Should You Apply in Round Three?

Admissions expert EssaySnark is back with more sound advice! If you want to get into Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg or Columbia, do not leave it till Round Three

This is a guest post by BusinessBecause partner and admissions essay expert EssaySnark

Of all the conflicting information out there about applying to business school, the most confusing is about Round 3. Common wisdom is that you should not bother applying now. Some people even make it sound like a hard-and-fast rule: Don't apply in Round 3, ever!
Yet you're eager to get started on your MBA journey, and the schools offer the chance to do so.  Why does a school have a Round 3 if nobody gets in then? Should you go for it?
The answer depends largely on which school we're talking about.
Why? It's purely a supply-and-demand question.

There are fewer spots available at the top full-time MBA programs in Round 3

Note the qualifiers there: “top” and “full-time” and “MBA.”

The best business schools are always competitive. They're really competitive in Round 3. These schools have been busy filling their classes with all the great candidates who applied in the first two rounds.  
There are simply fewer spots up for grabs in Round 3. But the same school could have plenty of room in another program like a Masters in Management or MFin.
Also, to clarify: By “Round 3” we mean “the last round” – for schools like Cornell Johnson and London Business School, this information applies for their Round 4. You could safely apply in their Round 3 with no risk.
So the first question to consider as you determine whether to apply in Round 3 is:
Which school are you targeting?
Here's how it breaks down:
  • If it's a Top 10 U.S. MBA, then the odds are low for a Round 3 acceptance
  • If it's a European or Asian MBA program, you have a greater chance
  • If it's a lower-ranked American school, you have the best chance of all
EssaySnark strongly advises against a Round 3 application to the top-ranked schools like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg or Columbia. Round 4 at LBS is in this same category. This list is not exclusive; these are just some examples of schools where it's very very difficult to get in at this point of the cycle.
If you're interested in less competitive schools like the University of Indiana-Kelley School of Business or HEC Montreal – good schools, but not at the top of the rankings – then there may be relatively more opportunities. It could work out for you – with a strong application, of course.  
There are many many choices in this category of “good school” if you're open to them.
So the rule of thumb for this equation is:
The further down the rankings lists you go, the greater the chances that a Round 3 application might work out.
The “rule” about not applying in Round 3 is specific to the top-ranked schools for their full-time MBA. If you're trying for a part-time MBA or an EMBA, or you are going for a different flavor of Master's at one of these top schools, then odds are more in your favor.
At any school, for any program, at any time, it's the unique, differentiated candidate who has the best chance. If you're thinking about applying at this time of year, your application must be pretty much perfect. Pay attention to every element. Take your time with it.
Think through your approach. If your targets are appropriate, and with well-written essays and a good reason for why the MBA is the right next step for you, you could have a chance – yes, even in Round 3.
Want to get input on those Round 3 applications and whether you might have a shot?  We have a special service called the Late-Season Targets Review to help you evaluate your strategy.  Hundreds of practical articles about the MBA application process are available at Increase your odds of success with The 'Snark! 
If you enjoyed you might like Three Strategies for the Strongest MBA Essays

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