When to Apply for an Online MBA

man at computer

Once someone knows that they want to earn an Online MBA, deciding when to apply is the next step toward earning the degree. Congratulations on taking another courageous step. Answering this question is a task for every prospective student interested in advancing in their current career or seeking to shift into the business field. There are additional questions that applicants can ask themselves or work through, to settle on when to apply for an Online MBA. Every applicant may not have the same answers; there are a variety of responses.


What season of Life and Career Am I In? 

Family Responsibilities

According to an article from 2018, students enrolled in online MBA programs ranged in age from 21-70, but most students were in their early to mid-30s. The season of life for a thirty-five-year-old may include early mornings and late evenings. They may be working in their mid-level position, managing family responsibilities, or navigating increasing job demands. While online programs provide the flexibility of watching lectures from the couch, viewing presentations during lunch break, and completing homework assignments after children have gone to bed, online programs can have the same level of rigor as on-campus programs. Knowing if it is the time to add academic responsibilities to one’s plate is critical.

Job Seniority

Every prospective student should weigh the costs against the benefits. Consider a student that has not yet made it to mid-level seniority at their company. This student would want to gain additional credentials, acquire new skills, and join a cohort of aspiring professionals with hopes of transitioning into a new season of their career. Enrolling in an Online MBA at this time could come at the cost of losing pace and slowing down advancement for a season. Entering an accelerated program could be helpful. But will they need to cut back on work hours at the risk of a loss in salary?

Application Implications

Additionally, the amount of professional work experience students have can negatively affect their application for an online MBA program. Some future MBA students wonder how much work experience is needed to present themselves as competitive candidates for MBA programs. Admissions teams often expect students to have taken business courses or have substantial experience in organization or business. According to U.S. News, without a significant amount of experience, students may still stand out if they have leadership experience, talent, and motivation. Those students need to be able to articulate their career goals and the benefit of earning an MBA. While exceptions can be made for applicants with limited experience, this is another factor in weighing the time and season to apply for an Online MBA Program.

Is there something I Need To Do Present as a Competitive Applicant?

Test Scores and Grades

study for test

Another factor in determining when to apply for an Online MBA is whether the applicant looks good on paper. Outside of essays and letters of recommendation, admission committees look at test scores and transcript grades. The former are promising ways to justify low grades, but the latter two speak for themselves. Prospective students can strengthen their applications by taking three months to study, take practice exams, and prepare for the GRE or GMAT. Even a few points can make a difference on these exams, as they communicate graduate school readiness. In addition to earning higher test scores, another way to present as a more competitive applicant are by increasing grade point averages on transcripts. Writers at Prep Scholar GMAT suggest that the number one way for students with low-grade point averages to get into business school is by taking college-level business courses or enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program. Not only is this a way to boost grade point averages, but it shows that a candidate is serious.

Furthermore, many Online MBA programs have required foundational courses before students can take the core MBA classes. Taking the foundational courses at a community college is hitting two birds with one stone. Truthfully retaking exams or enrolling in courses adds to one’s timeline and effects when to apply for an Online MBA.

What Time of Year Should I Apply?

Application Rounds


Now that the early questions are answered, again, when should prospective students apply? Students should apply when they are ready, but they should be mindful of the application deadlines and rounds at the school they are applying to. GMAC explains that while other graduate programs admit students in by a single deadline, like the fall, many MBA programs have three rounds of admission with three different deadlines. Round one is in the fall around October, round two is in the winter around January, and round three is around March in the spring. There can be variation, as some schools only offer admission in Fall and Winter. GMAC suggests that business schools admit by rounds to build a well-rounded class of qualified candidates. The article’s writer suggests applying in round one for a greater chance of acceptance and a higher amount of scholarship funds.

Additionally, each round gets more competitive. Applicants with average scores and minimal career experience could be overlooked in a pool of students with high scores and substantial leadership. Lastly, with diversity as a factor, if many students applying in the final round represent the same demographic, some could miss the opportunity of acceptance if there is limited space. Round one and two are suggested for those that are not necessarily top candidates. If students cannot meet the round one deadline, round two is perfect and allows students time to increase test scores. Finally, there are few spots left by round three, and the admissions committee may be more careful to accept applications. Applicants should be able to demonstrate how they would be the most valuable addition to the class.

Action Plan

Before applying to an Online MBA program, students must ask all questions and determine their personal and professional needs. Then, they should decide if they need to make their application stronger by taking exams or classes. Finally, they should apply in the first two rounds of the application process to increase their chances of acceptance.