Round three is far and away the most competitive round in MBA admissions. Almost all of the seats have already been filled, and applications submitted this late in the game need to be absolutely amazing…and come with some sort of explanation as to why the candidate waited until the last minute to apply.
One former admissions employee explains that people best suited for this round have a highly unique background that would truly add to the class. Such as, for example, the Olympic gold medalist from Cameroon.
The directors of MBA admissions profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal piece on late-round applicants seem to agree.
“We actually enjoy round three,” Dee Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, tells the WSJ. “It takes a certain amount of confidence to apply then. Those applicants march to their own drum, and we would never want to miss them.”
In the past, applicants often applied in Round 3 as a last-ditch effort to get into business school after being dinged by their first-choice schools in Rounds 1 and 2. But Liz Riley Hargrove, associate dean for admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, believes times have changed. Fuqua admissions officers look for later-round candidates with backgrounds in Peace Corps service or nonprofit management, among others, she tells the WSJ.
Waiting until the final round has significant drawbacks, including reduced access to merit-based aid, having no choice but to interview on-campus, and missing out on welcome weekends. But this round may be a great time for military veterans, entrepreneurs, and candidates from underrepresented geographic or ethnic group to apply, notes the WSJ.
If you are considering submitting your MBA application in the final round, make sure it is strong on all fronts, and that your story is compelling with a capital C. You just might be that missing element the admissions committee is looking for to spice up the mix.