The black hole of MBA admissions: Round 3
Posted by Eric Allen in MBA
Round 3 for the application process is considered the black hole of MBA admissions – many enter, but few are able to successfully exit. That being said, there are some situations where round 3 could be the right option for you. We will take you through the reasons the traditional round 3 MBA application deadline (typically March / April deadlines) may not be the right time to apply and the situations where you have a reasonable shot of making it through successfully. Let’s start with the reasons why round 3 could be a huge challenge for you:
- The odds are not in your favor. My children love the Hunger Games movie (OK, I do too). For those of you who don’t know, they are basically fighting each other for their own survival (pretty dark stuff) and the master of ceremonies starts the competition off with “…And may the odds be ever in your favor”. It reminds me a little of the graduate school application process in general. The reality is that >95% of the graduate school class has already submitted their application and either been accepted, on the waitlist, or still being evaluated if you decide to apply in round 3. Applying this year is going to make a tough job even tougher – the odds will not be in your favor and you are likely to be denied even if you are good enough to get in during a standard (R1/R2) admissions cycle. Easy concept to understand, but applicants just don’t want to believe it. Many of my clients ask why schools even have round 3 and the simple answer is that they want to optimize each class and they do accept some people in round 3; they can’t really tell you not to apply – that’s my job. Some people do get in – a friend of mine from Wharton was accepted in R3, but he is a former Olympic athlete, very accomplished academically and a good test taker – if that is your profile, I encourage you to apply.
- Hurts your chances of reapplying in the next cycle. This concept doesn’t get enough attention. Let’s say you have a strong profile and you would be considered a good candidate for a particular MBA program. If you apply in round 3 and don’t get in, your likelihood of success in the subsequent year just went down because you’re essentially going to submit the same application. The timing between finding out about round 3 application decisions and round 1 could be less than 6 months – your profile is not changing much in 6 months. As a result, unless you’ve done something meaningfully different (improved test scores, secured a significant promotion, etc.), the admissions committee is likely going to deny you again even if they may have accepted you as a “fresh” applicant in R1/R2 the next year. Most reapplicants are required to explain what has changed since the last application – not sure you will have much to say after 6 months. Think about it: if you get cut from the team, the coach doesn’t want you to try out again in the same season – they want you to get better and try again once you’ve had a chance to demonstrate improvement. The same goes here. To be clear, you certainly don’t hurt your chances if you apply in round 3 and wait a year or two before re-applying, but it will if you apply in the next cycle.
- Limited financial aid. It’s almost always the case that fellowships are all but gone by the time round 3 comes around. In addition, in some cases, international candidates may not even be eligible for financial aid in the round 3 applications (check your school’s admission site), so you are at a significant disadvantage in terms of any financial support for round 3 applications.
OK, you were that kid who had to touch the fire before you determined it to be hot. You think you can be part of that elite group that makes it through and you don’t care about financial aid. Under what circumstances should you consider applying for round 3? Here are a few situations where it may make sense and considerations for the application process:
- You must apply this year. You may be facing Visa issues or dealing with another situation that requires you to apply this year (age is not one of them, btw). In that case, you need to come up with a strategy that gives you the best chance of success. Put together a list of target schools and make sure that list includes schools that are less competitive than your “strike zone” profile. Do your homework on schools – reach out directly to AdComs. Try to visit schools to get a feel for your competitiveness and the slots they have open for round 3. Remember, a “safe school” may not be safe in round 3, so broaden your school list to make sure you get in. Also, if you can find some schools that have a rolling admissions process to get at least one acceptance in the bag, you can be more aggressive with your school selection since you will be playing with house money.
- You are a “Walk on Water” candidate. Walk on water candidates have no holes – none. Strong performance academically at a top-tier school, GMAT/GRE above the median, differentiated work experience and demonstrate leadership. If you have that, you have a chance. The key here is to be clear about why you are applying round 3. Maybe you just sold your company or perhaps your circumstances recently changed and you are now ready for school when you weren’t before. Just make sure to incorporate the reasons you’re applying in round 3 into your application, so they understand why you’re late to the party.
OK, so now you know what’s ahead of you. Surely your pathway is filled with some large obstacles, but it may still be a worth taking – at least you are now informed. Not sure if you are a ”Walk on Water” candidate that will make you successful in round 3? Fill out a full profile on www.admit.me, request free feedback on your profile and one of our MBA admissions experts will let you know. Remember, round 1 next year is only a few months away and, if a viable option, is more likely to carry a positive outcome. Best of luck in your decision!
November 30, 2017, Eric Allen