This post was first published in 2016 and so the policies and practices discussed here have probably since been changed -- and oh hey look at this, they have! Kudos to Harvard for getting rid of Round 3.
First it was MIT announcing a new Round 3 this year (for ages and ages, MIT had only two rounds, one in the Fall and one in January).
Cornell has been all over the map with their rounds, going from four rounds through 2012, then down to three in 2013, and back to four again now but with non-standard due dates — and for the past few years, keeping a “rolling” process open to accept new applications even after their final deadline had passed.
Somewhere in there, INSEAD and NYU both went to four rounds instead of three. They claimed it was to standardize their cycle compared to other schools.
Now we hear that Duke’s application “will remain open” (their words) even though their last deadline closed ten days ago. They’ll now accept applications through April 25th.
What’s going on with these schools?
It’s common for schools to send out tickler emails to anyone who’s started an app but not yet submitted it, to nudge them along to complete the form and get themselves in the hopper. Many times you’ll get a school encouraging you to try in Round 3; they always give some type of reassurance that they’ve left seats open for Round 3 candidates. You hear this on their late-season webinars and chats and you see it in the language they send to those straggler candidates who never pulled the trigger on submitting.
Call us skeptical, but EssaySnark is doubtful that these schools are advertising these opportunities to you because they want to give you a seat in their incoming classes. All this promotion of applying in the last round would imply that there is a chance you could actually make it in. Sure, there’s a chance, but…
We’ve called adcoms out on it before, specifically HBS for sending completely contradictory messages about exactly this.
Here’s the deal, Brave Supplicant: The number of applications a school receives has an impact on their rankings.
It is in THEIR best interest to get more of you to apply – even if there isn’t any room for you.
Sure, every now and then a superlative applicant will race in the door breathlessly saying “I only just now decided that I want an MBA and I must start immediately!” and their profile is strong enough (and differentiated enough) that they deserve a spot in an already-crowded class.
Those are the EXCEPTIONS.
Duke says they’re going to accept apps through April 25th – and issue decisions on May 6th. You’re saying that you can go through the entire process, including a mandatory interview, in that period of time?! If Duke is making a good-faith offer to you to apply, then either they’re not expecting to get many applications (since the only way they can realistically process them in such a short period is if they don’t get any) – or they’re not expecting that many of those applications will be worth pursuing.
We keep seeing schools say, “There’s no risk to applying now – we’re reapplicant friendly! It won’t hurt your chances next season [even though we’re going to reject you now].” (They don’t actually state that part in brackets but that’s what they mean.) Some of them even tout their opportunity for feedback as a big benefit. “If you don’t make it in, we’ll tell you why not in the summer!”
Yeah, and you’ll pay about $200 for privilege. And just FYI, while it’s always nice to be able to speak with someone in person about your application, it’s rare that those feedback sessions ever tell you anything directly useful. Heck, EssaySnark will give you a massive report walking through the strengths and weaknesses of your profile for cheaper! (The Comprehensive Profile Review will be MUCH more detailed – and actionable – than any 20-minute conversation with any adcom will be.) Don’t get us wrong, we applaud schools that offer feedback opportunities, but when they emphasize that in conjunction with a last-round app then be realistic that that’s what you’re getting for your app fee, in most cases, rather than a real shot at admission.
If you want to throw your hat in the ring for one of these last-gasp get-in-now-the-doors-are-closing schools, then OK fine, you should do it, but PLEASE manage expectations. If this is a Top 10 school then honestly we’d be shocked to hear that there’s much room left for their respective Class of 2018. If this school is further down on the rankings, then the chances are better, but still.
If you do proceed with this app, then PLEASE don’t stop working on your profile and improving your candidacy. This will be hyperimportant should you end up empty-handed and having to submit more apps in a few months’ time (aka Round 1).
And PLEASE recognize that more likely than not, you’re going to be enriching the school by adding your app fee to their admissions department’s revenue line, and boosting up their standing in the rankings game, and more than likely, for all that trouble, all you’re going to come away with is a stomach ache due to the disappointment.