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Business school applications: MBA degree seekers find strength in numbers

When it comes to applying to business schools, many MBA hopefuls wonder how many schools to target in their search. Is there a "right" number of MBA programs to which one should apply? A March 6 article for businessweek.com examines the conventional wisdom surrounding this issue, and looks at some surprising statistics regarding the number of MBA programs applicants typically apply to.

The article cites a recent survey conducted by Stacy Blackman Consulting, which found that 48 percent of survey respondents had applied or planned to apply to five or more business graduate programs. Previously, it was thought that most MBA applicants applied to an average of three schools, the article states.

Stacy Blackman, founder and president of the admissions consultancy responsible for the new study, tells Bloomberg Businessweek that the higher numbers reported may have something to do with wishful thinking on the part of the survey participants. MBA applicants may plan on applying to five or more schools, Blackman says, but cut that number back when they realize how much time and effort goes into a personalized application for each MBA program. She reports that her clients apply to an average of four schools.

The survey also found that while business schools typically downplay the importance of rankings, survey participants almost unanimously value them, with 66 percent of respondents regarding b-school rankings as "extremely important" and 50 percent reporting that reputation was the top factor in selecting a school. Blackman advises business school applicants to remember that rankings and reputation are "fleeting," and says that MBA degree seekers should instead choose a program and a school that suits their particular needs.

"People get really hung up on one or two schools," Blackman says in the article. "You really want to diversify. I think applying to four to six schools is smart."

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