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A career in management consulting remains highly competitive and arguably one of the most desired occupations, from engineers, lawyers to statisticians alike.

To stay ahead, timing is critical. Students and recent graduates should know timelines of respective employers in management consulting and plan their applications in advance. In this article, we’ve put together some general guidelines for applicants to consider with regards to timing your applications.

Winter months during December-February are usually when consulting firms accept applications for two types of programs: summer internships and consulting enhancement programs.

Summer internships are for undergraduate students who desire to experience the work of a consultant in the summer months prior to the graduating year of their studies. Most internship programs select candidates in their penultimate year and in fact, interns who demonstrate strong work performance and team camaraderie can often be extended a Full-Time offer.

Enhancement programs, ranging from the 3-4 day short programs as the McKinsey’s Insight to extended programs as the PwC’s Talent Academy Development Program are competitive schemes to increase a candidate’s chances in a firm’s graduate track. These programs are intense sessions designed to give candidates a roundabout experience of being a consultant, from exposures into a firm’s consulting methodology to networking with consulting leaders.

For existing and graduating students who are determined to pursue consulting then, summer months are critical time of the year you cannot afford to waste. The application cycle, from submission to Day 1 of the job, is typically a one year endeavour. Majority of consulting companies starts accepting Full-Time applications typically in late-August and closes in mid-November of the annual year. Applications are typically reviewed on a rolling basis during this period, meaning that the earlier you apply and submit your applications, the better positioned your application will stand. Once a consulting firm receives all applications it needs and the year’s annual quota are met, applications that are received at the end of the window would have a relative disadvantage.

What about the months in between then? There are a number of ongoing activities candidates should stay mindful, including topping up consulting case readiness, preparing a list of personal stories, or joining student clubs and developing transferable skills via community services. To use an analogy, your readiness in each of these activities is like building muscle tone across several muscle groups. Muscle tone comes with exercises; consulting readiness comes with practice. Rather than relying on a last minute workout, the whole consulting application journey must be planned, well-structured and personalized targeting specific work in each area. The earlier you prepare, the less surprised you will be as a consulting candidate. Smart timing is the key!


Dr. Patrick Lam is a management consultant and community builder passionate at solving complex industry issues. He is one of the few scientists-turned-consultants working at PwC Hong Kong and Mainland China with a focus on operating models in support of shifts in strategy and large scale business transformations. (Find out more)