We did a variation of this post in September – Should you submit in Round 1? – and now here we are, the end of the first week of December, and Round 2 is just around the corner — man, how did that happen?? It’s crazy how quickly the calendar page turns when there are application deadlines on the horizon.
So. Now we have a whole new (mostly) crop of BSers who are struggling with the dilemma of whether to submit. In this case, our answer is different. Well sortof.
The tl;dr of that Round 1 advice post was, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.
Which means: If you’re a slacker and you know you’re a slacker, and you know that giving yourself more time is not going to change anything except to put yourself in this same position of agony again at the next deadline, then do all in your power to get those apps in gear and ready to submit.
That’s also the best advice we can give for Round 2, however there are important nuances to take into consideration at this stage.
For starters, as you hopefully already know, it’s Do or Die time. Round 2 is it. It’s your last dance with Mary Jane. Round 3 at most schools (particularly if you’re in an especially crowded candidate pool) is a total no-go.
If you’re aiming to be sitting in a bschool classroom in the Fall, you need to have your application ducks in a row right about now.
This means that in many cases, we often suggest BSers apply even when we, and they, know they’re not totally ready.
What do we mean by “not ready”?
1. You took the GMAT, and maybe even took it again, and it’s still low.
You’re running out of time to be doing GMAT stuff now. If you’re still prepping for the test in December, then that means you’re not writing essays — and anyone trying for Round 2 really needs to be writing essays by now. The only exception to that “you need to be writing essays” rule is if you landed multiple interviews in Round 1 and you are prancing like a 2-year-old colt at the racetrack, all jittery and nervous for those decisions to finally come out next week so you know if you made it over the finish line or not.
If you landed a single interview, or if all your apps were to interview-everyone schools like Tuck and Kellogg, then you really should be writing essays right about now.
Who else would we be calling “not ready” — but who should be moving full speed ahead for Round 2 anyway?
2. You have done bupkiss by way of school research.
This is the BSer who took the GMAT a long time ago, like maybe in May, and ended up with a decent score, and then sat back on his Good Intentions and did nothing thereafter. This BSer let Round 1 breeze on past without even sticking his thumb out to try and hitch a ride. There has been some halfhearted efforts like maybe picking up a SnarkStrategies Guide and flipping through, or signing up for a school’s webinar (which they did, or did not, manage to participate in).
In this case, the advice is, GET MOVING NOW. You can’t exactly make up for lost time in regards to the missed opportunity of a campus visit, and most schools have few chances to engage with them now that we’re already in December, but there’s still effort you can make to learn about a school and be better equipped to answer questions in their essays on things like “Why MBA?” and “Why this school?”
In both of these situations — the still-low GMAT BSer, and the no-school-research BSer — we do recommend applying for a couple schools this round. HOWEVER, we also recommend a dose of reality. Round 2 is when most schools get the bulk of their applications, and for some candidate pools, it’s much harder to break in if you look too much like the other guy (or gal) who submitted in Round 1 and already was accepted. The schools are striving for diversity, and if your profile is very common, Round 2 can be especially challenging.
If you’re not quite where you thought you would be and don’t feel altogether ready for Round 2, then you should still try — but do it with moderation. A conservative approach is recommender.
Any BSer in this category needs to put together a well-edited list of a select few schools to target now — say, no more than four. AND they need to have a good sense of which schools they might try for next season, to include this set of Round 2 schools, probably, along with some others. This BSer needs to not wallpaper the country with applications in Round 2 if they are not totally prepared and ready for this. If you do that, you’re setting things up to be very difficult next season. You need to save at least one or two of your favorite schools to apply to “fresh” next year, in case this mad dash to January does not result in apps of high-enough quality to make it in. You don’t want to waste your first-app advantage on every school you like and then create added difficulty in crafting your reapp pitch when it comes to Round 1 in the fall.
The other Very Important Step you need to be making NOW is to build your candidacy starting at Ground Zero. This means finding ways to create value in your current job, and identifying some initiatives that you can begin executing on today or in the very near future, that will pay off for you come next summer when it’s time to write these reapplicant essays.
Just in case.
That’s the main aspect of what we call a reapplicant strategy — which is the conservative approach.
If Round 2 will be your first applications, then you need to put a system in place so that you’re an even better candidate next year, in the event that this does not work out.
The gist of our advice when Round 1 deadlines were hitting was to not submit if you were not ready. At the time, we said to be honest with yourself, and if you knew you could do better on your apps, to hold off and not send them in.
Now you don’t have the luxury of another deadline on the horizon — at least, not for this season. Now in most cases you’ll want to be submitting in Round 2, even if your circumstances are not where you thought they would be.
There are some schools and some programs where a Round 3 application can still be viable, and who knows, if this year ends up being less competitive (which it seems like perhaps it has been so far? maybe?) then there may be some Top 20 schools with openings available in the March round of submission.
Getting in lots of apps in a short period of time guarantees you nothing except for a big hole in your bank account where all those app fees used to be. Remember, this is not a numbers game. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” is a ridiculous statement if you’re not prepared to take the shot.
Getting some apps in is still important. Provided you submit to well-considered schools, for well-considered reasons.
Should you try for HBS in Round 2?
There’s no harm in trying, except for the heartache of not getting in, and the hairs you will lose from pulling them out as you struggle with their difficult essay. HBS has no problem with reapplicants submitting again the next season, so you’re not hurting yourself to try for Harvard right now. Same goes for Stanford (same goes for the lost hairs too). Whether that effort is worth it, given you have limited time available and limited writing cycles that you can devote to your apps, is something for you to decide (often, we feel that BSers would gain much more from this process by being a tad bit more realistic at the outset, and allocating their resources accordingly, but we know how it is when people get starstruck).
If your GMAT isn’t where you know you could get it, then there’s no risk in trying for these schools today, but we also will tell you that crafting a strong application as a reapplicant can be WAY harder than it will be for writing it the first time, and your future self would likely be grateful if your current self sat on your hands and didn’t waste your first shot on the highest difficulty school when your profile wasn’t up to the task of carrying you in.
Again, choosing your targets carefully is critical at this stage.
Also, don’t mistake some very selective programs for “safety schools.” Duke, MIT, NYU…. these are not safety schools.
Just aim appropriately, and don’t waste all your bullets, and make sure you’re preparing for the possibility of a long road ahead.
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