Should I apply for an MBA in Round 3?

The ever so confusing Round 3. Why apply in Round 3? There are a number of valid reasons to do so – perhaps a recent job change or a sudden move has made you realize that business school in the fall would be a terrific path for you. Or, perhaps you were rejected from a couple of top tier schools in Round 1 or Round 2, but are still eager to begin business school this fall. Before spending the time and effort completing a Round 3 application, consider these points.

Know the odds.

The majority of MBA candidates have already been selected during the first two rounds. In some cases, 90% of the class has been admitted already. This leaves only a few spots for Round 3 students. In Round 3, schools are looking for candidates to fill in the gaps of the incoming class. At this point in the process there is limited space, making Round 3 the most competitive.

Tuck School of Business comments, “Tuck has had a Round 3 for a long time and frankly, we wouldn’t bother if it wasn’t worthwhile. All applicants are taken seriously by the admissions committee no matter which round they choose.” Wharton advises first-time applicants, “We encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2 as the majority of the class is selected during these Rounds.” If you have your sights set on a particular school, research their acceptance rates for each round.

What are you bringing to the table?

What are schools looking for in Round 3? Even more importantly, what sets your application apart? During Round 3, schools are often looking for standout candidates with unique backgrounds. If you have extensive volunteer experience overseas or held a leadership position in an atypical industry, then you should apply. Just be prepared to explain in an interview or on the application why you waited until Round 3. On the other hand, if your application is more aligned with the typical MBA candidate – say, two years full-time work in financial consulting – then you are better off waiting for Round 1 in the fall.

Is your application top-notch?

Would it be pushing it to submit your application for Round 3? Maybe you didn’t spend as much time polishing your essay or your GMAT scores aren’t quite where you want them. If you don’t feel that your application is outstanding, then it’s better to wait.

Consider what you may be missing out on.

If you apply and are accepted in Round 3, then you may be missing out on opportunities that will make the transition to business school more manageable. Most b-schools offer an Admitted Student weekend for the incoming class. These are typically offered to Round 1 and Round 2 accepted students but not for Round 3. If you are an international student and you apply and get accepted in Round 3, you may not have time to complete the visa application process. That amounts to a lot of added stress!

Additionally, on campus housing options may be limited for Round 3 admittees. At Stanford, if you apply in Round 3, you are only eligible for a limited number of rooms and are waitlisted in the housing lottery. Scholarships and grants tend to dwindle significantly for Round 3 candidates as well since deadlines for applying can be before Round 3 applications are due.

Final thoughts.

Before you spend time trying to submit a Round 3 application, consider if it is worth it. If you can’t put your best foot forward or if your application doesn’t have the pizzazz and glam the admissions directors might be looking for from a Round 3 applicant, then it’s better to wait until the fall. On the other hand, if you believe you have a standout application and you can’t wait to begin this next phase of your life, then go for it!