Which MBA Application Round Should You Apply In?

Unsure whether to submit your MBA application in Round 1, 2 or 3? David White of Menlo Coaching explains what admissions directors are looking for in each application round

Which round should I submit my MBA application in?

Dear BusinessBecause,

I'm unsure whether to submit my MBA applications during round one, or hold off until round two, or even three.

Do some rounds have higher acceptance rates than others, and what should I consider as I decide when to submit?


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This week's Applicant Question is answered by David White, founding partner at admissions consultancy, Menlo Coaching.

Most of the top US MBA programs offer three admissions deadlines. With a comprehensive list of MBA admissions deadlines in hand, you may be wondering: what are the advantages and disadvantages of applying in different rounds?

Often, your time constraints are a factor. Submitting in Round one means working hard to get an application in before that earlier deadline. 

Submitting in Round two might give you more time to work on the application, but will you come across as a slacker? 

Are there fewer spots available in Round two or three? 

Let’s discuss the perceptions of admissions committees about first, second, and third round applicants and strategize about what your best decision might be under different circumstances.


Choosing an MBA application round based on your profile

The truth of the matter is, there is no simple answer when it comes to choosing your application round. 

Instead, you should consider the specifics of your profile as an applicant. Here are some of the most important considerations:

  • GMAT score: If you have a strong GMAT score already, you might be able to apply in Round one. If your score needs improvement, it may be a good idea to delay until Round two to give yourself more time to study and retake the test. It is difficult to balance a demanding full-time job, plus GMAT study, plus writing great applications.

  • Ranking of your target programs: Although it varies slightly, top ranked MBA programs will reliably receive large numbers of competitive applications in Round one, but lower ranked ones will not receive as many. Therefore, there is likely a greater benefit of applying in Round one at highly competitive programs, and smaller benefit of Round one submission at less competitive programs. In fact, MBA programs outside the Top 20 can sometimes become highly motivated to fill their remaining seats in Round two and Round three, occasionally making those rounds less competitive.

  • Your profile: There will be data available about how people in your industry and region fare in different rounds at different schools. If you come from a region, industry, or undergraduate major that’s common in the MBA applicant pool, the Round one advantage can be larger.

  • Networking: You might consider delaying your application until Round two if you have not yet had the time to attend info sessions and speak to students and alumni of your target programs. Taking these actions will give you a leg up on understanding the culture of the school, which can lead to a much stronger application.

  • Work concerns: You are likely employed, full-time, in a competitive industry when applying to MBA programs. Do you have enough time to create your best applications by Round one?

  • Profile Developments: If you are expecting to receive a promotion sometime soon, it might be worth delaying until you can list it officially on your resume


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