Category Archives: Round Three

Is It a Bad Idea to Apply to Business School in Round 3?

News Alert! Applying to business school in Round 3 is not always a bad idea! MBA programs always go to great lengths to let applicants know that they have three rounds for a reason, and that they do indeed accept people in Round 3. Yes, the numbers do support the argument that, all things being equal (which they never are), you’re better off applying earlier, but GREAT applicants always get in to every top business school every year. And if you’re not a GREAT applicant, then should you apply? Or keep working at it until you are one?

If you are rushing to complete your applications and wonder whether you should hurry up and apply in Round 2 or wait and apply in Round 3, ask yourself: Is there anything in my power that will make me look like a much stronger candidate if I wait an extra month? If you have a significant weakness in your profile that you think could give admissions officer pause and you can improve upon or compensate for within the next month or so, then there is a very good argument to be made for waiting and applying in Round 3. Obvious examples include a low GMAT score, a weak undergraduate GPA, or a lack of certain experiences on the job. In those last two cases, you may be able to make up some ground within two or three months (by taking a college course and seeking out a new opportunity at work, respectively), although it often takes some luck for things to fall into place and for the timing to work out.

There are many other types weaknesses that are just as critical, but which may be harder to fix, at least in a short amount of time. The most common examples here are a lack of meaningful community service, a big hole in your work experience that you will have to deal with no matter what, or a serious lack of any good candidates who will write your letters of recommendation. These all take much more work (and time) to overcome, and in these cases we often advise that an applicant wait until next year before applying. When they don’t want to hear that, or have a good reason for wanting to take a shot now, we’ll advise that they aim lower in terms of the programs to which they’re applying.

If your candidacy has a significant weakness that can’t be overcome in the next months or so, you need to assess how big of a weakness it is. The bigger it is, the more we recommend waiting until next year. If it’s something that will hurt your chances, but can be fixed in two or three months, then we often recommend waiting until Round 3. These are all shades of grey — the answer is “it depends” more than anyone would like — but that’s essentially the decision tree we go through every day with our admissions consulting clients at this time of year. Just remember that, as impatient as you may be to get into a top-ranked business school, this is something that can set you up for success for the next half a century, so take the time to do it right now!

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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Is a Round 3 Application a Guaranteed Rejection?

If you came here wondering if you should apply to business school in Round 3, we’ll tell you right now that the answer is usually, “It depends,” although we do have some very strong opinions on the matter. Applying in Round 3 is not automatically a bad idea (if it were, then why would schools have a Round 3 deadline at all?), but there is definitely a “buyer beware” aspect that you should consider. In this case, what you’re buying is a few minutes of an admissions officer’s time, and the price you pay is all the stress associated with applying to business school.

Is it worth the risk to apply in Round 3, or you should wait to submit your applications in Round 1 during the next application cycle? Every applicant is different and there are a variety of factors to consider for this very crucial decision.

Let’s clear up one misconception right away: Round 3 is NOT an automatic black hole where applications go to die. As we wrote earlier this year, top business schools know that great applicants can come in any round, and many schools have very specific reasons (such as U.S. schools needing to stay competitive vs. international programs) for paying close attention to the Round 3 applicant pool.

Still, since in Round 3 your chances of success can’t help but be impacted somewhat by what happened in the previous rounds — Did your first-choice school admit more students than it originally had planned? Are yields higher than historical averages? — you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to get fair shake in Round 3. Ultimately, however, how well you do in Round 3 depends far more on you and your application than on what numbers the admissions office saw in previous rounds.

Round 3 partly gets a bad reputation from those applicants who throw together their applications at the last minute (rather than having to wait eight months before applying in next year’s admissions cycle) and end up getting rejected. “See,” they say, “I knew I wouldn’t get in. Round 3 is impossible.” But Round 3 wasn’t the problem… their applications were what held them back. We spend a great deal of our time talking applicants out of such kamikaze missions, and the same goes for the “Round 3 vs. next year” decision.

In short, if you apply to a top-ranked business school with a flaw that really bothers you — e.g., a low GMAT score, or a weak undergrad transcript with nothing to compensate for it, or sloppy essays, or I-hope-he-spelled-my-name-right letters of recommendation — then you can safely assume that flaw will also bother MBA admissions officers enough to keep you out. In that case, we almost always strongly recommend that an applicant wait, takes steps to improve things, and then apply next year, when things are in order.

Waiting is always a good idea if you can apply with a notably better application next year. But, if you feel you have a strong application now, and you don’t expect to have a significantly stronger story in eight months, then applying in Round 3 is not such a terrible idea. Just keep in mind that there are factors outside of your control. Just like in real life.

