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5 Reasons to Wait for Round 2 When Applying to Business School

This post was written by our friends at InGenius Prep.

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, there are only two rounds that matter: Round 1 or Round 2. To put it bluntly, you should never apply in Round 3.

There are a lot of reasons to apply in Round 1. It’s nice to get things done and over with early, to know whether or not you’re in by the holidays, to have more time to plan (or more likely, to knock things off your bucket list), and to start making friends with your future classmates.

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There is also a lot of pressure for “traditional” applicants to apply in Round 1. What I mean by traditional is people coming from finance or consulting backgrounds who attended strong undergraduate institutions, and have known that business school was in the short-term plan for years. In a sense, we’re talking people from competitive or overrepresented pools, including international applicants. As a traditional applicant, your direct competition (other traditional applicants with similar professional and personal backgrounds) will be applying in Round 1. Because a lot of these traditional applicants will be talented, a good number of them will be accepted, therefore leaving less spots for talented traditional applicants like yourself. So, if you know you’ve wanted to go to business school for years and come from a background where an MBA is part of the typical track, you should be prepared and ready to get your application in during Round 1.

But this is easier said than done. It’s not always possible to have the right amount of work experience, a strong GMAT score, a compelling application, a convenient break in your personal life, and everything in order come fall.  

Let’s zoom in on the reasons why Round 2 might be the best fit for you:

Reasons to Wait to Apply for Round 2:

  1. You just started a new job 6 months ago. In this case, you might not have had enough time to build a deep relationship with your manager, most likely resulting in a less than stellar letter of recommendation. Because letters of recommendation are an extremely important part of the process, you want to spend time building that relationship — professionally and personally. You want to prove yourself in the workspace, and you want to spend time getting to know your recommender. Go to drinks or coffee with that person, ask them questions, and position them as mentors to get them truly invested in your success.
  2. A promotion (or something else impressive) is in the works. If you’re just about to get promoted, close a big deal, win an award, or achieve something else impressive that will genuinely improve your candidacy between September and early January, then wait. Improve your resume, and apply as a better qualified candidate.
  3. You need more time to craft your application. Crafting a compelling application always takes longer than you expect. From the business school resumé, to the letters of recommendation, to the essays and short answers, it’s a lot of work! As a working professional, you probably haven’t had to write creative or personal essays since college (and if you were an econ or STEM major, probably since your college application personal statement). Answering questions like Stanford’s “what matters most to you and why?” or Harvard’s open-ended essay prompt “what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?” is hard. It takes time to brainstorm creative answers, to sit down and write your personal statement for business school, and to go through the taxing editing process. If your application isn’t ready to wow admissions officers, then wait, and keep working until it is.
  4. Your GMAT score is not where you want it to be. If you didn’t get the score you wanted the first or second time, and you think you can get a higher score, then take the time necessary to get a better score. It’s okay if that means re-taking the GMAT in the fall, securing that score, then working on your applications to be ready to submit in Round 2.
  5. Personal reasons! We realize that you are human beings who have lives outside of applying to business school. Sometimes, things just happen, and that’s okay. You have to make the best of whatever situation you are in, and if that means applying in Round 2, that is okay (and if this reason is concrete or sudden, you might consider bringing this up in your application).  

Obviously, there are no formulas for determining in which round you should apply. But as you make your decision, remember: never apply in Round 3. If you’re applying as a traditional applicant in a competitive or overrepresented pool, plan accordingly to apply in Round 1. If you’re not the above candidate or if any of the five reasons above apply, then apply in Round 2.

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