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What Are The Best Strategies For MBA Application Round 3?

Kate Richardson, senior consultant at mbaMission, runs through some key MBA application strategies for round three this year

Mon Jun 1 2020

What are some MBA application strategies for round three 2020?

Dear BusinessBecause,

I want to apply to an MBA program this year, but have put off my application due to the developing coronavirus situation.

What are the chances of me being accepted in round three or four this year, and do you have any tips for applying in these rounds?

The Answer

This week's Applicant Question is answered by Kate Richardson, senior consultant at mbaMission. 

Typically this time of year is fairly quiet in the MBA admissions world—the time we gather as a firm for our annual mbaMission conference to share best practices, or take vacations to recharge before round one. 

In 2020, however, the MBA admissions timeline is just one of the many areas to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

How coronavirus is affecting MBA applications

Before I discuss whether you should apply now, some context on what’s happening.

Once GMAT and GRE test centers began closing in many countries, many business schools reacted by extending round three deadlines, adding new round four or rolling deadlines, or even waiving test requirements. 

By making these changes, schools are striving to accommodate applicants who may have had a test date cancelled or may want to accelerate their MBA plans due to layoffs or job changes. 

Schools are also eager to keep recruiting to maintain a full class, as they face potential deferrals, travel restrictions, or visa processing delays for already admitted students. 

Knowing all of this, should you apply now? Here are the key questions I would consider:

  1. Can you achieve your target GMAT or GRE score in time? Or, if you are applying without a test score (because the school has waived the requirement), can you show other evidence of academic preparedness? (Schools are not relaxing their standards)

  2. Can you arrange high-quality letters of recommendation from people who know you well in a professional context? (Most schools require two letters.)

  3. Do you have a clear idea of what your post-MBA career goals could be? Can you articulate why you need an MBA? (Schools expect you to have a well-formed idea of how you will use the MBA degree)

  4. Are you comfortable with limited scholarship opportunities? (Funding may still be available, but chances of scholarship are typically highest in earlier rounds)

  5. Is your profile at its strongest now? (Consider whether waiting would materially improve your candidacy)

  6. Are you prepared to start an MBA program in any format or environment? (You should be comfortable and committed to the program no matter if classes are in-person or remain virtual)

Got a question of your own?


Round three application tips

We at mbaMission continue to hear admissions officers encouraging applicants in this extended round three, so if you have answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you should be in a good position to apply now. 

However, selectivity remains high, so if you have decided to apply now, here are some strategies for submitting a strong round three application: 

  1. Do not neglect the basics: Read mbaMission’s Fundamentals of an MBA Candidacy Guide to make sure you are well-versed in what business schools are looking for and to assess the strength of your profile. 

  2. Take time to develop your core story: Think deeply about what your post-MBA goals are, why that path is a good fit for you, what skills you need to achieve those goals, and how an MBA will help you build them. Schools want to see that applicants are serious about this path and not applying on a last-minute whim. 

  3. Consider how your story is different: Candidates who bring a less represented background or new perspective to an MBA class may be in higher demand, as schools look to round out their already strong classes. 

  4. Explain why you are applying now: Use the optional essay (or additional statement) to share context about your application timing. For instance, if you were laid off, be open about that. Or, if you were intending to apply in the fall but accelerated your application, explain why. 

  5. Network virtually: Take advantage of virtual offerings to engage with your target schools and demonstrate your interest. Offerings like virtual tours, info sessions, and student chats are currently available at most programs. 

  6. Show your impact: Show positive ways you have adapted because of the global pandemic. How have you reacted to this challenge? How have you given back or created opportunities for others? How have you shown initiative in helping people stay connected? 

  7. Get camera ready: Plan ahead for virtual interviews! 

Thinking about the big picture, I could make informed guesses about what application volumes and acceptance rates will look like in this extended round three, and what they will look like in upcoming rounds. But with so much uncertainty and so many factors at play, they would still be guesses! 

Ultimately, I believe you should worry less about 'the game' and focus on yourself and what you can control—is now the right time for you to apply, and will you be able to present your best self now? 

Ask an admissions expert a question


Next week, you'll have the chance to ask Dr. Karin Ash, consultant at Accepted, anything you want about getting into business school.

Karin has 30 years of careers and business school applications behind her. Before joining Accepted, she sat on admission committees at institutions including Johnson Business School, and Cornell's College of Engineering. 

With a PhD in educational psychology and organizational behavior from Cornell, she is well-placed to help candidates think through their career goals. 

Got a question you'd love Karin to answer? Submit your question