The round 3 deadline window is nearly upon us. While the final round is the biggest gamble of the application cycle, schools have that round for a reason. Typically, they use it to admit those stellar students that add something special to their classes.
Successful applicants might have unusual work experience, substantial community service, a diverse background, compelling leadership examples, unique or uncommon interests outside of business, or entrepreneurial success of some sort.
Here’s a sampling of reactions from the admissions teams at well-ranked MBA programs on whether round 3 is a viable option for applicants.
UV Darden School of Business
The round 3 deadline at Darden is coming up on April 7, 2021. Last season, the adcom addressed a few common myths on their admissions blog. Like most schools, Darden welcomes strong applicants to apply in the later round. They understand personal circumstances may have prevented you from applying sooner.
However, they would like to know more about what those reasons were. Darden suggests applicants use the Additional Comments section to explain your application timing.
“This is really useful information for the Admissions Committee and can help provide context for your story and timeline,” writes Darden’s Maggie Dodson.
Candidates applying during the round 3 deadline should also know that Darden still offers merit scholarships to later applicants. But, the school has a finite amount of money to award, and naturally, there is less available later in the cycle.
Darden also has an answer for MBA hopefuls on the fence and wondering whether they should wait until next year. “If you have the time and resources, there is almost no reason not to apply,” Dodson writes.
Even if you don’t get in, there’s still value in going through the process. “If you are not admitted, you will have a sense of how to strengthen your application for the upcoming cycle, and you will have several months before our Early Action round to do so,” Dodson notes.
Michigan Ross School of Business
The Ross School is especially welcoming to later applicants—perhaps more so than other schools. “We specifically reserve spots in our class for Round 3 applicants,” admissions director Soojin Kwon explains. “In fact, we find some of our best students, academically and leadership-wise, are admitted during Round 3 each year.”
Likewise, the Ross School reserves scholarship dollars for this group. The round 3 deadline at Ross is coming up on March 29, 2021. For those asking themselves whether they should apply now or wait until next year, Kwon is optimistic about the workload that awaits in these final weeks before the deadline.
“If you’re asking yourself this question, it likely means that you’ve already started the application process,” she predicts.
The Ross application asks for only one letter of recommendation, and the essays are short and direct, says Kwon. “Remember, there’s no chance of being admitted if you don’t apply.”
Duke University Fuqua School of Business
The round 3 deadline at Duke Fuqua is coming up on March 25, 2021. Once again, it’s vital that you explain the reasoning behind your decision to apply in the third round.
As this myth-busting post from 2019 explains, they see many common reasons for a late-round application. Maybe you delayed your application while you worked to improve your GMAT or GRE score. Perhaps an all-consuming project at work made applying earlier impossible. Many applicants may have a pandemic-related reason for the delay.
“Or perhaps it’s simply an epiphany you had recently about where you want to be in the next two to five years,” Allison Jameson, assistant dean of admissions, writes. “Whatever the case, make it clear in the application what that catalyst was and why this timing is right.”
Yale School of Management
“While we do admit fewer students in Round 3 than in other rounds, what is commonly not discussed is that we also receive fewer applications in that round,” notes Assistant Dean for Admissions Bruce DelMonico in this blog post.
“So, the number of students admitted has more to do with the number of applications we receive than anything else. Talented applicants will still stand out in Round 3.”
DelMonico echoes advice we tell our clients: only apply when your application is as compelling as possible. You must feel ready to take on the rigors of an elite MBA program. Make sure you’re crystal clear on why the degree makes sense for you professionally and personally.
A Yale SOM student who applied in round 3 in 2019 says: “Round 3 is a great time to apply if you are clear on what you want and why you want it, and if you already have prepped for the GRE/GMAT. Be very focused on your applications—I think this is good advice no matter what, but especially for Round 3. The more targeted and strategic you are, the easier it will be to wrap it up in time and feel confident in your candidacy.”
The round 3 deadline at Yale SOM is coming up on April 13, 2021.
SBC’s advice for applicants targeting the round 3 deadline
You should definitely use the required or optional MBA admission essays to explain your reasons for waiting until the third – or final – round to apply. Otherwise, the AdComm could jump to the wrong conclusion. They may wonder whether you’re using round three as a last-ditch effort to get into business school in the fall after receiving rejections from other schools in earlier rounds.
With fewer slots available, fine-tune your focus on schools where you’ll be a compelling candidate. A robust and well-thought-out application is critical. Make sure your academic profile aligns with the school’s median GMAT and average GPA. Also, consider whether you add something special to the class that the admissions committee didn’t see earlier in the season.
Standing out from the pack is imperative, and never more so than when applying later in the game. To do well in the admissions process, you have to communicate who you are, not just what you do.
Finally, it’s essential to have a Plan B in case things don’t go your way. You can always apply to a set of schools in round 3, knowing there is a good chance you will need to reapply to them and add in some new options next season.