Is it worth it for me to apply in Round 3?
We field this question each year from business school hopefuls, and the answer my Fortuna colleagues and I invariably reply is, “it depends.” Much like the rest of the MBA application process, there are no definitive rules. Yet for a strategic and sincere application, you need to consider several factors, including your profile, the schools you’re applying to and what’s going on inside the minds of the MBA AdCom in R3.
First, a great deal depends on your ability to be compelling and convincing to your target schools. R3 requires as much thought and engagement as R1 and 2 – if not more. Should you wait until the next cycle when the odds are more favorable, or can you put together a powerful MBA application now? No school wants to be the second choice, and admissions reviewers are practiced at distinguishing a sincere applicant from someone making a ‘Hail-Mary’ effort after being rejected in earlier rounds.
If now is your moment or you’re on the fence, here are four factors to consider for applying in R3:
1. Is your top target school among the US M7? If so, it may be best to hold off until next year, as the competition for R3 will be tougher than ever. Top tier schools are typically looking to fill specific profiles at this point so it’s no longer a “general” applicant pool. That said, R3 is still a viable option for schools beyond the top 10, although know that they receive a lot of apps from candidates who have been dinged by higher ranked schools in earlier rounds.
2. Do you have a truly stellar profile? Beyond exceptional data points – from GMAT scores to undergrad GPAs – extraordinary candidates bring something unique to the classroom, such as an unusual academic background, expertise in a non-traditional industry, or remarkable distinction in their field or industry. By R3, many schools are looking to enhance diversity, so your ability to articulate your unique qualities and characteristics will allow you to stand out.
3. Are you considering a top tier program outside the US? Schools such as LBS and INSEAD have a higher percentage of spaces available in R3 than their US peers. In fact, LBS and INSEAD have four rounds, while other European schools have up to five or six rounds. While you may still be eligible for financial aid, know that scholarship or financing options tend to be less available in final rounds.
4. Are you applying for an Executive or part-time MBA? There tends to be less competition overall for part-time and EMBAs, and some offer multiple start date options. So if you apply in a later round, your chances of admissions may be slightly lower but not greatly so. These are strong options for older applicants, as EMBAs are geared toward 30-45 year olds and part-time programs to 24-35 year olds (average age for a fulltime MBA is 27). The key is to ensure that the community will give you what you need and that this is really the best fit for you.
Applying for R3 can work out in your favor – the opportunity is being honest about your candidacy, conviction and power to make a compelling case. And given the odds, it’s wise to have a back-up plan.
For more on What the MBA AdCom is Looking For in Round 3, view Fortuna Co-Director Judith Silverman Hodara’s latest article in Poets&Quants, as she shines a spotlight on the ins and outs of Applying in Round 3 from the Admissions reviewer perspective.
Fortuna Admissions is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools.