Round three is commonly thought of as the most competitive round, where applicants vie for the few remaining seats in coveted programs along with some of the most highly qualified candidates of the season. Because these well qualified candidates know they will be desirable to the adcoms, they often wait until the last possible minute, since there appears to be a correlation between highly successful business achievers and the lack of free time on their schedules to complete applications.
These are the people you love to hate: 750 GMAT with no prep and a list of work accomplishments as long as your arm. In fact, round three can be so intimidating, you may even be weighing the decision to wait until August to try for early admit or round one at your target school.
With round one applications set to be released in July, it can be tempting to spend the next six months improving your GMAT score or taking that international assignment at work. After all, the chances of admission will go up for round one, and having more work experience can’t hurt, right? There is more to consider here.
While yes, having more work experience can indeed be a plus, if you feel you have the perfect amount of preparation, prolonging your application may not help and could actually hurt you. What if you fail to have a successful year? What if the promotion does not materialize or worse, you find yourself passed over or even slipping in your performance? There is definitely a window in which both you and your target schools will likely find you “best positioned” to return to school, and waiting through that window may set you back.
One key to a successful application is to convince the adcom that the time is right for you to apply. Will you be able to make that same argument next year? If the answer is dubious, you may want to consider applying in the third round. You can always reapply in round one, just remember the adcom will want to hear what you have done to improve your profile, and with only six months between round three and round one, this may be a challenge to demonstrate.
Recognizing the maddening considerations, one strategy may be to divide your target list into parts. Go ahead and apply to a couple of schools in round three, then save a couple more for round one, plus your reapplication. Create a strategy for profile improvement which may include increasing your GMAT score, taking a class or two to prepare for school, or volunteering in your community/leading a group.
If you have a plan, you will likely be far less stressed about the process and also less disappointed if you are denied admission in round three.
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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.