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Applying to Business School as a Couple

Between Valentine’s Day next weekend, to working with a couple whom are both applying to business school, I realized that love and romance can be a little known part of the MBA application process.

With thoughts of Cupid in the air, it seemed a perfect time to address the issues that can arise from mixing love and applications.

Here are the six most important things you should know if you apply to business school with your significant other:

1. Communication Is Crucial

This could be a Relationship 101 tip, but it is especially true for a couple applying to business school together. It can be a stressful ordeal, and discussing that difficulty is key for couples to maintain their happiness.

A great way to handle this is to set aside a time (likely weekly or bi-monthly) where you both can express any concerns you have about the entire application process.

Not only do you need to explain any reservations you may be having, but you also need to be supportive and actually listen to your partner.

Applying to Business School as a Couple

All good relationships are built on communication, but if you two plan to apply to business school at the same time, this rule becomes even more crucial.

2. Be Realistic

Not only is applying to business school nerve-wracking, but once you’re enrolled it can be equally difficult on a relationship. For some couples, around two to three months into the school year, many part ways because they are unable to handle the pressures of both school and a relationship.

This isn’t to say that couples can’t thrive under pressure as well. In fact, our Marketing Manager met her husband during law school and she says it strengthened their relationship.

However, not all couples can deal with managing the balance of school and love, so understanding what the pressures of school might entail is important.

3. Hedge Your Bets

This tip can be a great tool if one of you is a super strong candidate, and the other is a good, but not outstanding candidate. If you both know a specific city you want to live in or an area you are comfortable with, applying to those areas where there are multiple schools is a smart move.

You can both apply to your dream school but add a school that is slightly less competitive to hedge your admission bet.

Or you can opt to apply to different MBA programs but in the same city.

If one of you wants to apply to Harvard’s Business School (i.e. the super strong candidate), the other can apply to MIT (i.e. the good but not great candidate). Both are located in the Boston area and are only a seven-minute drive apart.

The same could be said for New York City, where you have NYU’s Stern School of Business and Columbia’s Business School. California also makes this list with Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and UC’s Haas Business School.

This method works best if you know the city or state you both want to reside in, so if that isn’t a problem, this can be a perfect solution.

4. Stagger Your Applications

Another way to handle applying as a couple is to have one of you continue to work while the other applies and enrolls in business school. Then, once that person has graduated and begun working, can switch roles.

Again, this method works best if you both know the city or state you want to live in. If you have that nailed down, one of you can work in the area while the other goes through school. This is perfect for couples that know they want to make a life in an area like New York City.

5. Why Schools Even Ask About Relationship Status

All of this may have you wondering why schools even care about your relationship status. Asking about it is a recent change for the business school application process.

Admissions Committees used to not ask whether people were couples. But there is a method to their madness; schools don’t just ask without a reason behind it.

For the same reason that schools want to know whether you’ve applied to them before or whether you have had family members who are alumni of the schools – all schools hate surprises.

They want to know all of the relevant information up front that  may ultimately play a role in your decision to attend. So if you had a parent attend the school, or if you’ve  applied to the school before are all important information that the adcom  will take  into consideration when making their admissions decision.

6. How Schools Generally View Couples Applying

This may also lead you to wonder how schools view couples applying and whether that changes their admissions decisions. While every school’s admissions decision can be heavily nuanced and always requires context, it is usually  when one applicant is outstanding and the other is merely good that the admissions decision can be affected.

If both candidates are not very good, then neither candidate will get in. The reverse is also true: if both candidates are fantastic, both will get in. Where the relationship issue comes into play is when there is an imbalance in the candidates.

If the school is on the fence with one candidate, but knows that this person is in a relationship with a particularly outstanding candidate, there is a good chance they will lean towards letting the fence-sitter in.

The school’s thinking behind this is that they want to ensure the outstanding candidate attends their school. Especially in the case of a married couple, having your spouse attend the same school will make it more likely that you will also attend.

Schools realize that there are life factors that can heavily weigh on the decision of where to go, and they may try to play their hand if they really want one of you to attend.

So if you and your significant other bonded over your shared love of finance or management, you can both happily apply to business school. Just make sure to keep these six tips in mind! You can take advantage of our free assessment for yourself and your significant other to see how you competitive you are.