This article was originally seen on Prep Adviser.

One of the the most important things you should know about the top European MBA application timeline is that the application process opens a year before the start of the programmes. Aspiring professionals have several months to prepare their competitive applications. However, preparation for admission should start well before the launch of the admission process. This is why you should plan well ahead.

Top European MBA admissions calendar

Let us take a closer look at the admissions calendars of some of the leading business schools in different parts of Europe. This is the best way to learn that it is never too early to begin your preparation, but it can get too late quite quickly. Below is a list of application deadlines for some MBA programmes that begin late in 2017 or early in 2018. The application process at most business schools includes interviews or other forms of assessment after the submission of the application. That is why applicants may have to wait up to three months before they learn the decision of the admissions committees.

The MBA of the London Business School (LBS) in the UK runs on an academic calendar that is more typical of US B-schools than European ones. The LBS MBA is a two-year programme and studies begin in August. The rolling application process opens about a year before each intake. Those who plan to begin their MBA studies at LBS in August 2017 can choose between four deadlines – 21 September, 4 January, 24 February, and 21 April. Applicants are notified about the outcome of their application within two months of the respective deadline.

Check out: 8 Steps for a Successful MBA Application

HEC Paris (France) welcomes applications for the September 2017 MBA intake from January to 1 July 2017. Applicants can expect to receive the final decision within five weeks of each deadline. One can apply throughout the year, to begin the MBA journey in either January or September. However, those who apply after 1 July will be considered only for the January 2018 intake of the HEC Paris MBA.

The University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) accepts applications on a rolling basis in three rounds in December, April, and August, but no later than 15 August. The application process consists of four steps – submitting an application package, recording a video Q&A, an in-person interview, and solving a business case. Successful applicants can expect to receive the final decision of the admissions committee within a month of submitting the complete application package.

The admissions team of St. Gallen encourages early application, but not only because of the limited number of places in the programme.

Additionally, it will also allow you to prepare yourself adequately prior to the start of the programme, with regards to moving to St.Gallen or negotiating a sponsorship from your current employer.

The ESMT Berlin (Germany) MBA programme begins in January. Those who wish to join the programme can apply on a rolling basis as late as 2 December 2017. However, as places are limited, early application is a safer strategy. The early admission deadline is 2 April, when the most motivated applicants will have the first chance to reserve their seats in the class. Those who wish to enrol in pre-MBA intensive German language classes in Berlinat a discount should submit their complete application package by 1 June. ESMT scholarships will be distributed on a competitive basis only among those who have applied before 1 October. The final application deadline for the January 2018 MBA intake is 2 November for visa purposes (2 December for EU nationals). When the class becomes full, students will be waitlisted.

Check out: How to Impress at the MBA Interview

Despite this list of schools who review applications on a rolling basis, you should not have the impression that this is common practice in European business schools. For example, SDA Boconni (Italy) has just one application deadline. This means that all applications are reviewed together. Professionals who plan to start their MBA studies at SDA Boconni can submit their applications as early as September, which is 13 months before the start of the programme. The submission deadline for the October 2017 intake is 30 April and decisions will be announced no later than July.

Step-by-step application timeline

The preparation for MBA application can take a year or more before the actual start of the programme. Squeezing your preparation into less time will result in compromising the quality of your application and placing too much stress on you and the other people involved in the process. Plan ahead and commit to your preparation so that you can improve your chances of admission to the most appropriate MBA programmes.

 

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Admission tests

Most business schools require that applicants submit official scores of aptitude tests such as the GMAT, GRE or a school test. These tests are quite challenging and achieving a good score takes discipline and several months of preparation. Successful GMAT test takers invest about 100 hours in study and practice. They can spread this over three or four months. However, depending on one’s starting level and intensity of preparation, achieving a high score can take about six months – and more than one sitting of the test. The same applies to the GRE.

You should add another month for booking a test date and one more before the official score can be reported to you and business schools.

Business schools will also require non-native speakers to take an English language proficiency test such as TOEFL or IELTS. This can add another couple of months to your test prep calendar.

Shortlisting of B-schools

Ideally, MBA-bound professionals should sit admissions tests before they make the final decision of where to apply for admission. The other option is to make your choice and then aim to achieve the scores required by the selected business schools. But there is the risk of not being able to achieve the desired score because of insufficient time for preparation. So, sticking to the first strategy is wiser, because it will enable you to select MBA programmes where you have realistic chances of admission.

Researching business schools in order to select the best options for your MBA is a time-consuming exercise. Fortunately, the larger part of your research can be combined with your test preparation. But you will shortlist the business schools once you have your final test scores.

Application package

Preparing a competitive application package is yet another task that requires more time than usually anticipated. Here is why.

  • Strategy

Once you have your test scores and have selected B-schools, you should design your application strategy. You should decide what aspects of your profile to highlight in each application, if you are targeting more than one B-school. It is only realistic to apply to five programmes for one intake and even this can be a stretch if the deadlines coincide.

  • Letters of reference

The people whom you will ask for references are certain to have busy schedules. You are asking them a favour and you will not be in a position to press them at short notice. In addition, selecting your recommenders takes time, as does getting their consent and preparing the information that they will need in order to write an informative letter of reference adds to your timeline. Start the preparation as soon as you have selected the B-schools where you will apply. Give your recommenders a month, but plan to have the recommendations sent to the B-schools at least two weeks before the application deadline.

  • Essays

Essays always take much longer to prepare than usually anticipated. Of course, you can write 500 words in half an hour, but the final version of each essay will be the result of several drafts and a lot of edits. B-schools can require more than two essays and you cannot use the same essay for different B-schools. Thus, the overall volume of text that you will have to produce for your MBA application can be truly overwhelming. Essays are one of the most essential elements of your application package. So start working on them as soon as you decide on the application strategy and once the essay topics are available.

  • CV/resume

Your CV/resume should be adapted to each MBA application, list the most relevant facts and figures and should be presented in the format required by each B-school. Even if you have your CV up to date, and neat and tidy, allow a week for adapting it to the requirements of the selected B-schools.

  • University diploma and academic transcripts

Certified copies and an official translation in English of your university diploma and academic transcripts will be required by B-schools as a part of the application package. Ordering official transcripts, translations and notary certification can take several weeks.

Now you can see that if you are planning to begin your MBA studies in 2017 or early in 2018, you should have already started your preparation. Time flies and you have so much to do. Moreover, you have to perform at your best, because the MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.