The Perfect Time to Apply to Business School

InGenius Prep

So, you have decided you want to go to business school and you think it is the right place for you. Making the decision was the easy part. But now, you might be wondering when to apply to business school after you’ve been in the working world. Exactly how long is long enough before you start hitting those GMAT prep books?

Naturally, your business school application comes with several components. You need to submit your undergraduate GPA, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, resumé, letters of recommendation, and attend an interview. While your test scores and undergraduate GPA determine your level of academic achievement, your essays, resumé, and recommendation letters help the admissions department determine your professional skills, achievements, and readiness to undertake a business school program. But the question remains: How do you decide when to apply to business school?

Timing is a key factor in your plunge into MBA applications, so this does vary on a case by case basis. You might need more or less work experience than your peers depending on your academic prowess and the experience you have under your belt. You could consider other career options before fully committing to b-school. You might want to save money first because let’s face it, the MBA won’t pay for itself. To help you navigate the question of when to apply to business school, here are a few factors to help you decide the perfect time for you.

Work Experience

Business schools usually expect you to have at least a few years of work experience before you apply. It’s very rare for students to get into b-school straight out of college. The best indicator of a candidate’s ability to succeed in business school is reflected in their resumé through leadership work and project management in the workforce. Business schools want to be sure they accept students who can contribute to the program with meaningful, first-hand insights.

The average age of students who applied to the top 30 business schools last year is 27.9, with an average of 4.95 years of work experience before applying. Some college students who majored in marketing, management, and business don’t waste time and try to head straight to business school, which is not always the right call because the schools are very selective! While top-ranked MBA programs might accept a few students directly from college, they prefer applicants who have had a few years of work experience.

You’ll also be competing against a very tough pool when you apply. 99% of Columbia’s incoming class last year had worked in a multitude of fields. It can sound tempting to immediately jump into MBA applications and get school out of the way as soon as possible. But to fare against the tough applicant pool, you should aim to bring depth and breadth of work experience. And you can work anywhere - your career after undergrad does not have to be in a business-related field at all. In fact, besides working in consulting and finance, attendees at the top b-schools have worked in government, consumer technology, energy, retail, and arts and entertainment. While the industry you work in could reflect your chosen direction in business, it’s the qualities you pick up from work that can help you decide when to apply to business school.

If you feel you’ve learned all that you could, led projects or teams, and are ready for the next step, it’s time to start your application using your newfound skills. MBA recruiters look for professional work experience that proves your interest, experience, and passion and solidifies your ambition.


When deciding when to apply to business school, you must consider the financial burden. Are you prepared to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an MBA? Attending business school is not cheap. Two years of focused studying means giving up your job and income. All your waking hours will go into your coursework. If you don’t have money saved up, you probably want to take the time to work and save up for b-school.

When weighing your options regarding when to apply to business school, keep in mind that the return on investment will be worth every penny and sleepless night you have spent. The average salary for 2018 MBA graduates was $102,495. Stepping out of an academic setting to work kills two birds with one stone, as you would be gaining work experience while earning money to help pay for your MBA.

Once you’ve saved up and you’ve got a wealth of experience under your belt, you can work on applications with less concern over how to finance your education!


An important factor to consider when wondering when to apply to business school is whether an MBA is right for you to begin with. You might have many passions - you’re human after all. After going to college for four years and taking a variety of classes, you could realize that business isn’t all that is out there and you may want to check out some other options. It’s definitely not the right time to apply to business school if you’re having second thoughts about an MBA. Since work experience is important for business school applications anyway, take the next couple years after graduating college to explore your interests, work in other industries, and figure out what is right for you.

And if you decide to attend business school, your unique background and versatile skills will strengthen your b-school application!

Taking a Break if You’re Burned Out

You’ve been in school for over sixteen years. It can undoubtedly become both physically and emotionally draining. If you’re feeling burned out when attempting to figure out when to apply to business school, you’re probably not ready yet. Yes, your education and career goals are important, but so is taking care of yourself! It’s not a race, so if you need to take time off from work and applications to go backpacking around Europe for three months, now is the time.

If you are seriously considering business school, take the time necessary to prepare yourself for becoming the best candidate possible. The decision for when to apply business school relies on how prepared you are in terms of experience and finances. If business school is truly your calling, getting work experience and saving up money will prove worthwhile in the long run. So don’t just start running off to apply immediately after college. This is definitely one place where patience can prove to be a virtue.

General FAQ

Can I go to business school right after college?

Work experience isn’t required at all business schools, but it is typically preferred. If you do apply right after college, your academics will need to be stellar in order to compete with applicants who have years of real-world experience.

How old is the average MBA student?

The average MBA applicant at a top 30 school is 27.9 years old.

How much work experience do I need before I go to business school?

Work experience is not required at all business schools, but it is preferred and will boost the strength of your application. The average applicant at a top 30 business school has 4.95 years of work experience.

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