5 Things to Know about MBA Application Rounds

Business schools accept applications for their MBA programs in three separate rounds divided throughout the school year. Many potential students worry about when is the best time for them to submit their applications because there is some strategy to gaining admission and possible scholarships. Many colleges and universities address this particular concern on their own websites, hoping to provide the best information to their specific pools of students. However, there are some general guidelines that all applicants should know about the MBA admissions rounds.

1. First round applicants are extremely prepared and qualified.

The MBA candidates who apply to the first round in the fall are those with the best grades, the most work experience and the highest level of organization and extracurricular activities. These applicants typically have GMAT scores above 600, and they are people who have planned to attend advanced business school for a while. They have prepared well, they have cultivated extra activities and they have taken on additional leadership and volunteer opportunities. Because these candidates are applying in the first round, they are demonstrating their interest in their specific school choices, making them even more attractive to those universities.

2. Most acceptances are given in the first round.

Despite the high quality of first round applicants, this round is typically the least competitive. Colleges and universities are eager to fill their incoming classes with excellent students, and the early planners are of that level. For example, Harvard accepts nearly 87 percent of its incoming classes from the first round of applications, filling in rest from later rounds. Applicants in this round are only compared against this pool of applicants, whereas later rounds are compared against a larger pool. For candidates with decent applications, the first round is statistically an excellent time to apply.

3. Denied applications can be re-submitted in later rounds.

Applicants who applied but were not accepted in the first round have the opportunity to submit applications to other programs throughout the other rounds. Students who are not accepted to their top-choice schools can, therefore, send out more applications in the second or third rounds to their back-up selections. Likewise, a first round denial can result in a higher position on that school’s wait list. Both of these opportunities give even those applicants who have been denied admission the opportunity to still be accepted to an MBA program later in the year.

4. Round two receives the most applications.

There are many reasons to wait until round two to apply, such as wanting to visit a campus or needing to retake the GMAT. These experiences can help candidates write better admissions essay or round out their less-than-perfect backgrounds and activities. However, this is the round that receives the highest number of applications. The competition is fiercer than the first round, making it more difficult for average applications to catch the attention of admissions counselors. In addition, round two applicants are compared to each other as well as to those from round one.

5. Round three is the most competitive.

This is the most competitive round of all applications. The majority of the program seats have been filled, and only the best of the remaining candidates will receive admissions offers. While it is still better to tender an excellent third round application than a weak second round one, only highly qualified and truly unique candidates will be admitted to complete the incoming classes. Admissions counselors are very careful when reviewing third round applications, noticing minor errors and inaccuracies and being less likely to ignore such mistakes. There are students accepted from this round, but they stand up to the highest levels of scrutiny.

When deciding the best time to apply for an MBA program, there are many factors that fit into the equation. Candidates must evaluate their own applications and decide which round is most likely to be the most successful for them.

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