You tried your best, but you just couldn’t pull together all of your business school materials before Round 2 deadlines hit. Now what should you do? Isn’t Round 3 where MBA applications go to die?
In general, it is tougher to earn a spot at most top MBA programs when you apply in Round 3. Admissions committees have seen thousands of qualified applicants throughout Rounds 1 and 2, have pulled together a fairly good idea of what the incoming class will look like, and have also compiled a waitlist of additional candidates.
Before Round 3 closes out, a certain percentage of people who were admitted in Round 1 and 2 will have already committed to a program. In short, there will be precious few spots left when the adcomm finally turns its attention toward final-round applications.
So where does that leave you? It depends. If it’s been more than five years since you graduated from college, you should seriously consider applying in Round 3. While every situation is different, time could start to work against you at programs that tend to focus on younger applicants.
Plus, the odds of your candidacy significantly improving over the next eight months after you’ve already been in the workforce for so long are probably slim. If this is your situation and all you need to do is put the finishing touches on your materials, go for Round 3.
There are also other circumstances that make Round 3 a perfectly fine option: you’re in the military and recently received your release papers; you are going through a job change or rolling off of a major project; you had extenuating circumstances that prevented you from applying earlier (and which you can reference in the optional essay); or you are most interested in MBA programs outside of the “top 20.”
However, if you’re only two or three years into your career, it may make sense to wait until next season’s Round 1. Focus on building more leadership and community service/volunteer experience in the meantime and make your application even stronger.
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