Are You Really Ready To Apply In Round 2?

With almost exactly a month until those Round 2 deadlines start coming fast and furious, NOW is the time to decide if you really are in good enough shape to submit a great application to your top choice MBA program.

Just to give you some dates, from January 3 to January 24, some 30 schools have deadlines. Yes, 30! And it’s those 30 schools that are all in the Top 20, so they are on everyone’s list.

So, if you are serious about applying in Round 2, make sure you won’t be asking these questions or saying these things in the days ahead:

“Excuse me, Mr. Recommender, where did you say you were going from December 20 to January 8? The North Pole? Do you think you’ll have internet there to submit my recommendation?”

In other words, are your recommenders in place? Now this doesn’t just mean that you have formally asked people to write the recommendation, it means that you have recently confirmed that they are actively writing them (maybe even with some input from you) and they are actually going to be submitted not just on time but before they head out to that exotic vacation.

“I’ve heard of it, I am just not exactly sure where it is, or how to properly spell its name.”

In other words, have you done enough school specific research to make your applications credible? Can you answer the question as to why this school versus another? If you are going to just end up doing the same application for all schools, think again. Rather than completing a Round 2 application, maybe spend time scheduling your school visits for the coming spring.
By the way, it is Columbia, not Colombia.

“Everything will really fall into place when I retake the GMAT on January 2.”

Rarely do things fall into place when you try to study for the GMAT while wrapping up all your applications. In fact, things generally fall apart. This highlights an important point never to be forgotten: The GMAT requires serious preparation in order to do your best. It requires not just studying but also taking practice tests over and over again. This is time consuming.

Similarly, the creation of a great application and essays requires a lot of serious work. It is not just the writing that is time consuming but the rewriting. If you want to write a great essay, you need a stable of people who can give you feedback based on their own experiences both writing essays, and, ideally, being in business school. Again, all of this takes time. Short of your taking the next month off from work to focus solely on your application, you just won’t have the time to do a great application AND have stellar scores.

“Family! How about singing ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ a little softer? I’m working here (at grandma’s house on dial-up Internet …)”

It is not just that nobody wants to work on the holiday; it is that your work product on the holiday can really tank. You are in a new environment. In a stressful situation. Being pulled in a million directions. Even if you have written your essays, the actual online application – and all the nit-picky answers – can be an absolute bear. Not exactly something you want to do while drunk on egg nog. Fun fact: 10 million US homes still use dial-up to connect to the internet – will this be yours?

“It’s a great bedtime story, but not exactly something that gets people excited.”

What makes for a great business school essay is that it is a great essay. By this I mean that business school essays must really engage the reader right away. Make them laugh or maybe cry. Adcom readers should finish the essay feeling like they know you and understand why you want to go to business school. Such essays are rarely written under the gun. Most, in fact, are so boring that the reader can barely get through them. Such essays don’t lend themselves to acceptance letters.

If you have either uttered, heard, or even thought any of the above phrases, then it might be time to slow things down and really consider whether Round 2 is a realistic goal for you. Given how low the acceptance rates are for those 30 schools, you need to be perfect to get in. And a rushed application around the holidays is simply not going to be perfect. While December and January have their share of (potentially) perfect nights, perfect applications are nearly impossible to find.


Harold Simansky received his MBA from MIT Sloan and a BA in economics from Brandeis University. Following graduation from Sloan, Harold worked at Bain & Company in its private equity group. He was one of many consultants working on the largest media merger of all time. Upon leaving Bain, Harold founded a series of companies in sectors that have included financial services, real estate, green energy, online rewards, print media and others, while also consulting to a private equity firm.