Imagine, for a moment, that you’re on Tinder. You spot someone cute and swipe right. A few hours later, you’re notified that s/he swiped right, too. Win! This cute stranger invites you to meet up… on Saturday night at 11 p.m.
Now, I’ve been out of the dating scene for a while, but I recall that a date at 11 p.m.on a Saturday can mean only one thing… and it’s not that s/he’s looking for scintillating conversation. No, you’re a last-resort date; the one this idiot will go out with should his/her Saturday 8 p.m. date not turn out well. No one wants to be the 11 p.m. backup date.
Similarly, business schools don’t want to be your backup school. They want to be your first choice school, the one you’re so excited to attend that you can hardly wait to submit your application. Sure, in your essay, you’ll write about how great the professors, curriculum, and alumni are at that specific school, but to admissions officers, actions speak louder than words. They want to be your main squeeze. (Okay, I’ll put the dating analogies to rest).
The surest way to demonstrate your serious intent is to apply in Round 1. It signals that you have the initiative and foresight to plan in advance, and that attending that school is a priority for you. By contrast, applying in Round 2 – or worse, Round 3 – signals very different things. It could mean you didn’t get your act together in time to apply for Round 1, or it could mean you got rejected from your “top choice” schools in Round 1.
Either way, it doesn’t mean anything attractive to the admissions committee, even if you do have benign reasons for waiting until Round 2. Now, I know that plenty of people get accepted in Round 2 and 3. That’s why they exist! But, if you’d like to maximizeyour chances of admission (and honestly, isn’t that why you’re reading this?), apply in Round 1.
Jyll Saskin is a graduate of the MBA Class of 2013 at Harvard Business School. She works as a Manager at Scratch, a division of Viacom, in New York. She also helps clients apply to top business school programs via missionaccepted.com
This article is part of a series on the five most common mistakes MBA applicants make. The first part ran last week: