Applying to B-school in Round 3

January 26, 2015 | by Matt Symonds

Every year around this time, applicants ask for our advice on whether they should apply to MBA programs for Round 3 (R3). Our response to them is often “it depends”. One thing we tell them is clear – you don’t want to apply halfheartedly, thinking that you can simply re-apply a few months later.

If you’re considering round 3, make sure not to rush the decision. Are you applying as a result of your current work situation or because an MBA really makes sense as the next step in your longer-term career plans? Even before you start your application, you want to spend time self-reflecting to think about your reasons for pursuing an MBA, what makes you a strong candidate, and what your career plans are post-MBA. The application process will involve a lot of your time and should be planned out methodically so ask yourself if you truly have the time to dedicate to developing a compelling application.

There are a few other factors to consider in making your decision:

– Are your target schools ranked in the top 10? Having worked in Admissions Director roles at several of these schools, we know that by Round 3, only a limited number of spots are available and by this point, schools are often looking for specific profiles to round out their incoming class. R3 at these schools is no longer “general” so unless your background aligns with what they’re specifically looking for, you might have a better shot if you hold off and apply in R1 or R2 the following year. However, if you’re considering lower ranked schools, these programs might still have room and might have more flexibility in what they’re looking for.

– Are you an exceptional candidate? Evaluate yourself relative to published student profile information for your target schools to see how you compare. Exceptional candidates should have more than just a strong GMAT and undergrad GPA. Other factors such as professional achievements, unique background or extra-curricular activities will come into play. If you believe that you really stand out on these factors then go ahead and move forward with your R3 applications.

– Are you looking at non-US programs? If you are, then several international programs, such as INSEAD, have a higher percentage of spots available in the final round relative to their US-based counterparts. However, be aware that by this point there might be fewer scholarships or financial aid options available.

–  Are you considering a part-time or Executive MBA program? In general, there’s less competition for these programs and some schools offer multiple start-dates, which gives applicants more options. You can contact the admissions offices to see if they offer additional flexibility with applying that might not be stated on the program websites.

– Do you have a backup plan? While some candidates are fortunate to gain admission in R3, you should come up with an alternate plan in case you’re not accepted. If you’re not accepted in this admissions season, think about what you can do before re-applying to help improve your chances for admission in future rounds. We’d be happy to discuss this with you!


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