Today’s Guest Post is By: John Lyon, MBA Admissions Expert at inGenius prep; Former Director of Admissions: Wharton & Stern; Former Assistant Director of Admissions: Stanford Graduate School of Business
A lot of people ask me when they should submit their applications to business school. Almost always, the answer is: “as soon as you can submit a high quality application.” If you haven’t been procrastinating, this will mean submitting your applications in the first round. However, there are a few wrinkles to this simple piece of advice, which are the focus of this article.
In case you are new to business school applications, it is important that you understand the unique multi-round application system. Rather than have a single deadline for all applicants, business schools have three distinct “rounds” during which applicants may submit their applications. Needless to say, this causes a great deal of worry among applicants.
While numbers vary year-to-year and school-to-school, most business schools tend to get around 30% of their applicants in Round 1, slightly more than half of their applicants in Round 2, and a small proportion (usually around 10% to 15%) in Round 3.
As you’ve probably guessed, applying in Round 3 (or “R3”) is not the wisest decision if you’re applying to a competitive business school. At that point, much of the class has already been filled, and admissions officers are just trying to “fill in the pieces.” Thus, unless you are a truly unique and standout applicant – more of a rarity than you would think – chances are pretty good that R3 is not for you. Even if you were such an applicant, you stand to gain very little by putting off your applications until that final round.
What about R1 vs. R2? Well, here is where it gets a little more complicated. For a long time, admissions offices stuck to the hard-and-fast line that R1 and R2 were roughly equal. Recently, they have started expressing a slight preference for R1, which is probably consistent with reality. That is, while R2 is perfectly fine, R1 is probably your best bet if you want every advantage you can get.
You might be wondering, “Why is R1 better?” – this is a good question. A colleague of mine who worked in admissions at Kellogg and Booth put it bluntly: “When your application is assessed, you are compared to the applicants in your round. Thus, if you apply in the second round, there are more applicants to compare you to. If you are a strong candidate but not an obvious “shoo-in,” then you run the risk of fading into the crowd if you apply in R2.”
If you work in banking, consulting, or finance, these words are especially salient. The truth is that the “big hitters” of R1 are typically individuals applying from jobs in consulting and finance. After R1, there are only so many spots remaining for another McKinsey consultant or Goldman i-banker. Thus, if you are one of the many applicants applying from these jobs, you would do well to apply as early as possible.
Bottom line? If you are a strong but otherwise unremarkable candidate, R1 is your best bet. This is especially true if you’re applying from jobs in finance and/or consulting. Unless there are some highly extenuating circumstances, it’s almost always best to avoid R3.
John Lyon is a counselor at inGenius prep, an admissions counseling company that helps students improve their candidacy and perfect their applications for college and professional schools. To learn more about how inGenius can help you with your business school aspirations, you can visit their website or facebook page.