As you surely know, business schools break up their admissions season into rounds: one usually in early October (Round 1) or in September if you’re HBS or MIT or Yale, and the next in early January (Round 2), and the last in March or April. With few exceptions, all top schools use this model. A smattering of other schools (NYU, Tuck) have variations on this though they generally map out to a similar pattern.
If the schools set things up this way, then there should be equal odds of admission in all three rounds, right?
Many schools are open about the fact that their last round is more challenging because there are few spots available by the time springtime rolls around. But most schools insist that there’s no difference in your chances between the first two rounds. They admit the vast majority of their students from applications received from October to January, and they claim the odds of admission are no greater for Round 1 versus Round 2. Is that true?
In our years of providing MBA admissions consulting services to a wide variety of candidates, and helping Brave Supplicants with applications to every school out there, we have not found this to be so. We see applicants have an easier time getting in through a Round 1 application every year.
In other words, the same applicant gets an acceptance or two in Round 1 but doesn’t get anywhere in Round 2; or, candidates with very similar profiles have very different outcomes based on which rounds they apply in. EssaySnark is convinced that Round 1 is an advantage. We’ve seen it play out that way for many years now.
Submitting in an early round is a clear indication to the school that you have your act together. It’s a positive sign. This alone will not move the needle on an otherwise-flawed application, and applying in an earlier round would never be a sole reason for the school to admit you. However, applying earlier fits in the category of EQ (emotional intelligence): It shows the adcom that you’ve planned ahead, and are responsible and mature and all that. It can’t hurt to be emphasizing these qualities in such a subtle yet direct way.
We’re going to continue our discussion of this very important topic over the next few days. We also point you to our evergreen post, What’s This Early Action Nonsense Anyway, for a demystification of the unique processes that a few schools offer. And, there are situations when a Round 1 application is not advisable, which we will also be touching on. This is not a simple question, Brave Supplicant.
If you’re applying to Columbia, you really should get the SnarkStrategies Guide, since it discusses these seriously important questions on timing and advantages in depth.
Here's what others have said about this:
@ES: Interesting topic. On its website, Stanford explicitly states the advantage of applying early. http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/admission/application_deadlines.html
Although I am really inclined to submit for round 1, I am expecting some "career progression" in Nov. I feel like this would be worth adding to my application. Do you think it's worth waiting?
@Elastigirl, yes they do recommend R1 (we talk about this in the GSB SnarkStrategies Guide – not only do you want to apply in R1 but you should get your app into Stanford before the deadline). Unfortunately it's impossible for us to say one way or another what you should do without a full review of your profile and circumstances. Sometimes a promotion or new job is absolutely worth a delay in the app – but sometimes it's something that wouldn't really make a big difference, esp if the profile is already strong.
Perhaps you can have your recommender (direct supervisor) talk about your upcoming "career progression" and still submit in R1? It wouldn't carry the same weight if it's not actually been made official but it might be a worthwhile compromise.
@ES: Thanks for such a prompt reply! I've been refreshing my browser constantly 🙂
Okay, Im just going to say what it is (hopefully without jinxing it!)
My company offers a leadership development program every other year. For this program, the senior management team hand-picks a cohort of around 7-8 individuals, and I have been asked if I'd like to partake this year. As a part of the program, you are mentored by a VP or c-level executive, you are taught new skills, participate in board meetings, and also visit DC to meet with the company's lobbyists and congressional reps. All this is unofficial as of now, but I personally think this is huge! The program officially starts in November and is 6 months long.
@Elastigirl – sorry we actually meant that we'd need to see your WHOLE profile in order to evaluate this one! Yes that looks like an interesting opportunity but we're still not convinced it's worth delaying an app for. Maybe so, maybe not. Again, it would need to be assessed within the context of your entire profile – but with the competitiveness of the GSB, if they give any indication of an advantage (they who are normally so very tight-lipped about all such matters), then personally, EssaySnark would take advantage. Just sayin'!
@ES: hmmm…I'm not sure I want to post my whole profile on the blog; perhaps i'll email it you. Also, I didn't quite understand this part of your reply: "but with the competitiveness of the GSB, if they give any indication of an advantage, then personally, EssaySnark would take advantage." Please clarify 🙂 Also, thank you so much for being this helpful and prompt with my questions!
@Elastigirl – sorry again – that full profile review is probably out of scope for what we're providing for free here on the blog (and we definitely did not expect you to post it!!! we're fans of anonymity 😉
What we were trying to say in earlier comment is that given how competitive the GSB is, and given the fact that the GSB adcom doesn't tip their cards about ANYTHING in terms of what's "better" for a candidate applying to their school (beyond the fact that they want you to be authentic) — we feel that applying in R1 is important at Stanford since they've come right out and said that it's better. Hope that clarifies!!!
