Business School Admissions: When should you apply?

Posted by Sophie Pauze on 8/29/13 8:15 AM

business school admissionsToday, we’re going to dive into the question of business school admissions deadlines. Should you apply Round 1, Round 2 or Round 3?

If you want to backtrack a bit and explore the earlier phases of the business school admissions process, last post we discussed how to map our your narrative for the business school application. You can check it out here.

If you’ve already started the application process, you might be feeling the pressure to meet the Round 1 deadline. If you haven’t, then it’s certainly crunch time! For most schools, the round 1 deadlines start anytime between mid-late September and mid-October. If you’re applying to more than 1 or 2 schools, getting a strong application together may feel like a lot within this time frame.

This brings me to the point of this post: Should you apply Round 1, Round 2 or Round 3?

Business schools give you the opportunity to apply to 3 deadlines (fall, winter and spring), and as if often the case,  too much choice can render decision making difficult! It’s even harder to assess what makes the most strategic sense for your application when there are myths out there about the application rounds. 

  1. Some people will tell you that applying round 1 is a must and that applying round 3 is futile. Neither of these statements is true. What matters most is the point at which your application is the strongest. This means: 
  2. Are your scores as high as you can realistically expect to be?
  3. Are your essays thoughtfully crafted and balanced?
  4. Is your resume and activities history tight and thorough?
  5. Have you given your recommenders enough time to produce polished recommendations?
  6. How many schools are you applying to? Do you have a clear cut first and second choice?

If you can confidently answer YES to the first 4 questions above, with time to fine-tune your application before submission, then definetely shoot for the round 1 deadline (you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief around the holidays)!

If you are wavering about questions 1 - 4, then I’d suggest you push back your application to Round 2. Most business school admissions committees will tell you that there is an equal chance of admissions during the 2 rounds (Yale SOM can even provide data from last year’s admissions cycle showing that this was the case)!

Question #5 above comes into play if you have your heart set on one or two schools (i.e. you won't go to business school if you don't gain admissions to your target schools). In this case, you should still have time to get your 1 or 2 applications together if you start now. In this situation, I would especially recommend working with an application consultant on your essays, resumes, and work history (though application consulting is helpful no matter what!)

Only apply Round 3 if you have a demonstrable reason for doing so – for some schools, applying then may communicate that you’re only showing up then because you were rejected during the first 2 rounds of admissions. Let’s not think too much about that for now. More on round 3 when we cross that bridge!

So, what are the main take-aways about business school admissions deadlines?

  • Apply when your application is the strongest
  • Don't dwell on the myths about round 1 vs. round 2 
  • Application consulting may be a good option if you are unsure, or want help pulling together all the application elements

Tags: MBA admissions