MBA Round 3: Apply Now or Wait ‘Til Next Year?
Around our office, we affectionately refer to round 3 as the “black hole of MBA admissions.” Why? Because very few who enter come out on the other side alive. I don’t say this to scare you — well, I kinda do — but to warn you of what you’re really getting yourself into. Here’s why I wouldn’t recommend round 3.
→ The odds are not in your favor.
Anyone who’s seen The Hunger Games remembers the line: And may the odds be ever in your favor. Round 3 is like that, too.
If you are applying in round 3, the reality is that >95% of the graduate school class has already submitted their application and either has been accepted, is on the waitlist, or is still being evaluated. Applying this year is going to make a tough job even tougher – the odds will not be in your favor. You are likely to be denied even if you are good enough to get in during a standard (R1/R2) admissions cycle.
This is an 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 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.
→ It hurts your chances of applying in the next cycle.
Keep in mind that applying for round 3 can hurt 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 will decrease because you’re essentially going to submit the same application.
The timing between finding out about round 3 application decisions and round 1 deadlines of the same cycle could be less than 6 months… and 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.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, think about it this way: If you get cut from the team, the coach will not 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. However, you certainly won’t hurt your chances if you apply in round 3 and wait a year or two before re-applying. This only applies if you try again in the very next cycle.
→ There is limited financial aid available.
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.
So maybe you were that kid who had to touch the fire before you learned it was hot, and now you think you can be part of that elite group that makes it through. Here are a few situations where it may make sense to apply round 3:
→ You have to 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, by the way). 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 – not a single one. Strong performance academically at a top-tier school, GMAT/GRE above the median, differentiated work experience, and demonstrate leadership. If you have all 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.
Okay, so now you know what you’re walking into. Yes, you’re facing some challenges, but the risk may still be worth taking — some people do make it out alive. Not sure if you are a ”Walk on Water” candidate that will make you successful in round 3? Fill out a profile on Admit.me and we’ll tell you.
Remember, round 1 next year is only a few months after and, if a viable option, is more likely to get you an acceptance letter. May the odds be ever in your favor!
- Ryan Roberts Good to know I need to avoid that terrifying round 3....