We know some of you are seriously stressing out right now. You had every intention of making Round 1 happen, and yet Real Life conspired, and now you’re not where you had planned to be.
Should you just plan to take advantage of Round 2 instead?
This is a legit question!! And it completely depends on which schools you’re targeting, and also if you have submitted to any at all in Round 1 already, or if you’re close to doing so. We’ll cover the case first where someone has not managed to get very far on essays for any school yet, with no apps in. Check back tomorrow for a more nuanced question when a BSer is looking at a multi-round strategy.
So here’s the deal: If you’re trying for the most competitive schools, and you’re in a competitive class: We’d really prefer to see you submit now. For example, if someone has a profile that’s qualified, then submitting Wharton in Round 1 is the way to go. (Just as one example).
But this advice only holds if the essays are good enough! Even if you’re qualified, a subpar set of essays is not going to help. You have to be SUPER qualified and super differentiated for the essays to have a nil effect on your equation. Bad essays can most definitely keep you out. Decent essays with a good profile can totally get you the interview. Great essays…. yeah maybe it’s too late for that. So let’s deal with reality. What state is your essay game in? Is it enough to submit? Are you sure?
As we’ve heard one admissions director say, “Don’t be in a rush to get rejected.”
This season is a weird one. Last year was too, and this one apparently more of the same. As you hear in the media, applications are down, which would imply that Round 2 is going to be viable. When apps are up, Round 1 becomes more important. So then if apps are down, wouldn’t that make the “Apply in Round 1” rule less critical?
Not really, and that’s because apps are not down across the board in every category of candidate, and also because apps aren’t really down that much at all. Not calling it ‘fake news’ but yeah, the media has hyped the situation. It makes for great headlines. However, in reality, the sky is not falling, nor is the bottom falling out of the MBA market.
One possible approach would be, try to get as far as you can with those essays — heck, you still have at least a week for most of the top schools. That’s really quite a lot of time! Then you can decide, after you have put forth your best effort. Then, if the first drafts just aren’t coming together, then, yes, punt to Round 2.
What if you haven’t done a smidgen of research yet? Well, that’s an issue, more so for some schools than others. Getting onto campus isn’t necessarily the critical success factor for most school so don’t let that be the reason you defer. (Unless you’re in the U.S., and close enough to the school that you’re sort of in their backyard — then yeah, they would wonder if you didn’t manage to get your butt up to see them before applying. Still not a reason to push them out, but a glitch.) However, yes definitely, talking to students can be hugely helpful, especially if you’re aiming for a school like Wharton or Columbia. They have questions that pretty much ask you to prove your love in that way.
However, this is also about realistically evaluating your priorities. For example, if Kellogg is a priority for you above others, then obviously prioritizing efforts is smart. What if you can get only one in for Round 1? One school could still be an advantage. It puts a major wrinkle into planning later on, in case you luck into an admit there, but you still want to see if other schools might say yes, too. Then you’d be sitting on a situation where you may have to pay a deposit to hold your spot there, while you work through the cycle of the others, and see where everything lands. It’s not the worst problem in the world, but can be a more expensive way to go. A
Some schools this year can be safely moved to Round 2. These might include places like Tuck, Ross, NYU, Cornell, even maybe Berkeley Haas — for specific candidate pools. If you’re a male engineer from India, Round 1 really is important at Haas. It’s completely dependent on your profile and the program. (Blatant self-promotion: Our Comprehensive Profile Review will lay out these priorities — not that we believe you should be procrastinating another few days while you get that turned around and into your hands, but as a way to help you set strategy overall, it’s found by most to be a priceless investment.)
Again, it’s way more important to apply when you’re strongest!!! But what happens with lots of BSers we work with every year is, we have this conversation at this stage of the cycle, where they’ve realized they’re out of time on Round 1, so they push a few apps to Round 2. But then they fritter away the months in between, and all of a sudden, dang, how did that happen? We’re in December, and they’re in the same exact boat, scrambling to put stuff together without any more time.
Procrastination is real for everyone, and it’s way harder in December when everyone is doing vacations and holiday stuff. So applying early is better for so many reasons!! Plus, you don’t want to be writing essays all the way through for the next four months. However, even worse is getting through Round 1, and then putting it aside and having to dust it all off again and re-learn these techniques later on. Ugh! Nobody likes that; it’s truly painful.
So as unpleasant as it is, then unless you have some MAJOR personal things going on right now that you cannot de-prioritize, making Round 1 happen for as many of these schools as you can would be wise.
We’re loathe to categorize this as “planning your strategy” because this is more like, “Dude, you blew it, we TOLD you that this was gonna happen” but it is what it is, and you’re in this position now, so what are you going to do to salvage the season?