Which Round Should You Apply In?

A case study professor in action at Harvard Business School

A case study professor in action at Harvard Business School

In Which Round Should You Submit Your B-School Application?


“It’s who you know, not what you know.” You’ve probably heard that business cliché. In applying to business school, some candidates subscribe to a different cliché: “Timing is everything.” Apply early and you may be relegated to the wait list. Apply later and your spot (and scholarship money) is probably already taken. So which approach is better?

Stacy Blackman recently provided some answers. A long-time admissions consultant and author – with an MBA from Kellogg (and a Bachelor’s from Wharton) – Blackman outlined the pluses and minuses of applying in each round. Based on conversations with admissions consultants and committee members from schools like Booth and Tuck, Blackman shared these observations:

Round 1

Advantages: According to Blackman, early applicants are viewed as serious and well-prepared candidates. By applying early, you stand a greater statistical chance of being accepted, as you’re only being measured against other early entrants. A former Booth admissions committee member even admitted that the school accepted 65 percent of first round applicants. If you’re applying to a second tier school, it “conveys that the school is a top choice and could result in a scholarship.” Even more, applying early gives you to enough time to pursue other schools if you’re rejected by your top choice.

Disadvantages: Many stellar applications arrive in later rounds. As a result, round 1 is often when candidates are placed on a waiting list. If you plan to re-take the GMAT or fill educational gaps, you’re better off waiting until another round.

Round 2

Advantages: By waiting, you can make campus visits, giving you the chance to better tailor your essay to the school. A former Kellogg admissions committee representative also noted that round 2 is when most applications arrive, making conditions more favorable for candidates with “less-than-perfect backgrounds.”

Disadvantages: The higher volume of applications can also be a drawback. According to a Wharton admissions committee member, the competition is intense, as you’re competing against applicants from two rounds. The deluge can also mean that you won’t receive the time and consideration that first round candidates enjoyed.

Round 3

Advantages: There are few advantages to applying at this point. Most seats have been filled. However, schools are still open to candidates with more eclectic backgrounds who might bring something unique to the class. If a school loses a choice candidate to another school, you might be able to slip into the conversation for that open spot.

Disadvantages: According to a Chicago Booth insider, you need to be almost “superhuman” to receive consideration at this point.

So where does Blackman stand? She advises clients to “apply as early as possible to any program, so long as you aren’t sacrificing the quality of your application.”

Source: US News and World Report

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