Should You Apply in Round 3?
A number of MBA programs have their final deadlines coming up in the next few weeks. If you have not yet settled on a business school for the coming fall and yet you have been hoping to go if you could, you may be struggling with the decision of whether or not to make this last minute attempt.
What do Round 3 applicants look like?
According to business schools, the third round is smaller in volume than the first two rounds. There are fewer available seats. And the overall quality of applicants is lower.
Are my chances better or worse in Round 3?
Given the above profile of R3 applicants, the answer could be either, depending on your profile.
As mentioned in an earlier post I had written, R3 is when admissions officers admit to making decisions to help round out their class. By the 3rd round, they will have a pretty good idea of how their incoming class is shaping up in terms of gender, nationality, and industry. While they likely don’t have specific quotas set for each possible category of students, no school wants an imbalanced class. So (for example) if there are “too” many incoming students from China and India and virtually none from Southeast Asia, a strong Southeast Asian applicant in R3 is going to grab the committee’s attention. The same holds true for women applicants and applicants from any field that is not well represented in a typical MBA applicant pool. So yes, if you have an “unusual” or atypical profile and you are strong, you could have a shot in R3.
At the same time, a poor application is a poor application regardless of when you submit it. An interesting phenomenon is that many applicants sloppily put together an application in R3 because they believe it is their last chance to get into a school. This is known as the “hail Mary” pass, a term used in American football in which there is little time left in the game and a player makes a desperate attempt to throw a pass, knowing in all likelihood that his team will not win. Many applicants who apply this same philosophy to R3 think, “Well, if I don’t get in, I’ll just reapply in the fall.” If your profile is weak and you don’t have the time or energy to put your very best into your application, then it really makes no sense to apply in a round that is already known to be the most difficult round.
Why you still need to be strategic about your decision to apply in Round 3
By applying in R3 you might feel some satisfaction that you have at least tried, and so you don’t have to have any regrets. However, if there is any chance that you may reapply if you don’t get admitted, then you may want to think carefully about whether or not you should apply in R3.
Schools actually look favorably upon reapplicants as reapplying shows a high level of commitment to the school. And at some schools reapplicants actually enjoy a higher percentage acceptance rate when compared to the general applicant pool. This could be because many reapplicants who are serious will work hard over the summer to improve on the weaknesses that kept them from being admitted the first time around.
However, schools do have access to your first application and the admissions committees may read it. If you are unable to put together a decent application package together the first time around, those bad essays or recommendations will still be there when you reapply. Of course, the admissions committee will be basing their decisions on the most recent application that you submit, however, it is best if they don’t see two sets of applications that are drastically different in quality and substance. One example that comes to mind is an applicant whose first language is not English, and he writes his R3 essays in very raw and broken English. In his reapplication the following season he hires a consultant who helps him polish his essays to a native level. If the admissions committee reads these 2 sets of essays, they will be suspicious of the applicant’s English ability.
Ultimately my point is this: don’t volunteer a negative first impression of yourself if you don’t need to, unless you know for sure that you will not be reapplying. And by giving a negative impression I mean showing those qualities that might be hard to later overcome or explain. If you submit an application with weak test scores or work experience, you can at least still improve on those.
What does this all mean?
I’ll sum up my advice in this way (and please note that this is very general advice; for personalized advice tailored to your particular situation it is best to consult with someone individually):
- If you believe you have an atypical profile and you feel ready to make a good application, apply. A strong applicant with an unusual profile will stand out in R3.
- If you have a typical profile but you feel ready to make a good application, apply.
- If your profile is overall strong but you have some weaknesses, but you are ready to put all your effort into your application, apply. (Of course, also take into consideration the level of the school and your qualifications.)
- If you don’t have the time to put an application together with care and to show the admissions committee that you are taking their school seriously – if you think you might just write your essays quickly overnight and you know you won’t do a very good job – I would advise you to think twice about applying, unless you are certain you do not plan to reapply in the near future.