We were a little surprised to see Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton post a message on Stanford’s blog last week encouraging anyone who’s on the fence to pull the trigger and apply to Stanford in this year’s Round Three. Could it be that the slow economy has hurt Stanford’s numbers? Could Stanford really need applicants this year?
Probably not. It’s doubtful that a school such as Stanford needs more applicants, or that the school’s yield has dropped much vs. previous years. What is true, though, is that Stanford’s Round 3 admissions deadline this year (April 8) is nearly three weeks later than last year’s, and no top business school has a Round 3 deadline nearly as late as Stanford’s. (Visit out site for a list of all business school admissions deadlines.) We’re not sure of Stanford’s reasons for this change, but it could be that Stanford made this move to snag a few extra top-tier candidates that HBS and Wharton, etc., may miss out on because of their earlier R3 deadlines. Now that Stanford is the last top school with its doors still open for 2008-2009 applicants, perhaps Bolton has so far been underwhelmed by the number (and quality?) of applicants that this strategy has brought in.
The media hype says that business school applications soar when the economy is bad and, as such, there won’t be any spots left for third round applicants. This simply isn’t true. And we worry that some great people may delay applying because of these misperceptions. Historically, we’ve found that applications follow demographic cycles more than economic cycles.
We assure you that we admit outstanding individuals in all three rounds–this year is no exception. While it is true that the final round typically is smaller than the first two, we do admit excellent candidates in Round 3–including our current Director of MBA Admissions.
By this point in the 2008-2009 application season, odds are that you long ago already decided to apply this year, or know that you definitely won’t apply any sooner than this coming fall. It’s encouraging to see messages like this coming out of a top-tier MBA program, because it suggests that your chances this year may be a little better than some expected, but our advice remains the same: Only apply when you’re ready, and only when you have a competitive GMAT score, can get strong letters of recommendation, and have enough time to create strong admissions essays. Don’t apply in Round 3 just on a lark!