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  • Malvika Patil

When Should I Hire an MBA Admissions Consultant?

There’s no secret sauce to a successful business school admit. There isn’t any ‘correct’ GMAT score, resume, or essay that will guarantee you a spot in your target MBA program. However, in our experience, there is one thing that all successful applicants do in one way or another: setting a clear timeline. 

A well structured application timeline can help you allocate time wisely for test prep, creating a career narrative, essay writing, and managing your recommenders. But what does this timeline look like? If you’re applying for an MBA in Round 1 (deadlines in September 2024), here’s a summary of every step in the application process, the ideal MBA application timeline, and the best time to hire an MBA admissions consultant. 

January – March: GMAT/GRE Preparation 

The first step in your MBA application journey is test prep. Whether you’re taking the GMAT or GRE (or another qualifying test), preparing for these exams takes a lot of hard work. The sooner you start, the more time you have to practice, and if needed, retake the test. In our experience, most candidates score higher on their later attempts.

What should be your target GMAT/GRE score? 

You should benchmark your GMAT/GRE score against the class average of your target business school and the strength of the rest of your profile. For example, if you’re someone from an over-represented majority (think Indian/Asian-American male engineer), you need to stand out from your peer group by aiming for a score that’s 20 points above the average score of the school you are targeting. However, if you’re from an underrepresented minority, a lower GMAT/GRE score might work for you if your MBA application narrative is unique and shows diverse strengths. 


To accurately assess the strength of your profile, visit and try out our free Profile Evaluation tool

Should I take the GMAT or GRE? 

All top business schools accept both tests. From the school’s perspective, there’s no advantage to selecting one over the other. However, we find that quantitative-minded applicants (quants) tend to score better in the GMAT and qualitative-minded applicants (poets) better in the GRE. Try both and choose the test that aligns with your strengths. 

Will a strong GMAT/GRE score help me get financial aid? 

A good score does not guarantee you admission or financial aid. However, it does increase your chances of receiving merit-based scholarships. So, if you’re eyeing that scholarship funding, you should aim to get a competitive test score. 

If you’re struggling with the GMAT or GRE, book a free chat with our in-house GMAT/GRE expert Rowan Hand.

April – May: Sign With A Consultant 

Around April-May, you may want to start looking for your MBA Admissions Consultant. This gives you plenty of time to work together on your MBA applications ready to submit in August/September. It also gives you enough leeway to apply to any additional schools! 

Why should I work with a consultant?

It’s hard to jump into something new and unfamiliar - especially when it’s as important as your MBA application. An MBA consultant can help guide you through the unknowns of the process, create a customized plan for each school you target, save time, and stay motivated throughout. Plus, bouncing off your ideas with an experienced consultant helps you create a stronger narrative. Together, you’ll brainstorm your stories, discuss your vulnerabilities, write and edit your essays, and prepare for the MBA interview. 

Considering the potential for huge scholarships at top business schools, hiring a consultant can be thought as an investment. For example, Sejal chose our 3 school package, which cost around $8,000 at the time. She was admitted to NYU Stern with a full-ride scholarship worth $170,000. That’s a return on investment of over 20x.

How to identify the right consultant? 

First, your MBA admissions consultant should be someone who can adapt to your schedule and working style. Remember that you’ll meet them approximately twice a week for up to three months, so choose one that fits your schedule. Check that your time zones align.

Next, your MBA consultant should be transparent about their process, offer you full visibility on their previous admits, and set expectations early on. This will allow you to gauge how involved they are in the process and to establish a timeline. 

And finally, MBA applications require you to be authentic. That often involves telling stories that may be quite personal and vulnerable. Your MBA consultant should be someone you can build trust with so you feel comfortable sharing your story. Goes without saying: your consultant should be someone you like!

Should I choose a full school package or hourly packages?

Choose a package that best suits your application needs. If you only need your resume or essays reviewed, an hourly package may be best for you. However, if you need hands-on support to apply to your target school(s), we recommend that a full package may be more cost-effective and comprehensive.

At SWC, we offer both. Our flexible packages suit different budgets and working styles.

If you only need 1 hour to prepare for your MBA interview or discuss any application-related queries, that’s fine. We don’t insist on a minimum number of hours.

Alternatively, if you want all-inclusive hands-on support at every step of your MBA application journey, you can work with any of our consultants for an all-inclusive package. There’s no cap on the number of meetings (we’ll set clear expectations here), or the number of edits we make to your essays. We’ll work together till we both feel fully confident to hit Submit on your application!

June – August: Applying to Schools 

Most business schools typically require you to submit 2-5 essays, short answer questions, an MBA resume (preferably in their recommended format) and 1-2 letters of recommendation. Additionally, if you’re applying for scholarships, you may have to write additional essays. Plus, we recommend that applicants apply to 6+ schools, if possible. That’s a lot of work. 

And that’s not including your personal life! You may be juggling a full-time job, your personal commitments, and test prep alongside your application. That’s why this timeline is so important; we generally recommend 2 meetings per week, plus 1-2 hours of ‘homework’ between each meeting. 

At SWC, we start by discussing your career goals and identifying post-MBA roles that align with these goals. Then, we’ll follow a process we call “SCAR analysis”. Your consultant will guide you to reflect on different periods of your life: upbringing, undergrad, previous roles, and current role. Together, you’ll write impactful stories from these periods using our tried and tested SCAR format - stories that will eventually shape your application essays.

Once your career goals and stories are ready, your consultant will help you map these to each school’s essay, structure them into impactful essays, and edit the drafts several times.

Next, you’ll work together to build a strong MBA resume that complements your essays by highlighting your leadership and technical skills. Additionally, you will receive guidance on how to choose the right recommenders, manage them, and guide them to write effective letters of recommendation.

With this timeline, you can complete your application well before the school deadline.

September: Additional School Applications

Once you’re done with the applications you planned, you may have time to apply to more schools using the same essay material. Many applicants choose to do this part themselves. At SWC, we offer a 20% discount on our hourly packages to clients who worked with us on full school packages. We also offer offline editing for applicants who don’t want to hop on a video call to edit their essays live.

By September, your applications are submitted for the Round 1 cycle. Next, you’ll start preparing for the MBA interview. Check out our school-specific interview guides to learn how you can nail your MBA interview!


Applying in Round 1? Book a free chat to get started with your MBA application. 

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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