Many MBA admissions officers will tell candidates that if they can complete their applications and submit them in Round 1, then they should do so. Most programs will also tell candidates that they should try to avoid Round 3, because the majority of the places in their classes will have been filled by then. So, what does that say about Round 2?
A strange trend seems to have manifested: candidates have been calling mbaMission to ask whether submitting an application in Round 2 is worth the effort or whether the opportunity has passed at that point. Unfortunately, when one is being compared against a group of unknown competitors, being concerned about every perceived difference or deficiency is only natural. Some candidates grow concerned if they are a year older than the average at their target school, while others fret if they are a year younger. Many applicants worry if their GMAT score is ten points below a school’s average. And, of course, some worry about submitting their application in Round 2. However, the overall strength of your candidacy, which is a measure of many factors, is far more important than where you fit in relation to any single statistic—not to mention whether you apply in Round 1 or 2.
So, although we would encourage candidates to apply early, if they are ready, we do not believe anyone should give up on their MBA dreams for a year if applying in Round 1 is just not practical. You may be surprised to discover that admissions committees encourage early applications but also concede that the difference in selectivity between the first and the second rounds is very small. To back up this statement, we offer a small selection of quotes from mbaMission’s exclusive interviews with admissions officers:
“People ask, generally, is it better to apply in the first round or the second round or third round? We definitely advise people to avoid the third round if possible, because space can become an issue by the time the third round rolls around. But we do view the first two rounds as roughly equivalent.” – Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions, Yale School of Management
“[We] get about a third of our applications in Round 1, about 55% in Round 2, and the remainder in Round 3 … We encourage people to submit their application when they feel that they offer their best possible applications. … So, if you can get everything lined up and completed and you feel really good about it …, then I would encourage you to apply in Round 1. But if it takes you a bit longer, and you want to take the time to look at your application again and maybe have somebody else look at it, then Round 2 is fine, too.” – Soojin Kwon, Director of Admissions, Michigan–Ross
“We look at statistics over the years—how many applications we got, how many we admitted, and how many we yielded—and we try to even it out so we’re not being too generous in one round at the expense of another round.” – Dawna Clarke, Director of MBA Admissions, Dartmouth–Tuck