Harvard Business School Eliminates Round 3 MBA Application Period

Harvard Business SchoolThis week Harvard Business School announced that, unlike most other business schools, it would not have a Round 3 application deadline this year. The world’s most desirable MBA program just announced that they dropped an admissions deadline… must be a huge deal, right? “Not really,” is our answer. Read on…

Here are the main takeaways:

1) In the past, the former Director of Admissions had said that they always see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again. We think the move to eliminate Round 3 indicates that HBS has so many great applicants in Rounds 1 and 2, it’s not necessary to review applicants in Round 3 in order to fill their class with outstanding individuals. Instead of admitting 90% of the class in Rounds 1 and 2, they’ll now admit 100%.

2) The announcement says that Harvard has decided to focus their spring Round on 2+2 applications. This seems to signal an elevated level of importance for the program for college seniors seeking deferred admission. Clearly, the program is going well enough that they were ready to really focus on it in the spring admissions round this year.

The impact on you:

As an MBA applicant, this announcement means that if you want to apply to Harvard Business School, you really need to plan ahead. In the past, if circumstances had prevented you from applying in Round 1 or Round 2, you still had a chance to submit your application in Round 3. That chance is no longer available to you at HBS. You either need to decide earlier if you are going to apply (the Round 2 deadline is January 4 for the Class of 2021) or you’re going to have to wait and apply the following fall.

However, a big reason we say this announcement isn’t that big of a deal is that we rarely ever encourage business school applicants to pursue Round 3. We didn’t always think it was radioactive — indeed, it has helped applicants in certain situations, such as coming back from a military deployment or losing a job — but most applicants apply in one of the first two rounds, anyway. And, that’s almost always what they should do.

Also, note that applicants to HBS will now most likely know their fate when Round 2 decisions are released. (The Round 2 decision date was March 21 this past season.) The announcement mentions getting admitted students their decisions earlier, giving them additional time to do everything they need to do before classes start. This will allow a lot of small logistical things to fall into place a little more neatly, for both the school and for admitted applicants.

Another thing we’re wondering with this announcement from Harvard: we’re curious to see what other business schools do. Will more of them eliminate their final round? Will they be happy to keep Round 3 and probably see more applications from folks who were dinged by HBS in Round 2? Only time will tell. In the meantime, start working on your applications now, if you haven’t already. If you have questions, contact us.


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