With precious little time between the release of the applications from business schools and the application deadlines in the first round (or even earlier for early decision rounds) we often see clients vexing over whether or not to push off an application to subsequent rounds. This leads to natural questions about whether this is a good strategy, a bad strategy, or a neutral decision.
It’s widely considered by business school admissions teams and business school admissions consultants that the first round is the best round in which to apply. The reasoning for this is that all the seats are open (save early commitment admissions offers), and schools in general are more liberal offering admission since they don’t have any existing classmates yet to compare against. Schools have a strong need and desire to fill every seat each year, so they are reluctant to turn down qualified applicants for fear they will come up short in the end. Having said this, they will still certainly utilize the waitlist for marginal candidates.
This brings up one of the conundrums of applying in round two. While there are still plenty of seats left (business schools know that busy, type A achievers are not always ready to go in round one and set aside seats for round two), at this point, you are not only competing against other round two applicants but also against everyone on the waitlist from round one. Strong applicants find it just as seamless to get an admissions offer in round two vs. round one, but marginal candidates find it more difficult in round two. More waitlist offers are sent out for round two as well.
For the same reasons as above, the dreaded third round is certainly the most difficult to navigate successfully. If you get in round 3 you are either a truly exceptional candidate, or you have something so unique about your story or background that you fill a niche or round out an almost full class. If you are a marginal candidate (meaning you have weaknesses in your application attributes), it is an extreme longshot to get into round 3.
But as always, there are caveats. Firstly, if you are not ready to submit in round one, by all means wait. Better to put your best foot forward than to jump in before the application is polished and good to go. Additionally, if you have some kind of event which will not transpire until after the round one deadline, but feel will help your candidacy, it can be a good idea to wait. That international assignment in the fall or the better score on the GMAT may be just the thing to push you into favor.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.