Round 1 vs. Round 2: When Is It Best for You to Apply to Business School?

Round 1 vs. Round 2There is little more debated in the b-school application world than whether it’s better to apply in round one or round two.  Most can agree that the third round is the most challenging, but late night discussions have endured and fights started over the topic of whether to submit for the first or second deadline.  For those of you with a short attention span, I will go ahead and cut to the chase by quoting Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean and director of admissions at Yale SOM, who says: We definitely advise people to avoid the third round if possible, because space can become an issue by the time the third round rolls around. But we do view the first two rounds as roughly equivalent.”

If you care to hear more strategy about round one vs. round two, however, read on…

There are theories out there which propose skipping round one in favor of round two because you not only gain more time to work on your application, but you also circumnavigate all those super-organized, b-school robot applicants who had every T crossed way back in the spring, and waited patiently to pounce on the application process when the packages were first released in July.

Not many people know, however, that only about 30% of applicants to b-school apply in the first round.  With all the hoops you must jump through, including tracking down obscure transcripts from that one summer you took calculus at the local community college, to finding supervisors who have the time to sit down and put real thought into your recommendations, not even to mention studying for and taking the GMAT, it’s no small feat to pull off a complete application by October.  The numbers certainly indicate that most people do not, so being afraid of the “throngs” of applicants in round one is largely an unfounded fear.  About 55% of applicants apply in round two, leaving the balance of around 15% applying in the dreaded third and final round in the Spring, so you are actually competing for seats against far more applicants by waiting.  In a nutshell, don’t delay your application for strategic reasons.

As for fearing the quality or caliber of your competition in the first round, there has never been a study done on this to substantiate it.  B-schools have access to plenty of good candidates in all three rounds, so trying to avoid competing against the “best” is a losing strategy.  Remember that in round one, all the seats are unfilled, and schools, knowing they want every seat filled in the end, are generally more inclined to nail down good applicants as they come across them, rather than wait to see what may or may not come down the pipeline in round two.  While some schools hold out a specific number of seats in round one to make sure they don’t miss out on good round two applicants, there are generally no hard and fast rules about this, which means if you are qualified and they like your story, you should try to catch the adcom at their freshest, and grab a seat in round one.  In my next post, I will however, discuss the merits of applying in round two.  Stay tuned.

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Bryant Michaels 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. See more of his articles here.

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