Applying to business school is an enormous task and doing it with your spouse or significant other adds additional parameters to optimize for. While some couples have similar pre-MBA profiles, others have similar post-MBA career plans and some others might have nothing in common at all. In any of these cases, each of you has your unique career trajectory and life experiences. Harness those and craft compelling applications. Keep in mind these tips and suggestions as you work on the application process together.
A full-time MBA is a milestone life experience, and it tends to bring couples closer. If you ask couples, most will tell you that it is best to try for the same schools. Attending the same school will allow you to spend an incredibly busy and enriching period together and grow together as individuals. There are also cost savings and social synergies to consider - You will save on rent and could make family friends for life. However, do not underestimate the power of a different social and alumni network. Some couples have chosen to maximise their experiences by attending different schools close by. If living close by is a must, consider applying to programs in the same city or region – For example Booth and Kellogg, Columbia and NYU, Stanford and Berkeley, MIT and HBS.
Tell the admissions committee you are applying as a couple
Some applicants are hesitant to share that they are applying with a partner. We recommend sharing the fact. A school will certainly not admit an unqualified applicant simply because he/she is applying with another person, but it can work in favour of the person who comes from the over-represented pool. Admissions committees do know that the probability that a stronger member of the couple will attend if their partner is also accepted. So, then, how should you disclose that you are a couple? Some schools have a question about this on their application forms. If not, you should use the optional or additional essay to share the information. In the short essay you share, showcase what makes each of you stand out and why attending together is important to you. Also, each partner should write their version of this essay. You may synchronise, but you should not copy.
Ensure that both members of the couple demonstrate their genuine interest in the school
You do not want the admissions committee to read your application and feel that you are applying to their program because your partner is or that you would go elsewhere to follow your partner. Your reasons to attend the school and your enthusiasm about its culture should be authentic. Connect with students and alumni, and understand what you are looking to gain from the school’s program and elaborate on that in your essays and interviews. One of the best things you can do is share that you are applying as a couple early in the process when you attend an MBA fair or information event and have the chance to chat with the school’s representative.
Clearly identify how you will collaborate during the process
Will you read one another’s essays? Will you be attending the same information events and coffee-chats? Will you share ideas and feedback received with one another? If you do, remind yourself to be original. Essays and applications are very personal. If your partner has approached an essay or an application in a particular manner does not mean you have to adopt the same. Be authentic. Keep friends and family close by and share your drafts with a different sub-set to ensure that you are not losing your individuality while you are applying together. Seek a joint second-opinion from someone who does not know you or get an independent evaluation. Contact us if you have more concerns.
Some couples have found it useful to stagger their MBA experiences so that they are not in business school or job-searching at the same time. For instance, Abhik* chose to apply in the year after his partner. The decision worked well for them as a couple because he could optimize his career search to match his partner's career outcome. Some couples also choose to stagger application across rounds. If one member of the couple has to wait for a career milestone or other emergency, it is advisable to wait until that is achieved to apply. Even in this scenario, it is wise to declare to the school that your partner is already admitted or waitlisted. For instance, Smita* was admitted with a significant scholarship at a top-5 school because her partner had already accepted an offer in the earlier round.
*client names have been changed to protect privacy