Hit the Pause Button on Applying in Round 3


Everyone has an opinion about submitting an MBA application in ultra-competitive round 3. Did you try your best, but you just couldn’t pull together all of your application materials before R2 deadlines hit? If so, 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. They have a fairly good idea of what the incoming class will look like. Plus, they have also compiled a waitlist of additional qualified candidates.

Before round 3 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 3.

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.

Your test scores are middling and you’ve only tested once.

Most applicants plan to retake the GMAT or GRE 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.

Each year, we hear of that miracle case where someone gets into Harvard Business School with a 650 on the GMAT. However, it’s likely that the person’s profile was so extraordinary in every other way that it offset the low score. (It’s worth noting that for the 2018-19 application season, HBS eliminated the third round.)

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.

You’re rushing to get all of your materials together for round 3.

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 it 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.

With deadlines around the corner, you may be interested in the world-famous SBC Flight Test. Once a full set of application materials for your initial school have been drafted, but not finalized, the application will be sent to a former admissions committee member for a one-time review, adcomm style. You’ll have the benefit of a true admissions committee review while still having the ability to tinker and change.  You will receive written feedback within two business days after submitting.

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