I take a pretty firm stance that if you want something badly enough, you will make time for it. This extends to my opinion of candidates applying for graduate school.
Graduate school is a significant investment of time, money, and a commitment greater than many others in our lives. That investment starts with the application to graduate school so I don’t have much sympathy for people that say they didn’t have time to write a better essay, to study more for the GRE or GMAT, or to retake it if they did poorly. If you really think graduate school is easy, you are wrong. If you think the application process doesn’t take time, you are naive. Everyone has to juggle their other activities and those that do it best will achieve the best rewards. If you need help making all that happen, get it.
The worst applications are slapped together with no understanding of a program and mediocre qualifications. The difference between weak applications and great applications are a few points on the tests, a stronger indication that the applicant is committed to gaining admission, details about the program that just aren’t on the website. In short, great applications show attention to detail and provide insights. They take time.
If you start to get overwhelmed with the time it takes to prepare a great application, reduce the number of schools you are applying to, but don’t lower the quality or commitment to those schools you do apply to. It takes time to do great work and your chances of admission or financial support rest on doing great work.
Work,social, and family commitments can be significant but they need to be managed if you are to find time to do a quality job with your applications. Remember the payoff is potentially a fully funded PhD program or getting into the MBA program of your dreams. Achieving those goals will pay dividends for a lifetime. They are worth being a priority in your life for a few months during the application phase.
Applications are Grad School 101, get an A!