MBA Application Rounds: What’s the best time to apply?

Perfect Timing! Apply at the “right” time, and your MBA admission is all smooth sailing. Apply at the “wrong” time, and you could get relegated to the wait list, or even worse, get rejected.

While much of this belief is an “urban legend”, and while “timing is NOT everything”, it certainly is important. Here’s what you need to know about MBA Application timelines.

Rounds-Based Admissions

Most U.S. and many International schools accept application in Rounds. This means that your entire application needs to be submitted by a certain deadline.

For example, the 2017 Round 1 deadline for Harvard Business School is September 7, 2016 at 12 noon EST. To be considered for Round 1, your essays, resume, transcripts, recommendation letters, and the official GMAT score report must all be received by the Admissions Office by the deadline. If at least one of the components of your application is missing, your application will be automatically moved to Round 2.

Round-based admissions also mean that your application will not be reviewed before the application deadline, so technically there is no benefit in applying earlier vs. later within the same round (of course, it’s always better to have a “buffer” in case of last minute delays – the last thing you want to do is submit your application at 11.59).

When you apply in a specific Round, you’re guaranteed to receive a decision by the published deadline. This is helpful if you’re applying to multiple schools and want to hear from them around the same time.

Rolling Admissions

Most Canadian and some International schools offer Rolling Admissions. This means that your application will be reviewed within a certain time (usually 4-6 weeks) after it is submitted, but could be evaluated much sooner if you’re applying during a “slower” season.

Many schools that operate on a rolling admissions basis still publish round deadlines, however these timelines are often recommendations, rather than strict deadlines. If you don’t submit your entire application package by the published deadline, you won’t need to wait until the next round to hear back from the school.

What is the common cause of application delays?

The most common “missing pieces” of MBA applications are GMAT scores and recommendation letters.

If you’re applying to a school with round-based admissions, you MUST have the entire application submitted by the deadline. If at least one piece is missing, you’ll be considered in the next round.

If you’re applying to a school with rolling admissions, your application will be reviewed when all pieces of the application are received by the admissions office. Some business schools will do pre-assessments and may get back to you even before receiving your GMAT score or the missing recommendation letter, but this will be up to the AdCom’s discretion and may depend on the strength of your application.

When should I apply?

We’ve asked this question to Admissions directors from many business schools, including Wharton, Berkeley Haas, Michigan Ross, Darden, Duke Fuqua, Schulich, Rotman and McGill, and always got the same answer: The EARLIER you submit your BEST application, the better.

Generally speaking, you have a better chance of getting in when you apply early. Fewer seats will already be taken. More scholarships will still be available. And, just in case you don’t get into your top choice school(s), you may still have a chance to apply to your backup schools later in the year.

If you’re ready to apply in Round 1, there is no reason to wait till Round 2 (more on this in our next blog). However, if your application is not yet strong – for example, if you need to rewrite your GMAT to get a better score, or if you’ve only recently began working with an MBA Admissions Consultant and want to give yourself enough time to prepare the best possible application – it would be best to apply in the next round, when you’ll have a much better application ready.

What if I don’t get in during Round 1, could I still reapply?

A simple answer is no. You will not be able to reapply in later rounds in the same application year, however you could apply the next year if your profile will change considerably, or if you could prepare a much better application package.

Put your best foot forward, the first time around. Plan ahead and apply early.

Next week… we’ll look at pros and cons of applying in each round, and will share tips on timing your application to multiple schools. Don’t miss it!

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