While the MBA application cycle is typically divided into several rounds, each business school is different. The traditional three-round application process has been extended to four, and even five, at some business schools, while MBA programs outside the US have varying start dates.
Whatever your situation—and especially if you’re an international applicant or want to stand the best chance of getting an MBA scholarship—you’ll need to understand what the different rounds mean.
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MBA Application Rounds & Your Application
- The 2023-2024 admissions cycle is expected to be slightly more competitive as a series of layoffs of young professionals may lead to more applications.
- In the US News Report, 2023-2024 Best Business Schools Ranking, median GMAT/GRE scores replaced mean scores, which might shift how business school's view your marks.
- GMAC announced a new exam called the GMAT Focus Edition, which will launch in November. If you are applying late in the cycle and opt for the new GMAT Focus Edition, this will change how your results will be scored. (The original GMAT exam is also still available for this admission cycle.)
- The Supreme Court made a landmark decision to prohibit explicit preference by race or ethnicity is likely to have numerous implications. In terms of applications, if you're from a traditionally underrepresented ethnic group, make sure to meaningfully incorporate your background into your MBA application.
Considering the more competitive admissions cycle, and the general competitiveness of MBA applications, particularly to top business schools, it is smart to apply as early as possible this application cycle.
More spaces in an MBA class are filled with each passing deadline, and schools will have less scholarship money to award the later you apply. As a general rule, the earlier you apply, the more chance you have of getting accepted and getting a scholarship.
"For scholarships, it’s often the case at the end of the year they have been largely allocated, so better to apply early if a scholarship is part of your financial plan," says Andrew Mellor, full-time MBA, admissions manager at Copenhagen Business School.
Applying in Round 1 (R1) demonstrates that you are serious about a school and have been planning your application for some time. International candidates should strongly consider applying in R1 to allow time to apply for student visas.
"If your application is the best it can be, R1 is the best application round to aim for. Round 2 should only be considered if you need to improve your profile in meaningful ways, such as getting a higher GMAT score, completing more campus visits, or better researching your career goals," says Danae Anderson, senior admissions consultant at Menlo Coaching.
Round 2, 3, and beyond, are often more competitive than R1 with fewer places remaining in the MBA class.
Round 2 is when things start heating up in the application process so it's important to show what you can uniquely bring to the program to make yourself stand out from other applicants.
Applying in the Early Action (EA) round, offered by some business schools, conveys that you would take that school’s acceptance above all others—that they’re your number one—and typically the application is binding.
"My advice is always to apply when you feel most ready to ensure you are putting your best foot forward in the application process. However, some rounds may have particular advantages to consider. For example, Round 1 may have more available seats, and competition might be slightly less intense. If you have a strong application ready by the first deadline, applying in Round 1 can demonstrate your enthusiasm and proactive approach," says Rodrigo Malta, managing director of MBA marketing, recruiting, and admissions, the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business.
MBA Application Deadlines 2023-204
The business schools listed below are ranked in the top 15 of the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2023 and/or are BusinessBecause Partner Business Schools. All deadlines are for full-time MBA programs.
The below list is a roundup of MBA application deadline at 15 top business schools:
Berkeley: Haas MBA application deadlines:
Sep 14, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 March 28, 2024
Chicago Booth MBA application deadlines:
Sep 21, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 April 4, 2024
Columbia MBA application deadlines:*
Sept 13, 2022 (ED) Jan 5, 2024 April 3 2024
Cornell MBA application deadlines:
One-Year: Oct 11, 2023 Jan 11, 2024 March 6, 2024*
Two-Year: Sept 20, 2023 Jan 10, 2024 April 10, 2024*
Dartmouth Tuck MBA application deadlines:
Sep 25, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 March 25, 2024
Duke MBA application deadlines:
Sep 28, 2023 Jan 9, 2024 Feb 22, 2024 April 4, 2024
Harvard MBA application deadlines:
Sep 6, 2023 Jan 3, 2024
IESE Business School MBA application deadlines:
Sep 19, 2023* Jan 9, 2024 March 21, 2024 May 31, 2024
INSEAD MBA application deadlines:
Aug 2024 intake: Sept 12, 2023 Nov 7, 2023 Jan 16, 2024 March 5, 2024
Jan 2025 intake: Mar 12, 2023 Apr 23, 2023 Jun 18, 2024 Aug 6, 2024
Kellogg MBA application deadlines:
Sep 13, 2023 Jan 10, 2024 April 3, 2024
MIT MBA application deadlines:
Sep 27, 2023 Jan 17, 2024 April 8, 2024
SDA Bocconi MBA application deadlines:
Nov 3, 2023 Jan 12, 2024 March 1, 2024 April 15, 2024
Stanford MBA application deadlines:
Sep 12, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 April 9, 2023
UCLA MBA application deadlines:
Oct 5, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 April 12, 2024
Wharton MBA application deadlines**:
Sep 6, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 April 2, 2024
Yale MBA application deadlines:
Sep 12, 2023 Jan 4, 2024 April 9, 2024
* = rolling admissions.
** Wharton was not ranked on FT this year due to a lack of data
EA = Early Action deadline.
For the full list, download our BusinessBecause MBA Application Guide where we guide you through the key components of a successful MBA application and provide exclusive insight and application tips from leading MBA admissions directors.