Which MBA Applicants ‘Should’ Apply in Round 1


Round 1 deadlines at the world’s top business schools will hit over the next several weeks. This round typically sees the most driven, organized, and academically and professionally accomplished applicants.  These candidates beat the GMAT months ago and have been prepping their recommenders all summer.

If you can apply in Round 1 there are definitely advantages for you personally. You have more time to prepare for school. You have less uncertainty around winter vacation time. And you can start networking with your classmates early. If you have a solid application ready to submit in September or October, take a moment to review our last-minute Round 1 checklist before you hit submit.

While Round 2 historically receives a greater number of applications, here are three groups that should strongly consider applying in the first round, if possible.


Re-applicants should aim to turn in their revised applications no later than the first round, when admissions committees are just beginning to assemble the next incoming class. If you fail a second time, you can realign your expectations and apply in round two to other more appropriate schools.

However, these candidates must show they’ve made a sincere effort to improve upon their previous application and strengthened their candidacy.

Most business schools will have your previous application in your file, so whatever you submit should demonstrate a fresh approach and show how you’ve grown academically and/or professionally.

Individuals from an Over-Represented Applicant Pool

Competition for a seat at the top programs is fierce, so candidates from an over-represented industry or geographic region need to think strategically about the timing of their application.

As MBA Data Guru points out in MBA Acceptance Rate by Country, applicants from India face a disadvantage at the highly-ranked schools, needing a much higher GMAT score to compete with applicants from other regions. While the elite business schools receive a high volume of qualified applicants from India, they want to maintain diversity in the class, and therefore need to cap acceptances from a single region.

Candidates from over-represented industries such as IT, consulting or finance should also consider submitting their application early. By the time Round 2 deadlines roll around, the admissions team may have already admitted many applicants with very similar profiles.

If you belong to an over-represented group, submitting your application before your peers are well represented in the class can be a wise strategy.

Non-Traditional Candidates with Low GMAT Scores

Applicants with unconventional or less traditional work or academic experience prior to business school often worry about how admissions committees will assess their record. However, it’s actually more than okay to be different, because no MBA program wants to fill an entire class solely with candidates from investment banking or consulting.

For entrepreneurs who may not have any traditional work experience, applicants from the military, or individuals coming from professions where an MBA is not typically a requirement, having a low GMAT score does not have to mean the kiss of death. Just aim for round 1 submission.

As we’ve discovered, later on in the admissions cycle there may be fewer spots available for low-scoring candidates as schools turn their thoughts toward driving their GMAT average higher for rankings purposes.

Finally, we would urge applicants to apply a few days ahead of the deadline just to ease some of the last-minute pressure, as well as congestion on the programs’ servers. Do a thorough review, hit submit, and take comfort in knowing that you did your very best.

Image by: Ink Media (CC BY 2.0)

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