Part 1: Is ‘Round 3’ the Right Target for Your MBA Application?

Conventional wisdom:  Round 1 (September/October) and Round 2 (January) application deadlines are the only targets that a serious MBA applicant should ever consider. As the admissions committee allocates a finite number of seats, and the wait list only grows, a Round 3 applicant’s chances for acceptance are nil. So, if you miss R1 and R2, you’re better off waiting until the following year to apply.

Fact:  That is untrue, inaccurate and misleading.

First of all, the acceptance rates for R3 candidates among top-tier schools are surprisingly high. It’s been reported that, as recently as 2015, MBA programs such as Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Michigan Ross, Dartmouth Tuck, Duke Fuqua, UVA Darden and NYU Stern had double-digit (>15%) admissions percentages for Round 3 applicants. So, consider that myth busted.

Now that you know you have a shot at success in R3 at some excellent MBA programs, it’s time for introspection and self-assessment. Does your situation require that you apply now rather than wait until next fall? Why should you submit this spring? Here are five scenarios that would justify a Round 3 campaign:

1. You’ve nearly completed this year’s applications.
There’s a strong likelihood that your target schools will change their recommendation questions, essays, short-answer questions and/or application process next year. If you’ve invested substantial time and effort in preparing your application, and don’t want to see that work go to waste, then consider pursuing R3 deadlines. Even if your apps are done and ready, there’s no benefit in submitting them more than a few days before the cutoff date. So, why not confirm and improve the quality by having your applications reviewed by an admissions expert such as The MBA Exchange?
2. Your professional profile is in doubt.
Perhaps you anticipate a layoff or termination within the next few months. Or maybe you feel compelled to leave your present job without having a new job in place. Either way, a significant gap in your employment history or applying to b-school while unemployed is not going to make you a stronger MBA candidate. So, if you’re facing such risk and uncertainty, it may be better for you to apply to business school in R3 while you’re in your current position.
3. Your personal situation is in limbo.
Is your significant other considering a new job or planning to enroll in grad school this fall? Is your apartment lease due to expire this summer? Do you have family obligations that make relocation a current priority? If your life is telling you to attend b-school sooner rather than later, then consider R3.
4. Your academic stats are respectable but below average.
MBA admissions committees bolster their schools’ rankings by admitting as many “GPA and GMAT superstars” as possible during Rounds 1 and 2. So, once a school knows that its incoming class as a whole will have strong numbers, they can lower the bar just a bit to consider R3 applicants whose professional and/or personal attributes outshine a modest academic history. If you’ve peaked on the GMAT or GRE despite multiple attempts and costly tutors, and simply can’t imagine re-testing, then R3 might be perfect for you.
5. You have no need or expectations for merit-based financial aid.
By the time Round 3 rolls around, most business schools have committed most or all of their funds for fellowships, grants and scholarships. So, as long as you’re not counting on merit-based aid to help you afford an MBA education, then R3 application timing is not a constraint or problem.
If any of the above situations resonate with you, don’t waste another minute wondering if you should apply to business school in Round 3. Just do it. There’s no downside or risk. And you may discover this is actually the ideal time for you to pursue that goal.Only one thing is 100% certain – if you don’t apply, then you will have zero chance of being accepted.

Coming soon: Part 2 of this blog post, featuring even more examples of MBA candidates who should consider applying in Round 3.