To stay on top on all of the latest news at Stanford and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Should You Apply to Business School in Round 3?

At this time of year, we get the “Round 3 or wait?” question from a lot of applicants. As usual, the answer we give them is, “It depends,” although we do have some very strong opinions on the matter. Applying in Round 3 is not automatically a bad idea, but there is definitely a “buyer beware” aspect that you should consider. In this case, what you’re buying is a few minutes of an admissions officer’s time, and the price you pay is the application fee plus all of the blood, sweat, and tears that will go into your application.

Of course, what answer we give largely depends on who the applicant is. One applicant might want to apply now because he was recently laid off. He hadn’t been planning on applying to business school this year, but his sudden unemployment now makes MBA programs look that much more appealing. Another might call us because she just took the GMAT again and still can’t get above a 650. She had been planning on nailing the GMAT this month and spending a couple of weeks on her essays and letters of recommendation, but now she wonders if she’d be better served by taking more time for her GMAT prep and applying in the fall, with a (hopefully) higher GMAT score. Still another applicant just rolled out of bed last week and decided that the one thing he’s really wanted all his life is Harvard MBA… He just never realized it until now!

To be clear, Round 3 is NOT an automatic black hole where applications go to die. As we wrote earlier this year, top business schools know that great applicants can come in any round, and many schools have very specific reasons (such as U.S. schools needing to stay competitive vs. international programs) for paying close attention to the Round 3 applicant pool.

Still, since in Round 3 your chances of success can’t help but be impacted somewhat by what happened in the previous rounds — Did your first-choice school admit more students than it originally had planned? Are yields higher than historical averages? — you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to get fair shake in Round 3. Ultimately, however, how well you do in Round 3 depends far more on you and your application than on what numbers the admissions office saw in previous rounds.

If you have a unique profile or are targeting a business school outside of the top 20, then your chances in Round 3 may not be bad at all. Or, if you want to attend a part-time or EMBA program then the “rounds” concept may not even be relevant, depending on the school. If none of these descriptions fit your situation, then you may want wait until next year. If you’re already on the “old” side for a typical applicant (e.g., you have more than five years of full-time work experience now), though, and there’s not a high likelihood that you will take a significant step forward in your career in the next eight months, then that’s one more reason to apply now, in Round 3.

Round 3 partly gets a bad reputation from those applicants who throw together their applications at the last minute (rather than having to wait eight months before applying in next year’s admissions cycle) and end up getting rejected. “See,” they say, “I knew I wouldn’t get in. Round 3 is impossible.” But Round 3 wasn’t the problem… their applications were what held them back. We spend a great deal of our time here at Veritas Prep talking applicants out of such kamikaze missions, and the same goes for the “Round 3 vs. next year” decision.

In short, if you apply to a top-ranked MBA program with a flaw that you know is significant — e.g., a low GMAT score, or a weak undergrad transcript with nothing to compensate for it, or sloppy essays, or I-hope-he-spelled-my-name-right letters of recommendation — then you can safely assume that flaw will also bother MBA admissions officers enough to keep you out. In that case, we almost always strongly recommend that an applicant wait, takes steps to improve things, and then apply next year, when things are in order.

Waiting is always a good idea if you can apply with a significantly better application next year. But, if you feel you have a strong application now, and you don’t expect to have a significantly stronger story in eight months, then applying in Round 3 is not such a terrible idea. Just keep in mind that there are factors outside of your control. Just like in real life.

To stay on top on all of the latest news the world’s top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Contrarian Advice of the Week: You Should Wait and Apply in Round 3!

This is inevitably the time of year when many applicants ask, “Should I hurry up and get my applications in by the Round 2 deadlines, or should I take some more time and apply in Round 3?” As stressful as Round 1 deadlines are, Round 2 deadlines give applicants the extra fear of “If I don’t make this deadline, I’m doomed!”

Before you read any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: Applying to business school in Round 3 is NOT automatically a bad idea. MBA programs always go to great lengths to let applicants know that they have three rounds for a reason, and that they do indeed accept people in Round 3. Yes, the numbers do support the argument that, all things being equal (which they never are), you’re better off applying earlier, but GREAT applicants always get in to every top business school every year. And if you’re not a GREAT applicant, then should you apply? Or keep working at it until you are one?

