Is it Too Late to Apply for an MBA Program?

As a 2018 graduate, I’m anticipating my first post-MBA position at Smith & Nephew in Memphis, TN. But even with the excitement of commencement just ahead, I can easily remember how nerve-wracking the application process was. Not just finding the right recommendation letters and editing my essays, but had I submitted my application early enough?

To help future students of the Moore School of Business, I sat down with Jennifer Ninh, director of admissions for the full-time MBA program. She was eager to talk about applications because around this time of year the MBA office receives a rash of phone calls from potential candidates. The calls often share a common concern: is it too late to apply for the program’s incoming summer class?

Here’s the answer to that application question and many more.

Q: Why might an applicant apply this close to the start of an MBA program?

A: For many late applicants, the driver is the workplace. If a division is sold and management changes or a corporate assignment occurs that doesn’t match a candidate’s career goals or ideals, pursuit of an MBA can become more attractive than staying put — especially for those who planned on earning an MBA someday. In other cases, it may just be a matter of timing. Corporate relocations can create opportunities for spouses. And as members of the military reach the end of their service, they don’t always know the exact date they’ll be able to make their career transition. Whatever the reason, we do everything we can to ensure qualified candidates get into the program when the timing is right for them.

Q: How does the admissions process change for a late application?

A: It doesn’t. We have what’s called a rolling admissions process. That means as soon as an application is submitted, our team quickly assesses it and makes a decision on whether the candidate has the top qualifications needed to enter the MBA program this year. Even if most seats have been filled and most scholarships awarded, we work closely with our best-qualified applicants so they don’t have to wait another year.

Q: How do rolling admissions differ for program applicants?

A: In a nutshell, rolling admissions mean that as an application comes in, it can be reviewed and a preliminary decision can be made almost immediately. If the preliminary decision is positive, the candidate is immediately invited to interview. The interview of a late applicant is absolutely pivotal as an early applicant has more time to get to know us and showcase their skills through the typical discussions that occur during the applications process.

Q: Any tips for creating a strong and compelling late application?

A: My biggest advice is to that your application must be cohesive and appear as if you’ve taken months to create it. It needs to be polished and error free.

Q: Any tips for an applicant who wants to evaluate their application?

A: You have one shot to make a top impression. Focus on well-written objective statements and essays, a concise, strong-selling and well-formatted resume, and recommendation letters that specifically address your ability to pursue an MBA. Reach out to a mentor or an associate you respect and ask them to review and critique your work so you can refine it.

Q: Can a late applicant stand out among a class of already-admitted candidates?

A: Absolutely. The key is to present an interesting and unique application that shows us why you are a standout. As a smaller sized program, we strive to bring in a very diverse class. Selling yourself strongly throughout your application and highlighting how you fulfill demands in key hiring areas for MBAs will greatly enhance your story.

Q: Should late applicants contact you before they apply?

A: Definitely. In fact, before hitting submit on your application, we highly recommend making a call to us. If you think you’re a match for our program, we want to hear from you right away. With such a tight timeframe on late applications, your call establishes a connection that helps us smooth the admissions process. We can advise you on how to get all of your application pieces together quickly and in the proper format. On the flip side, if we don’t see any path in the coming year, we’ll be honest with you.

Q: If an applicant isn’t admissible for an upcoming term, can they be considered for the next one?

A: We often see late applicants who would have been admitted and awarded scholarships if they’d applied earlier. If that’s the case for you, we’ll work with you to move your application to an upcoming term. As an early applicant, you’ll be among the first to be reviewed and have the benefit of ongoing access to our team as you refine your application for admissions. For some late applicants, we can event offer automatic admissions to the next class intake.

Q: Any last thoughts for late applicants?

A: Yes, go ahead and apply! If you have an amazing background and strong credentials, we’d like to make room for you in this year’s class. One last thought is to remember that the admissions process itself is telling. How you turn an application and the quality of your application elements are examples of your capabilities and how well you can adapt to and manage time constraints. Good workplace skills not only stand out in the program, we can see it as early as the application process.

Matthew Zollmann, Class of 2018