When should I apply for a master’s degree?

True to the saying, "the early bird gets the worm," it is never too early to begin the process of deciding upon a business school to pursue a master's degree. Once a student has done the research to know which business schools she wants to apply to, she should give herself at least 10 months to readily prepare to be admitted into a program. This process begins by weighing the benefits of each school and taking a GRE or GMAT practice test. While some programs waive the GMAT/GRE requirement, most business schools do request the test results during the application process. Several months into the preparation time, campus visits can be scheduled which will include meetings with admissions representatives and faculty. These meetings will go a long way in helping the applicant find the best fit based on personality of leadership and values of the university and business school. Campus visits may not be a priority if seeking a fully online degree however, many schools offering distance education do require its students to make a campus visit at the beginning or end of the program. Many hybrid programs require students to make several campus visits for short residencies throughout the program as well. Certain application aspects, like a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation, should be completed and requested during these mid months as well. This longer time frame also allows for the retaking of standardized tests if the first results were not up to par. The final three months before officially applying to business schools will involve requesting official transcripts from previously attended schools, gathering all letters of recommendations, and having someone review any essays and statements of purpose that will be included in the application.

While many business schools require their applicants to have at least two years of professional work experience, some will be willing to forgo that requirement for younger candidates who show a drive to succeed and take their educational career seriously. For students lacking a track record of employment and a glowing supervisor's recommendation that may come with it, the best option is to highlight the aspects of a bachelor's cumulative GPA, extracurricular activities at the undergraduate level, and the career goals the student has for the future. Business schools are looking for candidates who show the necessary skill set to be successful as a graduate student. That includes showing the admissions office the applicant possesses a high level of maturity, leadership potential, and confidence in order to be a good fit for the program.

Business schools will often state their admission requirements on their website and offer access to admissions office representatives who can help applicants every step of the way. For students pursuing a top Master's degree in Healthcare Management, the Colorado State University Global Campus offers a top-tier online Master's of Healthcare Administration which "incorporates leadership skills, knowledge, analytical abilities, global perspective, and management tools needed to effectively and efficiently lead and manage in both private and public healthcare organizations." While CSU-Global prefers its applicants to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0, candidates with a lower GPA can apply for provisional acceptance into the program. A Statement of Purpose showing the school an applicant's long-term goals and reasons for pursuing the degree, a current professional resume showing all academic accomplishments, professional experience, and service activities, and a SmartMeasure Assessment are all required in order to get the application process started for this degree. While this degree is based on a rolling schedule, students may apply at any time of the year and begin coursework soon after being accepted.

Thus, once a student has decided to take the next step in a master's degree, they must first narrow down their top schools. Once that is done, they can schedule out the target application dates and work backwards for tests and applications to complete. Business leaders must have the tools and knowledge to set goals and create plans to meet those goals. This beginning process of applications is that first exercise in their future leadership career.