@ES: Oh okay, I see what you mean :). Also, I was planning on using your paid email service for a profile evaluation. Is that going to be okay? Plus, it will probably be a couple of weeks before I send you that email. 🙂
Your post is right on time as I'm debating R1 vs R2 in my head right now. For me the issue is that I'm planning on applying to some schools through the consortium and I won't find out whether or not I've been offered a full or partial consortium scholarship until about a week after I need to submit a deposit to the non-consortium schools. The key question I need to answer is whether I would go to the non-consortium school (even if they offer me little to no money) over the consortium school with a scholarship. Decisions, decisions…
@Cassiopeia – it's an important question, and one you may not know the answer to until you actually have offers in hand. We have a Brave Supplicant just a few months ago ask our opinion about going to a very good Top 15 school with a full ride, and going to Wharton with no money. She was torn. What do you think you'd do in that situation?
Obviously this is a VERY personal decision, and one that requires assessment of career goals as a primary factor… but still, a good exercise to go through. EssaySnark is convinced you won't REALLY know what to do in such a case until you're faced with it as a reality though.
So let's do a non-rhetorical exercise everyone: Which would you choose?
For a top 15 school full-ride vs. Wharton at full cost for my career aspirations, I'd take Wharton. With that said, student loans are a huge burden and if any of the other schools that I applied to had offered me a full ride, it would have been very tough to say no to it.
Actually, I change my mind. If a top 15 school (assuming something along the lines of Anderson/Ross/Darden/Yale) offered a full ride PLUS a living stipend, I'd take that over Wharton. As someone who will be paying more in rent than tuition over the next two years, the tuition isn't the problem!
It would really depend on the top 15 school. If we're talking Haas, then I'd likely choose Haas due to location (I wouldn't have to relocate, and UC Berkeley has a solid reputation in California). If we're talking Tuck, I'd really have to do a pros and cons chart. Neither school is particularly known for marketing/brand management. The Wharton brand might carry more weight outside of PA, but Tuck is an excellent school and its reputation is nothing to sneeze at. I would really have to go with my gut on a Tuck v. Wharton match up.
Replace Wharton with Kellogg or Stanford, and things just got more complicated. 🙂
A very belated update: This BSer made it into a variety of schools back when they applied, and chose Tuck!
@alex – some 'full rides' do indeed come w/ stipends, though that really doesn't change the situation too much in our opinion. People often overlook the fact that you have to pay living expenses to live, whether you're in bschool or not; those seem more like 'fixed costs' right? Shouldn't factor into the equation as much. The benefit of graduating with an MBA – WITHOUT any student loans – is truly significant, if you ask us. If that MBA is from one of the schools we're discussing, the offer has real appeal, even if a Wharton et al is also on the table.
@Cassiopeia – yes, it certainly does depend on "which" Top 15 school we're talking about, and what the Brave Supplicant wants to do with her career after school. In this hypothetical of course, we can assume that you didn't apply to a school you didn't want to go to. 🙂 Tuck, BTW, is a Top 5 school in our opinion, but these rankings are very malleable. In our experience, the schools just outside the Top 10 tend to be a little more liberal with their offers of $$ for those candidates they really want.
Interesting, though, that you would have a tougher time with the decision if it was Kellogg on the opposite side. (In our opinion, if you get into Stanford, you go to Stanford, though some people do in fact turn them down every year – for HBS!)
These are tricky decisions. We had a client one year who papered the country with applications. We told her to focus, since her profile was strong and we were convinced she'd get into the schools she was targeting, but she was an overachiever and she basically applied everywhere. And she got in almost everywhere! Anderson, Haas, Columbia, Booth… And then she was TORMENTED by the decision. Several schools offered her money; her top choice – Kellogg – did not. Sure, plenty of people would kill to be in that position, but it was pretty darn tough for her.
Moral of the story: Knowing *why* you are applying to a school *in advance of applying* will (shockingly) be helpful – not only in your essays, but if you end up GETTING ACCEPTED.
@ES: Nice! 🙂
I completely agree!
I have come across some people who are ridiculously bad at judging for themselves the impact of certain images on their professional standing. And these were otherwise bright, educated folks. I think some people have literally taken their offline world online, and do not understand that the difference in privacy levels that that entails.
@Samudra, it's a very good point, and it's becoming more and more important. Even a few years ago, it was unlikely that an adcom member would do an Internet search for a candidate when reviewing an app; these days, "it's all fair game" as one of them put it in a discussion with us on this topic. Having an awareness of how you might be perceived based on your online activity is pretty important!!