Round 1 or Round 2 – When Should I Submit My MBA Application?

Round 1 or Round 2 – When Should I Submit My MBA Application?

August 11, 2020

It's the great debate that goes through every prospective MBA student's mind: "Should I apply for my MBA during Round 1 or Round 2?"

Do you really have to apply in Round 1?

When is applying in Round 2 better? 

And what about Round 3? 

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, once you have a better understanding of each round, you can apply it to your situation and confidently make an informed decision. 

MBA Applications Round 1

While only one-third of all candidates apply in this round, this is when there's a clean slate and there's no one for the admissions team to compare you with except the other applicants. So mathematically, you have the best chance of getting accepted since schools are not yet pressed to make sure they have a perfectly balanced and diverse class of incoming students. 

Applying in Round 1 also shows that you are organized, prepared, and committed to the schools to which you apply.  

Finally, applying in Round 1 gives you the opportunity to improve your application for Round 2 if you aren't accepted to a school that you applied to, and/or decide to apply to additional schools. 

Who should apply for an MBA program in Round 1?

Applying in Round 1 is a great idea if you have a great GMAT/GRE score, have engaged your recommenders, and are confident that you’ll be able to draft solid application documents in advance of the deadline. Over-represented populations such as mid-market private equity professionals, management consultants, and Indian engineers also benefit to a certain extent from applying in Round 1. Since people in these demographics make up a proportionally higher number of MBA applicants, you need to get your foot in the door as early as possible.

The Pros:

- More spots for top candidates

- You get to prove genuine interest and commitment to a school

The Cons:

- Less time to prepare application documents, take tests, and get solid recommendations

- You might be put on the waitlist if you don’t have a strong application

MBA Applications Round 2

You might expect that most people apply in Round 1 so there will be less competition to fill the remaining openings in Round 2. It's actually the other way around: most candidates apply in Round 2. 

Schools have picked the cream of the crop from the first round and are looking to balance out their class with underrepresented groups or those who have unique backgrounds that will be an asset to their school. 

When you're up against this, why bother waiting until Round 2? The answer is simple: more time. 

Who should apply for an MBA program in Round 2?

Applying in Round 2 is for you if you haven't had time to craft a solid application. Your time is precious and we know you're working a 50-hour+ work week, plus time spent with your family and friends, volunteer work, and hobbies. If you have any doubt that your application or essays need more work, block out time to work on it every week and plan to hold off until Round 2. Regardless of your background, you should avoid applying in Round 1 if you think you need more time to draft solid application documents.

Do you think you could meaningfully improve your GMAT score with a bit more time to study? Then waiting is for you. Use your time wisely to do targeted tutoring so you can make the most out of every study session. 

The Pros:

- You have more time to draft an amazing application

- You can retake the GMAT and get an awesome score that boosts your chances

The Cons:

- It’s the most competitive round. You’ll compete with applicants from Round 1 and Round 2

- You can’t do much if you’re rejected by your top choice schools vis a vis round 1, when you still have the option of adding schools to your list

MBA Applications Round 3 

Finally, there's Round 3.  Very few spots are still left by the time the Round 3 deadline comes around. 

Unless you can make yourself stand out with an impeccable GMAT score or through your extraordinary leadership experiences and volunteer work, it's best to focus on getting your applications in to your choice of schools within the first two rounds. 

You might also consider Round 3 if you had personal emergencies or exceptional circumstances such as army service that kept you from applying in Round 1 or Round 2.

No matter when you plan to apply, one thing is for certain – it never hurts to start early!

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