Our answer is almost always, “Keep working at it,” which brings us back to the topic at hand, which is whether you should apply by the Round 2 deadline or make some moves to strengthen your candidacy and take a stronger shot in Round 3. If you have a significant weakness in your profile that 1) you believe will give admissions officer pause and 2) can be improved upon or compensated for within the next several months, then there is a very good argument to be made for waiting and applying in Round 3. Obvious examples include a low GMAT score, a weak undergraduate transcript, or a lack of certain experiences on the job. In those last two cases, you may be able to make up some ground within two or three months (by taking a college course and seeking out a new opportunity at work, respectively), although it often takes some luck for things to fall into place and for the timing to work out.

There are many other types weaknesses that are just as critical, but which may be harder to fix, at least in a short amount of time. The most common examples here are a lack of meaningful community service, a big hole in your work experience that you will have to deal with no matter what, or a serious lack of any good candidates who will write your letters of recommendation. These all take much more work (and time) to overcome, and in these cases we often advise that an applicant wait until next year before applying. When they don’t want to hear that, or have a good reason for wanting to take a shot now, we’ll advise that they aim lower in terms of the programs to which they’re applying.

Some still march ahead with what we call the “lottery ticket approach” — they know their odds of getting in to a top-ranked school are low, but they apply, anyway. We don’t recommend this approach, but we are willing to welcome them back as reapplicants when they (almost always) apply again next year!

To sum up: If your candidacy has a significant weakness that can’t be overcome in two to three months, you need to assess how big of a weakness it is. The bigger it is, the more we recommend waiting until next year. If it’s something that will hurt your chances, but can be fixed in two or three months, then we often recommend waiting until Round 3. These are all shades of grey — the answer is “it depends” more than anyone would like — but that’s essentially the decision tree we go through every day with our admissions consulting clients at this time of year. Just remember that, as impatient as you may be to get into a top-ranked business school, this is something that can set you up for success for the next half a century, so take the time to do it right now!

Looking for more business school admissions advice? Take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Should You Wait Until Round 3?

If you’re scrambling to get your Round 2 business school applications complete, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I maximizing my chances of success by applying in Round 2?” As usual, the answer is, “It depends.”

No two business school applicants are in the same situation, so the answer we give is never quite the same. One applicant might have lost his job recently. He hadn’t been planning on applying to business school this year, but his sudden unemployment now makes MBA programs look that much more appealing. Another might be in a quandary because she just took the GMAT again and still can’t get above a 650. She had been planning on nailing the GMAT this month and spending a couple of weeks on her essays and letters of recommendation, but now she wonders if she’d be better served by taking the GMAT yet again and applying in Round 3 in March or April. Still another applicant just rolled out of bed last week and decided that he absolutely must have a Harvard MBA. That happens a lot!

Let’s be clear: Round 3 is NOT an automatic black hole where applications go to die. As we wrote earlier this year, top business schools know that great applicants can come in any round, and many schools have very specific reasons (such as U.S. schools needing to stay competitive vs. international programs) for paying close attention to the Round 3 applicant pool.

Still, since in Round 3 your chances of success are very much impacted somewhat by what happened in the previous rounds — Did your first-choice school admit more students than it originally had planned? Are yields higher than historical averages? — you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to get fair shake in Round 3. Ultimately, however, how well you do in Round 3 depends far more on you and your application than on what numbers the admissions office saw in previous rounds.

Round 3 partly has a tarnished reputation because of applicants who throw together their applications at the last minute (rather than having to wait eight months before applying in next year’s admissions cycle) and end up getting rejected. “See,” they say, “I knew I wouldn’t get in. Round 3 is impossible.” But most of them would have been rejected in the previous rounds, too. They threw together half-baked applications, and got predictable results. We could have saved them a lot of time and money.

If you apply to a top-ranked business school with a flaw that really concerns you — e.g., a low GMAT score, or a weak undergrad transcript with nothing to compensate for it, or sloppy essays, or I-hope-he-spelled-my-name-right letters of recommendation — then you can safely assume that flaw will also concern MBA admissions officers enough to keep you out. In that case, we almost always strongly recommend that an applicant wait, takes steps to improve things, and then apply in Round 3 (or next year) when things are in order.

Many applicants act as if they view their applications as lottery tickets: “I’ll take a shot at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Stern, Sloan, Anderson, Yale, and Tuck… One of those is bound to hit for me.” Or, they say, “My odds of getting into a top school are low? I’ll just apply to more top schools then. That will boost my odds.” But applying to more schools with a bad application will only generate more rejections. Coming back to a school as a reapplicant isn’t a terrible thing, but if you’re creating an application now that virtually assures you of having to apply again next year, then don’t bother submitting it.

