Harvard Kills An MBA Admissions Round

The Harvard Business School campus

Say goodbye to round three at Harvard Business School.

With more and more MBA candidates filing their applications in the first and second rounds, respectively in September and January. HBS today (May 15) said it was eliminating its third and final round. The school will retain a spring round, however, for applicants to its 2+2 deferred admissions program.

Consultants estimate that round three accounts for fewer than 5% of Harvard’s incoming class of roughly 930 MBAs in recent years. But students who get dinged by HBS are then more likely to accept offers from other top MBA programs.


So the impact of the decision will more likely fall on rival schools who often hold out more seats in their classes as HBS decisions cascade down to their MBA programs. HBS, for example, will no longer need to carry candidates on a waitlist into a final round. The earlier release of those applicants will speed up admission decisions at a number of schools.

For Chad Losee, who became managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid two years ago, the announcement represents the most consequential change he has yet made in the school’s admission policies. He said it was made after “careful consideration.”

“Getting a decision earlier will give admitted students better access to on-campus housing, more cohort options for HBX CORe, and more time for visa processing,” wrote Losee in a blog post about the change. “For students admitted in Round 3 in the past, the timing has always been tight. We know it takes a lot to finish up a job and move to a new city and we hope the additional time will be helpful to admits on a number of fronts. And given that we’ve seen more applicants in Rounds 1 an 2 and fewer in Round 3 in recent years, this change feels consistent with the choices you are making about when to apply.”

In an interview with P&Q, Losee noted that the move was designed to give the Class of 2021 a jump on planning ahead for the September and January deadlines. In other words, it was part of HBS’ “continuous improvement process” in admissions to make the process more efficient, student-centric, and transparent.

“When we bring students to interview on campus,” Losee says, “we plan a whole day of events for them with students and faculty to get a sense for what that’s like here. That has been harder to do in round three because students and faculty are in finals so they won’t have as complete a picture of what HBS is. We get to know the applicants and we hope the applicants get to know us as well as they can so they can make an informed decision.”


Admission consultants see little to no impact on their business. “The most successful applicants prepare their applications six to 12 months ahead,” said Matt Symonds, a co-founder and partner of Fortuna Admissions, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “If anything this only reinforces the time and thoughtfulness that the best candidates put into their MBA applications. The international pool targets round one and two. My colleagues, in their former admission roles, always speak about these schools being round agnostic between one and two and equally comfortable with applicants in either round. Round three has always been the Hail Mary Pass so it will change little.”

HBS already had announced that its Round 1 deadline for the 2018-2019 admissions cycle will be Sept. 5, with a round two deadline of Jan. 4th. “We have no preference between the two rounds—truly,” said Losee.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, another leading consulting firm, believes the move makes sense. “The process of applying to HBS and business schools has become something most applicants now plan several years in advance,” said Kreisberg.

“The  ‘snap app’ cohort, kids who wake up in March to jam an app in for matriculation next September, is a demo HBS no longer needs.”



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