With application deadlines upon us, the question sometimes surfaces about whether or not there is any strategy around when to submit your application. To answer this, you must first determine if your school is accepting applications on a rolling admissions basis or a rounds/deadline basis. A rolling admissions calendar accepts and considers applications as they are submitted, and then they return a decision to the applicant as soon as that decision is made, most often within a few weeks of submission.
A deadline school will gather applications during a set round (with a cutoff date), screen them throughout, then convene the admissions committee to make decisions all at once over a period of weeks, then stack up the admits to notify them on a set date upon which all applicants are informed at the same time (often referred to as d-day or decision day).
For schools utilizing a rolling admissions schedule, it is best to apply as soon as your application is ready, since with every application that comes in, that’s one more potential seat that could be filled. Clearly, once the seats are all full, there are no more admissions decisions, so you want to apply while there is not only plenty of room in the class, but also before someone with similar but better qualifications beats you to it!
While with rolling admissions, there is not as much direct comparison with other candidates in the process, the historical experience of the admissions committee knows what to look for. The committee relies upon this experience to decide on how to compose the class that year, but must also juggle yield ratios and time limits since they definitely do not want to end up with empty seats and revenue on the table. In short, they fill seats as fast as they can find qualified applicants. If you feel you are qualified, don’t delay, especially if you hail from a common applicant pool (such as consulting or banking).
For schools on the admissions “rounds” schedule, there is technically no advantage to submitting early, since the school does not convene the admissions committee until after the submission deadline. Once the door is closed to additional applications, the committee weighs the applications and begins the tedious process of sorting, ranking and deciding on how to compose the admissions offers. One caveat to this, is that there have been stories of applicants submitting on the due date only to find technical problems with the school’s website or with their own mechanism for uploading, resulting in tremendous stress on the applicant as she or he tries to sort out the submission before the cutoff.
In short, if you are submitting to a rolling school, go as early as possible, and if submitting to a traditional deadline school, take as much time as you need to get it right, but don’t wait until the last second if at all possible.
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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.