Mission Admission: Round Three vs. the Final Round

Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

Because most schools have a three round application system and because most MBA admissions committees tell candidates to apply in the first two of three rounds, most candidates will not even consider applying in an MBA program’s final round. And, for many, this is the right decision as most of the places at top MBA programs will have been taken once second round decisions have been released. Further, the MBA admissions committees openly refer to their third rounds as “shaping rounds,” where they add particular constituents to balance the class itself. But, what about schools like UCLA and Haas, where there are four rounds. Is the third round still off-limits?

The answer is no. If a school has a four round application system, then candidates need not consider the third round to be prohibitive.  When considering deadlines, candidates should avoid applying in the final round (not the third round, but, again, the final round!) whenever possible. So, the logical question is, when is it acceptable to apply in the final round, regardless of whether that round is the third or fourth round?  Our answer is that virtually every candidate must have humble expectations for the final round and should apply only if they are a true outlier from a hyper-competitive pack, meaning that they can in some intangible way add distinctiveness to their respective classe. While this is a tall order, it is certainly not impossible. After all, if the MBA programs were not admitting canddiates, they would not offer a final round deadline — plain and simple.

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