Round Three or Not Round Three: Part Two

Part One of our series about applying to business school in Round Three, today we look at a couple of other factors to consider when planning your Round Three admissions strategy.

Another key consideration is the business school to which you’re applying. Schools vary greatly in how they approach Round Three. While some are upfront about the fact that seats go fast and there aren’t many left in Round Three, others (such as UCLA Anderson) make a point of holding seats for the last round, knowing that there will still be many great applicants applying then.

According to Anderson’s MBA Insider’s Blog:

Contrary to the belief that the 3rd round of the application process is so vast and competitive that your chances of being admitted are significantly reduced, you should know that each round is evaluated independently. You only compete with other people in your round. If your application is reasonably strong your chances of being admitted to the UCLA Anderson full-time MBA program are as good as any other previous round.

Why do Anderson and some other top schools use this approach? A big reason makes a great deal of sense, although it may not be obvious at first glance: Schools like Anderson compete with many top international schools to attract great candidates, and many of these schools have deadlines that run much later than American schools’ deadlines. LBS, for example, will accept applications as late as April 21 this year. Anderson doesn’t want this simple fact to be why a strong candidate chooses LBS over its own program. Admissions officers know that a great application can come in any time, and they want to be ready.

Why, then, would you wait until next fall before applying? Ultimately, how successful you will be depends on you more than anything else. If you can’t pull together a VERY strong application between now and the Round Three deadline — and this includes everything, from your GMAT score to your essays to your letters of recommendation — then waiting will always be your best strategy. Additionally, if waiting will allow you to significantly improve part of your application — this most often applies to your GMAT score or your academic record, which can be bolstered through additional college coursework — then it also normally makes sense to wait.

What if you say “What the hell,” and apply, anyway? Will that dramatically hurt your chances if you don’t get in and want to re-apply in the fall? At most schools, no, it won’t, but keep in mind that you can’t submit the same application next year — something will need to be new, or better, or more interesting, compared to what you submit now. So, applying now and getting rejected is not the kiss of death, but in some ways it will in fact raise the bar for you if you choose to reapply.

Of course, as Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” So, for some of you, applying now will indeed be your best strategy, although it won’t be an easy task unless you can put all the pieces in place and craft a truly strong, memorable application.

Everyone’s case is different, of course. If you need more help, 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!

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!

Stanford GSB: Looking for More Round Three Applicants?

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.

He writes:

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!

For more advice on applying to Stanford, visit our Stanford information page, or follow us on Twitter.