Last year, Harvard Business School surprised everyone by eliminating its third and final application round for MBA hopefuls. The school must have liked what it saw because HBS has decided to stick with just two application rounds.
As is often the case, Harvard’s first round deadline comes faster, in fact, a day faster than last year on Sept. 4th, though the school has yet to announce the date when it will send out decisions and interview invites. Typically, HBS enjoys setting the pace with the earliest application cutoff of any of the leading schools. Meantime, HBS moved its round two deadline two days later to Jan. 6. Harvard won’t push its actual online application live until early June, but the school suggests that applicants can download the school’s Application Guide to learn more.
“HBS likes its two-round system or it would have gone back to three rounds, which it had prior to the 2018-19 cycle,” says Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com, a leading MBA admissions firm. Her other early takeaways: “It likes its essay question and has used it for several years now. The lack of essay limit is an opportunity for applicants to show judgment as well as communications ability, or the lack of both. HBS is interested in that information. The short answers and form fields reflect what Harvard to know, and they are a critical part of the applicant’s narrative.”
COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL ADDS TWO NEW 250-WORD ESSAYS FOR 2019-2020
On the other hand, Columbia Business School has added a pair of new essays this year: “Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you?” (250 words) and “Who is a leader you admire, and why?” (250 words). CBS retained its first 500-word essay: “Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?”
Columbia is the only highly ranked full-time MBA program with a January class start in addition to its regular September cohort. The school is fourth behind HBS, Stanford and Wharton for the number of applications received every year for both full-time MBA cohorts. The school, which sends out interview invites and admission decisions on a rolling basis, has set an early decision deadline of Oct. 4th (which is also the deadline for its January 2020 class start) and a final regular deadline of April 10th. But if you want to qualify for a merit scholarship, you would need to apply by Jan. 3, 2020 (see Columbia 2019-2020 MBA Deadlines for specific advice on how to apply and answer the school’s new essay questions).
The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, meantime, has so far posted the earliest deadline–for its early action round. The deadline is a day ahead of HBS on Sept. 3rd. A major benefit of applying that early to Darden is that you don’t have to be invited to an admissions interview. Instead, you are able to get one without an invite. That is also true for early action candidates at Duke Fuqua during the school’s open interview period from Sept. 11 to Oct. 9th and at Kellogg and Tuck for all applicants. Darden’s open interview schedule is between mid-July through the end of September.
It’s always wise to follow the links to the web pages of the school’s admissions office. It’s often possible that there could be slight changes in the dates, or greater detail. If you are an international student or a candidate who needs scholarship money, you are at an advantage in applying earlier to give you time to get a student visa and when little of the scholarship grants have been doled out. And if you are applying as a Consortium candidate, you also can’t wait until the later rounds.
There can be significant differences in the number of rounds and deadlines from school to school. Consider INSEAD, for example. The school has four times as many application deadlines as Harvard every year, four rounds for each of its two intakes in September and January. For our money, by the way, INSEAD’s website contains the clearest and most comprehensive admissions info of any business school in the world, with exact dates for when applicants are told whether they will get an alumni interview and when final decisions are posted, along with much more, including a ten-week schedules of making decisions from application to acceptance or rejection.
APPLY AS EARLY AS YOU CAN BUT NOT UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE THE BEST JOB POSSIBLE
No matter what you do, there’s some helpful general advice: If you can, apply in the first round when none of the seats in the class are filled. At most schools, early applicants have an advantage over those that complete their applications in later rounds. Typically, the second application round is the largest, and many schools, including Wharton, advise candidates that round three is the most competitive mostly because the vast majority of the class seats are already filled. There are some other reasons why you want to get your app in early:
- The ability to receive a scholarship award from the school’s Financial Aid Office prior to the date by which you must respond to your offer of admission.
- Ample time to complete recommended quantitative and/or language coursework prior to arrival on campus.
- Access to on-campus housing lottery systems at some schools.
- Sufficient time to complete the visa application process for international candidates.
- Attendance at a school’s Admit Weekends. Sometimes, round three candidates lose out on this opportunity.
All that said, the best time to apply is when you believe you’ve done the best job possible with your application. If you have to rush and cut corners to make round one, don’t. Hold off until another round. At all the highly selective business schools, admissions officials are looking for reasons to cut you from the pool. After all, the odds are substantially against you and as many as 80% of the candidates in any school’s applicant pool are usually fully qualified to attend. So you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward when you do apply.
We’ll update this list continuously as more schools provide info on their new deadlines. If a school has released its essays for the 2019-2020 admissions season, you can access them by clicking on the “Yes” in the table below.
EARLIEST 2019-2020 DEADLINES AT TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS
|School||Deadline||Interview Notification||Decision||Essay Release|
|Virginia (Darden)||Sept. 3, 2019 (Early Action)||Schedule Your Own||Oct. 9, 2019||No|
|Harvard||Sept. 4, 2019||NA||Dec. 10, 2019||Yes|
|Pennsylvania (Wharton)||Sept. 17, 2019||Oct. 29, 2019||Dec. 18, 2019||No|
|Pennsylvania (Wharton)||Sept. 17, 2019 (R1 for MBA/Lauder)||NA||Dec. 18, 2019||No|
|Northwestern (Kellogg)||Sept. 18, 2019 (Round 1)||Sept. 20, 2019||Dec. 11, 2019||Yes|
|INSEAD||Sept. 18, 2019 (Round 1-Sept. Intake 2020)||Oct. 18, 2019||Nov. 22, 2019||Yes|
|Duke (Fuqua)||Sept. 19, 2019 (Early Action)||Oct. 2, 2019||Oct. 28, 2019||Yes|
|Chicago (Booth)||Sept. 26, 2019||NA||Dec. 5, 2019||No|
|Emory (Goizueta)||Oct. 4, 2019 (R1)||Rolling||Nov. 29, 2019||Yes|
|Columbia Business School||Oct. 4, 2019 (Early Decision/January cohort)||Rolling||Rolling||Yes|
|Virginia (Darden)||Oct. 4, 2019 (R1)||NA||Dec. 11, 2019||No|
|Duke (Fuqua)||Oct. 14, 2019 (Round 1)||Nov. 1, 2019||Dec. 18, 2019||Yes|
|INSEAD||Nov. 6, 2019 (Round 2-Sept. Intake 2020)||Dec. 6, 2019||Jan. 24, 2020||Yes|
|Emory (Goizueta)||Nov. 15, 2019 (R2)||Rolling||Jan. 24, 2020||Yes|
|Columbia Business School||April 10, 2020 (Final Regular Decision)||Rolling||Rolling||Yes|
Source: Business school websites