You Oughta Know
When should I apply? Wharton uses a standard three-round system for applications. This means that you may submit your application in any of its three rounds for consideration. However, 90% or more of the class will be filled with the first two rounds of applicants, so we do not encourage you to wait until the final round without compelling circumstances. In fact, although many schools maintain that it doesn’t matter when you apply, Wharton gives pretty explicit advice on its website: “We strongly encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2. The first two rounds have no significant difference in the level of rigor; the third round is more competitive, as we will have already selected a good portion of the class.” The school does add that there is room “for the strongest applicants” in Round 3, but your mission is clear: Get your application in by the Round 2 deadline!
Traditional applicants. If you are a traditional candidate from management consulting or finance, we encourage you to apply in the first round (assuming you have a strong GMAT score), as you’ll be competing against many candidates with very similar profiles. In a later round, it’s possible that the school may see you as a viable candidate but may have already admitted several other applicants with similar profiles, so it might pass on you to bring greater professional diversity to the class. (Plus, the school knows you’ve been planning on an MBA since the day you graduated from undergrad, so there’s no reason to delay!)
Timing vs. qualifications. Please note that even though the top schools encourage you to apply in the earliest round possible, this does not mean that you should apply with a rushed application or a mediocre GMAT score. There’s no sense in applying early if you’re just going to be denied. A GMAT score that’s above the school’s average will do more for your candidacy than applying in the first round.
Navigating deadlines. Wharton’s deadlines are virtually unchanged from last year. The Round 1 deadline for Wharton is September 29, 2015—on par with many of the other top-tier schools. Round 2 follows on January 5, 2016 (there goes your holiday break!), with Round 3 on March 30, 2016. (Note that because of their early start date, Lauder applicants must apply in R1 or R2.) Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. ET on the deadline, so no procrastinating! Get that app safely submitted before you leave for work in the morning. Decisions are released approximately seven weeks after the deadline.