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Applying for an MBA in Round 1 vs Round 2

Posted on May 30, 2019
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MBA-applications-R1-vs-R2Have you already started thinking about applying to business school for enrollment in Fall 2017? Now is the time to take stock of the extent to which your profile and application are in order, and to accordingly see whether it makes more sense to apply in Round 1 or 2 in the Fall. Competition is intense in both rounds, so common sense mandates that if your application is close to ready, applying earlier (i.e. In Round 1) is almost always better.

By applying in Round 1, you get your decision earlier (by the end of the year, as opposed to March and April of the following year). You then have the luxury of time to plan next steps like housing, fulfilling pre-MBA coursework, or even to take that well-deserved break to travel or spend time with friends and family. You also get to alter your application strategy and apply again in Round 2 and 3 in case you are not admitted to schools applied to in Round 1.

However, do not sacrifice quality for expediency – Round 2 is better if you still need to gather or build critical time-taking components of your application.

How do I know if Round 1 is for me?

Here are the fundamental factors you need to consider to see if Round 1 is for you:

  1. 1. GMAT Score. If you have not yet taken the GMAT, or need to retake it, wait to apply till Round 2. Your GMAT score is more important than the round in which you apply. If you have a score that is at the lower end or just lower than the average range of your target schools, wait to apply till you have raised your score and strengthened your competitive advantage.
  2. 2. Your Profile. If you are (a) a reapplicant,(b) belong to a traditional industry like consulting, IT or banking, and/or (c) from an overrepresented demographic group (like, for instance, an Indian male), it is better to apply in Round 1 when there are more spots available. By the Round 2 deadline, there will be many more candidates with similar profiles and strong applications who would have already applied and been admitted.
  3. 3. Academic Background. If you have had consistently high grades throughout college, especially in quantitative subjects, and even better, if you have academic awards, then apply in Round 1. However, if you feel the need to skill up and take extra on-campus or online coursework to bolster weaker grades, or if you want to strengthen your academic profile in a specific subject area, wait till Round 2.
  4. 4. Professional Experience. Are you currently working on all-consuming, high stakes, career-making project? Did you join your company or industry less than six months ago? Do you need to switch careers or industries to add depth to your professional profile? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, wait till Round 2 to apply. You want to make sure that you do not rush your application with a heavy work load in hand, and that you have taken the time to grow and learn in your role. You will also need professional recommendations, so if you are new to a role or industry, waiting till Round 2 gives you time to build a strong rapport with your potential recommenders.

Round 1 is not just for superstar type-A applicants. If you have the best version of your application ready and there is no significant change expected in your profile, apply in Round 1. However, you should wait till Round 2 if you need time to:
(a) retake the GMAT
(b) skill up to establish subject area expertise or bolster poorer academic performance
(c) work on a big timely project that will impact your ability to pay full attention to your application and would also make for stellar content

If you are applying in Round 1, you need to get started now. You need time to prepare, to ensure that you are not dinged because of last-minute mistakes or rushed, sloppy research on your career goals or dream MBA program. If you need further help to gauge if your application is in shape for Round 1, feel free to connect with us for tailored advice, we are happy to help!

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