Do it right the first time. Even if that means applying in Round 3. A great Round 3 application beats a good Round 2 application every time.

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Additional Things to Think About in Round 3

Last week we wrote about some important things to consider when deciding whether or not to apply to business school in Round Three, today we look at a couple of other factors to consider when planning your Round Three admissions strategy.

Another key consideration is that not all MBA programs are the same. Schools vary greatly in how they approach Round Three. While some are upfront about the fact that seats go fast and there aren’t many left in Round Three, others (such as UCLA Anderson) make a point of holding seats for the last round, knowing that there will still be many great applicants applying then.

Consider what the UCLA Anderson admissions committee recently wrote on their MBA Insider’s Blog:

Contrary to the belief that the 3rd round of the application process is so vast and competitive that your chances of being admitted are significantly reduced, you should know that each round is evaluated independently. You only compete with other people in your round. If your application is reasonably strong your chances of being admitted to the UCLA Anderson full-time MBA program are as good as any other previous round.

When many schools seem to get their fill in the first two admissions rounds, why would a school like Anderson make a point of keeping the door open longer? One key reason: Schools like Anderson compete with many top international schools to attract great candidates, and many of these schools have deadlines that run much later than American schools’ deadlines. LBS, for example, will accept applications as late as April 21 this year. Anderson doesn’t want this simple fact to be why a strong candidate chooses LBS over its own program. MBA admissions officers know that a great application can come in any time, and they want to be ready to accept such candidates when they come along.

In this case, why wait until next year? Ultimately, how successful you will be depends on you more than anything else. If you can’t pull together a very strong application between now and the Round Three deadline — and this includes everything, from your GMAT score to your essays to your letters of recommendation — then waiting will always be your best strategy. Additionally, if waiting will allow you to significantly improve part of your application — this most often applies to your GMAT score or your academic record, which can be bolstered through additional college coursework — then it also normally makes sense to wait.

What if you say “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” and apply, anyway? Will that dramatically hurt your chances if you don’t get in and want to re-apply in the fall? At most schools, no, it won’t, but keep in mind that you can’t submit the same application next year — something will need to be new, or better, or more interesting, compared to what you submit now. So, applying now is not a completely risk-free proposition, although, if you don’t apply now, then you definitely won’t get in, of course. So, weigh your upsides and downsides, but please keep in mind that pulling together a winning application is a long, arduous task. Do not underestimate it.

If you’re just starting to plan your MBA candidacy, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice on the business school application process!

Round 3 Considerations in MBA Admissions

If you’re a business school applicant who’s wondering whether to apply now, in Round 3, or to wait until next year, there are several things you should consider. While we do think that applicants need to go into Round 3 with their eyes wide open about the challenges this admissions round presents, there are also some things that make Round 3 far from a “no man’s land” of MBA admissions.

First of all, is there any room left in Round 3? Business schools know that the proportions of applicants that come in each round are fairly consistent from year to the next, so they can plan ahead to some extent, leaving at least some room for Round 3 applicants. Still, the number of seats at top MBA programs does tend to get pretty low at this point, sometimes making admissions officers more reluctant to take a chance on an applicant with a glaring weakness or one who simply doesn’t have anything remarkable to point to in his application. So, borderline applicants probably will indeed find that it’s harder to get into a top MBA program in Round 3, but they will tend to find this to be true in any round. Round 3 may just magnify this a bit.

In other words, great applicants will still have a strong chance of being admitted to at least one of their target schools, although creating a great application is of course a challenge for most applicants. Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton has said in the past, “While it is true that the final round typically is smaller than the first two, we do admit excellent candidates in Round 3.” Note the emphasis on excellent… If your candidacy is anything less than excellent, then you probably won’t get into Stanford in Round 3, although the same can be said about the earlier rounds, too.

If you apply in Round 3, you also may need overcome the question of “Why are you applying now, and not five months ago?” This is especially crucial if you’re presenting a story of how earning an MBA has been a lifelong ambition, one that you’ve been planning for years. Of course, situations change and force applicants to apply a little earlier than originally planned (e.g., losing one’s job), and other things hold an applicant back from applying sooner (e.g., taking the GMAT again to try to earn a significantly better score), and admissions officers are open-minded about these reasons, but you do need to be mindful of the message you send if you apply in Round 3… Is yours a well planned application that just so happened to arrive in March, or is the result of a hasty whim? Those are two very different applicant profiles, and you want to be sure to present yourself as the former.

If you’re in the “Round 3 or wait?” conundrum right now, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice in the coming days!