Should I Apply to Business School in Round 3 or Round 1?

This question torments thousands of future MBA applicants every year shortly after Round 2 deadlines have passed. Such candidates wrestle with the dilemma of whether to push themselves now to produce applications for Spring deadlines vs. take more time by aiming for Fall deadlines. By advising thousands of applicants over the past three decades, The MBA Exchange has helped a wide range of individuals evaluate the variables and make the right choice.

To ensure an informed, confident decision about application timing, here are 3 key considerations for you to address:

1. Is it absolutely essential that I enroll in business school this Fall rather than next Fall?
If your current professional standing and/or personal obligations don’t allow you the flexibility to start your MBA education 20 months from now, then you have no choice but to go for Round 3 deadlines for enrollment this Fall. However, if you can still advance your career and maintain your relationships without any major stress or sacrifice, then applying in Round 1 remains an option.

2. Can I become more competitive if I extend my admissions campaign by 6 months?
If having additional time for your campaign would allow you to maximize your GMAT or GRE score, mitigate a soft GPA, bolster your non-work leadership profile, cultivate stronger recommendations, engage significantly with MBA students and alumni, aim for more selective schools, etc., then applying in Round 1 makes good sense. However, if you believe your current candidacy is as solid as it can be, then pursuing the upcoming Round 3 deadlines is something to consider.

3. Is my current candidacy truly distinctive, non-traditional and compelling?
It’s a fact that there are fewer seats available at most b-schools in Round 3. However, this is the time that admissions committees seek applicants who can round out the class profile that’s been established during Round 1 and 2. So, do you have more meaningful work experience than the average MBA applicant? Do you come from an industry or function that is underrepresented among typical admits at your target schools? Is your personal background unique and intriguing? If so, then you could be the kind of applicant who catches the eye of the adcom and lands one of the last seats to be filled.

Are you still perplexed about when to apply? Well, here’s some great news – you don’t have to make that decision yet. The MBA Exchange invites you to get a free expert evaluation of your candidacy to help you see where you stand today and what you need to do to maximize your chances for admission.

Furthermore, even if you’re still unsure about application timing at that point, you can start with a “phased” admissions campaign. By focusing first on optimizing your candidacy, you’ll retain both options – Round 3 and Round 1 – until you’re ready to start preparing the applications. At that point, you’ll know exactly how competitive you are and whether you should push for R3 or cruise for R1.

As stressful as this timing decision feels, once you make it and launch your admissions campaign, the path to enrolling in business school instantly becomes more clear and comfortable. So, don’t postpone the start of your journey any longer than necessary. Whether you apply in Round 3 or Round 1, every day you delay is lost time that you could be using to make your b-school dream a reality.