This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.
Everyone has an opinion about submitting an MBA application in round three, and a lot of the conversation circles around how competitive it is. If you tried your best but you just couldn’t pull together all of your business school materials before round two deadlines hit, you might wonder whether round three is the answer.
By the time the final admission round starts, admissions committees have seen thousands of qualified applicants in the first two rounds, have a fairly good idea of what the incoming class will look like and also compiled a waitlist of additional qualified candidates.
Before round three closes out, a certain percentage of people admitted in the first two rounds will have already committed to a program. In short, precious few spots remain when the admissions committees finally turn their attention to final-round applications.
As such, deciding whether to apply in the final round requires serious reflection and sound reasoning. Consider these three signs that you should not apply to business school in round three.
1. You had no luck with earlier round applications. This is a guaranteed red flag that your MBA application needs more work, and applying in the final round will likely yield the same results.
It’s a huge mistake to think that fewer applicants in round three means less competition and better chances of admission. As we’ve mentioned before, successful round three applications offer the schools something that has truly not appeared in applicants from the previous rounds.
The admissions committees know what they need to round out the class. They have become good at estimating numbers and evaluating and accepting applicants who fit their criteria.
Only the strongest, most compelling candidates make the cut, so if your applications didn’t generate sufficient interest in earlier rounds, they certainly won’t amid the exceptional candidates at the end of the season. Instead, you should regroup, restrategize and apply again next year.
2. Your test scores are middling and you’ve only tested once. The majority of applicants plan to take the GMAT or GRE a second time if their initial test scores aren’t in the 80-percent range for their target MBA programs. Like it or not, test scores greatly influence admissions decisions. As we’ve discussed in prior posts, preparing early and adequately for the entrance exam is critical.
While each year we hear of that miracle case where someone gets into Harvard Business School with a 650 on the GMAT, it’s likely that the person’s profile was so extraordinary in every other way that it offset the low score. Devote ample time to test prep this spring and bring that crucial application component in line with what the admissions committee expects to see from successful candidates.
3. You’re rushing to get all of your materials together. The golden rule in MBA admissions is apply only when your application is as strong as possible – and not a moment before.
Maybe projects at work have kept you ultra-busy these past few months. Perhaps one of your recommenders seems less enthusiastic about your b-school plans and you need to find a new one. Or maybe you just haven’t devoted as much time as you’d like to those important extracurricular interests that the admissions committee loves to see.
Think of every part of the MBA application as precious real estate. If you’re rushing any one component just to get everything submitted on deadline, the quality will suffer.
Take a breather, get your materials together in a thoughtful manner and wait for round one deadlines. This extra time will allow you to approach the application more strategically, and will certainly yield a more positive outcome than a sloppy last-round application will.
Finally, if you do decide to throw your hat in the ring, be sure to have a Plan B in case things don’t go your way. Developing resilience is incredibly important if you need to reapply, but it’s also essential in life.
Even when you put your best out there, you might still fail. However, to be successful, you need to learn how to bounce back and try again.