Which round to apply in is one of the most common conversations I am having with applicants today. There is no easy answer to this question, and it will vary considerably based on personal circumstances and target school lists.
However, in general, Personal MBA Coach advises that the best time to apply is when your application is the strongest. A rushed application is rarely the strongest application.
Personal MBA Coach suggests that applicants consider these 5 questions as they determine whether Round 1, Round 2, or both is the best option!
Does your school have a strong preference for R1 vs. R2?
For most schools, the answer to this question is no. Unless you are considering one of the few schools that leaves a smaller number of slots for round 2 applicants, you should continue to follow the advice above. Apply when your applications is the strongest!
When is my target school’s round 1 deadline?
This season a number of programs have pushed their round 1 deadlines into October. While starting the MBA application process today and meeting an early September deadline for multiple schools will be a challenge for most, MIT Sloan, UCLA Anderson, UVA Darden, Dartmouth Tuck, Cornell Johnson, Duke Fuqua, and NYU Stern all have October application deadlines this year.
How many schools am I applying to?
Personal MBA Coach’s average candidate applies to 5 schools. While it may be tough to get started today and complete 5 round 1 applications, splitting applications across rounds is a viable strategy. We help candidates prioritize schools by round based on application complexity, round preference, the likelihood of acceptance and deadlines. It is not as simple as applying to your top choice schools in R1. In fact last year many schools made admission decisions quite late in the year.
How much time can I dedicate to my applications?
Most applicants have busy full-time jobs and MBA applications take considerable time and energy. Be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote to your applications and develop your strategy from there. If you are targeting Round 1 for any of your schools, be sure you can commit a good chunk of your night and weekend hours to your applications. This will, of course, vary based on the applicant.
Where are you in the testing process?
If you have not achieved your target GMAT/GRE score yet, this is another area that will take a large chunk of time, decreasingly the likelihood of being ready to submit your strongest application in round 1. Getting even just 20 points higher on the GMAT by round 2 eliminates any round 1 advantage that may be present at most schools.
Think honestly about your answers to these questions. In most cases, your chances of success during round 2 will be just as strong as round 1, provided you dedicate adequate time and effort to perfecting your MBA applications. In fact, last year we had our best round 3 ever! Round 3 is usually a time we advise people not to apply but many successful applicants submitted in this last round to M7 and top 10 schools.
Ready to get started? Do not miss our 7-week MBA application plan.
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and founded Personal MBA Coach over 11 years ago with the goal of providing customized one-on-one support. Scott also serves on the Board of Directors for AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants and is invited to speak at MBA Admissions events globally. Our clients have been accepted to all top schools globally with a 96% success rate. They received $4.5M in total scholarships last year.