Which B-School Application Round Is Right for You?
Most business schools process MBA applications in rounds, having three separate deadlines. So what’s the difference between the MBA application rounds, and what do they mean for you and your business school application strategy?
Round one: September and October deadlines
In general, it’s a good idea to submit in the earliest round possible, provided you don’t compromise the quality of your application.
Round one sees some of the best MBA applications. Those who apply in the fall are often candidates with good grades and solid work experience. If you’re a strong MBA candidate with a GMAT score of over 600, it’s probably best to apply in round one.
In this first round, the numbers of applications received by business school admissions offices are comparatively small. Later rounds tend to be more competitive. This is because most schools try to fill the bulk of their slots with early-round candidates, making sure they fill out the class.
Round two: January deadlines
The second business school application deadline sees the largest group of applicants—up to 2,000 in some programs—which means there are more candidates to compete with. These applications usually come from students who do well, but present more weaknesses, though it varies from school to school and year to year.
If you have a GMAT score that’s less than 600 and you feel strongly that you will do well taking it again, opting for the second round in MBA applications might work the best for you.
Apart from being waitlisted, applicants who are not admitted in the first or second round generally aren’t reconsidered in later rounds of the same application year. Their only option is to reapply the following year. So, applicants who apply in later rounds do not compete against rejected applicants from earlier rounds.
Round three: March to May deadlines
It is generally true that round three admissions are more difficult than rounds one and two. There are only a limited number of vacant class seats left by this point—the others having been allotted to candidates from earlier rounds. Admissions officers are keenly aware that they have only so many seats left, so they become even more careful about which candidates those seats go to.
While it’s not quite accurate to say that round three applicants are held to a higher standard than earlier candidates, their applications are usually read with especially close scrutiny. Minor slips that earlier candidates might have gotten away with are likely to be caught and challenged. So take extra care to make sure your round three application is carefully planned out and meticulously prepared.
As always, you should never let timing compromise the strength of your application. In other words, if applying earlier means sending out an application package that reflects anything less than your best, you’re better off postponing your submission to a later round.
While you’re planning for your application round, don’t forget to fit in your GMAT prep. An easy way to start? Take our free 20-minute workout to see where you stand.
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