Round Three or Not Round Three: Part One

Round 3 Admissions Help
This is the time of year when, every time the phone rings here at Veritas Prep HQ, there’s a good chance it’s an applicant calling to ask us if he should apply to business school in the third admissions round, or if he should wait until next year. The answer, as is the answer for most things in life, is “It depends.”

Notice that we didn’t say, “No way!” and we also didn’t say, “Heck yeah!” There are some important macro trends to consider when applying in Round Three (or any any round, for that matter), but how good your chances are still depends on you and the quality of your application more than anything else.

The most obvious question is, How much room is left in Round Three? Business schools know that the proportions of applicants that come in each round are fairly consistent from year to the next, so they can plan ahead to some extent, leaving at least some room for Round Three applicants. Still, the number of seats at top MBA programs does tend to get pretty low at this point — admissions officers from Stanford, Kellogg, Yale, Booth, and Ross have all said this, among others — sometimes making admissions officers more reluctant to take a chance on an applicant with a glaring weakness or one who simply doesn’t have anything remarkable to point to in his application. So, borderline applicants probably will indeed find that it’s harder to get into a top MBA program in Round Three.

Said another way, great applicants will still have a strong chance of being admitted to at least one of their target schools, although creating a great application is of course a challenge for most applicants. In a blog post last March, Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton said, “While it is true that the final round typically is smaller than the first two, we do admit excellent candidates in Round 3.” Note the emphasis on excellent… If your candidacy is anything less than excellent, then you probably won’t get into Stanford in Round Three, although the same can be said about the earlier rounds, too.

When you submit a Round Three application, you also may need overcome the question of “Why are you applying now, and not five months ago?” This is especially crucial if you’re presenting a story of how earning an MBA has been a lifelong ambition, one that you’ve been planning for years. Of course, situations change and force applicants to apply a little earlier than originally planned (e.g., losing one’s job), and other things hold an applicant back from applying sooner (e.g., taking the GMAT again to try to earn a significantly better score), and admissions officers are open-minded about these reasons, but you do need to be mindful of the message you send if you apply in Round Three… Is yours a well planned application that just so happened to arrive in March, or is the result of a hasty whim? That may be the difference between being one of the last applicants that the school will accept for the year, and being one of the school’s final dings.

Next week we’ll revisit a few other things to consider when deciding whether or not to apply to a top business school in Round Three. In the meantime, if you’re in this conundrum right now, call us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with a Veritas Prep admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!