The MBA Applications – When to Apply?

Each MBA candidate wonders about the best time to apply for admission into top tier business schools.

” Will my application be looked at more closely in R1? Or is it better if I move over the entire process to R2?”

For an international applicant, the dilemma of the best time to apply is very real. This is a very hotly debated topic with groups of people in favor of Round 1 and Round 2. Many business schools and admissions officers concur that there is not much difference in the opportunity to interview (or get admitted!), regardless of whether you apply in R1 or R2. However, opinions vary.

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Some people believe that applying early will demonstrate your level of readiness, motivation and enthusiasm. Moreover, admissions officers just begin reviewing applications and therefore are more attentive and receptive. All the seats are yet to be filled and the chances of landing financial aid are also high. So, if you’ve already researched on your choice of colleges (maybe during the GMAT preparation stage) and appeared for your GMAT it’s best to apply now.

Arguments in support of R2 claim that it is during this time, the schools generally fill up about 50% of their seats and the evaluation criteria may be a bit more relaxed as compared to R1. In my opinion, this is not necessarily true because the volumes of applications also increase considerably, making the selection process similar to R1. And business schools do follow the same selection criteria for both the rounds! Moreover, some seats are already filled up and in addition to other R2 applicants; you’re also competing with those waitlisted in R1.

R2 gives you the opportunity to still apply to your dream colleges in case you were not able to start early, the most common one being a poor GMAT score you wanted to improve. You have a promotion in the pipeline, which you might get before the R2 cycle or a critical project lined up which will significantly demonstrate your leadership skills. The additional 2-3 months you get to build a stronger CV can work to your advantage. For whatever reason, if you just cannot apply earlier, its best to submit in R2, rather than defer your application plans by a whole year!

I always encourage candidates to gear up, get ready and apply early- but never at the cost of quality. Do not however, be in a rush to complete your applications just because you want to make the R1 deadline. It really is as simple as- ” Apply in that round when you can give your 100% to your applications.”

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Many applicants find it challenging to complete all applications within the first round, especially if they are applying to more than 3-4 schools. A good strategy for them is to target a few schools in the first round and keep a few in the second. The ones with rolling deadlines of course allow immense flexibility but the trick is to begin planning a schedule for specific schools to target in each round and in order of preference.

About R3

Is it even worth trying?

Undoubtedly, getting admission at any top business school in R3 is extremely challenging. A majority of the seats are already filled up and often; schools are looking for candidates with very specific profiles. This is definitely disastrous for other candidates, especially international candidates. Business schools also understand that if you are serious about your MBA plans, you should be applying in the earlier rounds. The fact that you’re applying in R3 can lead the school to assume that they were not your first choice. As an international applicant, it’s best to post pone your application by a few more months and apply from a position of strength in the oncoming R1 deadlines.

What about Rolling Deadlines?

Many European schools follow a rolling deadlines process, which means they review applications as and when they receive them and typically start giving out decisions within 4-6 weeks of application review. If applying to European schools, its best to apply in the earlier months so as to maximize your chances of getting an admit.

A word of caution

Many Indian applicants (almost all of them holding impressive positions with fantastic companies) procrastinate and delay the process of the application for as long as they can. R1 gets delayed to R2 and applications end up getting completed hurriedly at the last minute and submitted seconds before the deadline!

The MBA journey is a very time consuming one and to be successful, it is imperative that you be committed to the process and dedicate a significant portion of your daily schedule to it! Remember the saying- ” The early bird catches the worm!”

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