Part 2 – The Best Way to Focus your Application Efforts Before Round 1 MBA Deadlines

May 20, 2015 | by Matt Symonds

The following blog is adapted from our article featured recently on Poets and Quants. Click here to read Part 1 of the adapted article.

This is the second part of our adapted article, which focuses on tips to get ready to apply for Round 1 MBA deadlines.

Weigh up your GMAT score. The GMAT can be a black hole of time, energy and stress, so unless you’re significantly below the 80% range of accepted scores, have an academic background and professional experience with hardly any evidence of quant skills, or fall well short in a particular section (for example, schools like Wharton, Columbia, Chicago Booth and MIT Sloan are all quant-focused and expect to see very strong quant scores), your time might be better spent on other areas of your application. However, if you have a GMAT score significantly below the average score for your target schools, you might want to consider retaking the exam. Factors to consider:

– How likely are you to increase your score? It’s probably not worth retaking it unless you believe there’s more than a 50% chance of raising your score.

– How prepared were you when you took the exam? Did you already give it your best shot? Was anything unusual for you on the test day?

– It’s common for test takers’ scores to plateau after taking the test three times – it’s usually not worth it to take the test beyond this point.

If you don’t feel that your GMAT quant score will improve, you can look into taking an online course in statistics, finance, economics, or accounting to showcase your academic abilities in this arena.

Some candidates with competitive GMAT scores, but not much else in their profile beyond work and study, ask us about retaking the GMAT to get an even higher score. In these cases, we typically advise them to instead dedicate that time to improving their extra-curricular profile.

Woo your recommenders. Decide early on about who you will ask for a recommendation – most schools require two, and you should plan to have three or four options in mind. Be proactive about building your relationships with them – if you still work with them currently, seek out opportunities to go above and beyond what’s required, which can give them some great examples to highlight. If you no longer work together, make time to reach out to them and keep in touch. Even better if you can find a way to do them a favor. Prime them now so that when it’s time to ask them to support your MBA application, they’ll be ready to dive in and be a vocal champion.

Round 1 vs Round 2. In terms of timing, it’s always better to submit an accomplished and polished application, rather than one that is rushed and poorly prepared. There’s a lot of online speculation around the advantages of applying early, and attractive options such as Columbia’s Early Decision, or Fuqua and Tuck’s Early Action are one way to show your commitment to these schools.

Based on our experience, we know that the quality of candidates from the first two rounds for the very top U.S. schools – Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, MIT Sloan and Kellogg – is extremely strong. We expect these schools to admit more than 95% of their incoming class from these first two rounds, but since they know that the Round 2 pool of applicants is typically just as talented and qualified, they often avoid filling more than half the class in Round 1. The waitlist can be used judiciously for certain Round 1 candidates that they want to compare to candidates from Round 2.

For the next tier of top b-schools, such as Yale SOM, Tuck, Haas, Fuqua Cornell, Michigan, NYU Stern, Darden and UCLA Anderson, there’s typically a spike in Round 2 applications from those applicants who did not get accepted to their first choice in Round 1. These schools are looking to boost their yield, and are gauging applicants’ commitment to their school, so strategically speaking it can make more sense to apply in Round 1 to these schools as a signal to show them how serious you are.

That said, it’s rarely feasible to apply to six or more schools in one round, so make a shortlist that lines up with your personal goals. The key takeaway: think careful about how you can optimize the return on investment of your time and energy from now until September.

If you would like advice about when you should apply to b-school, or for other questions about the application process, please contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.


Sign up for a

Free Consultation