application package.

Consider your goals and priorities

The first step in determining how many MBA programs to apply to is to consider your goals and priorities. What do you want to achieve with your MBA? Do you have a specific industry or career path in mind? By answering these questions, you can narrow down your options and focus on the programs that align with your goals and priorities.

MBA programs are available in different formats, including full-time, part-time, online, executive, and specialized. The format that works best for you may depend on factors such as your work experience, lifestyle, location, and goals. Therefore, you should select programs that offer the format that suits your needs and preferences. You may also want to consider programs that offer additional resources and benefits, such as networking opportunities, career services, international exchanges, and scholarships.

MBA applications should be strategic just like playing chess

Research the programs thoroughly

Once you have identified the programs that align with your goals and priorities, it’s time to research them thoroughly. This includes understanding their curriculum, faculty, alumni network, and other relevant factors. Look for programs that have a strong reputation in your target industry and that provide opportunities for real-world experience, such as internships and consulting projects. By doing your research, you can identify the programs that are the best fit for you and your career goals.

Evaluate your competitiveness

After researching the programs, it’s important to evaluate your competitiveness. Many MBA programs are highly competitive and have rigorous admissions criteria. Look at your academic record, work experience, leadership experience, and other relevant factors to determine your chances of being admitted to each program. Be realistic about your chances, and focus on applying to programs where you have the best chances of being accepted.

Check program requirements

Every MBA program has its unique application requirements, which may include test scores, essays, recommendations, interviews, among others. Before making a final list of programs to apply to, ensure that you can meet all the requirements. Also, consider the cost of the application fees. You do not want to miss out on an opportunity because you could not afford the application fee.

Weigh your options

After narrowing down your list of programs, it is time to evaluate them. Consider the program’s quality, reputation, curriculum, location, and job placement. You also want to check the acceptance rate because applying to highly competitive programs may decrease your chances of getting admitted. With all these factors in mind, you can now determine which schools to apply to.

MBA applicant working on his application

Consider your budget and timeline

Another important factor to consider is your budget and timeline. MBA programs can be expensive, and applying to too many programs can quickly become costly. Consider the application fees, travel costs, and other expenses associated with each program.

You may also want to consider your timeline, as some programs may have earlier or later application deadlines. By considering your budget and timeline, you can narrow down your options and determine how many programs you can realistically apply to.

Its important time to have a to-do list when applying to MBA programs


Applying for MBA programs can be a daunting process, but with the right approach, you can have a seamless experience. While there is no standard number, you should aim for a balance between quality and quantity, based on your profile, goals, and resources.

You should also select programs that align with your interests, fit your academic level, and offer the format and resources that suit your needs. With these guidelines, you are sure to make an informed decision that will increase your chances of becoming a successful MBA graduate. If you need any help with any aspect of your application, make sure to check out our MBA application services. We’ve helped hundreds of prospective students like you get admitted into their dream program! Got questions about the application process or would like to get a quick profile assessement? Sign up for a consultation, it’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Philippe spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Philippe has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

Join the Conversation


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: