As we started yesterday, in the category of “Oh crap! How did this happen?!??” aka Yes, Round 1 is here!
Here’s the thing:
Regardless of how awesome your profile may be, you should still have a balanced strategy if you’re committed to sitting in a bschool classroom next Fall. That means including a less-competitive school somewhere in the mix. “Less-competitive” is relative to your profile; someone with a very differentiated profile will have a different “less competitive” school than someone who is in a very crowded pool.
Now, some people are “HBS or bust!” and that’s totally fine. The MBA is very expensive and it’s a major investment in time and effort and disruption to everyday life – and the ROI is not there for all BSers. Some people will do just fine on the current career trajectory that they’re on, and they’ve determined that unless they can go to H/S/W, then it’s not worth it. Totally your prerogative if that’s your position.
We also aren’t suggesting that you go for a safety school. If there was ever a soul-crushing concept, “safety school” is it. However, you also have to be realistic. Some people wildly overestimate the strength of their profile. Sometimes a stretch school is a safety but most often, the opposite is true. These labels and categorizations are completely dependent on the specifics of your situation. There is no universal “safety” or “stretch”; it can only be assessed in the context of your own application.
So back to the topic at hand: If you’ve got a well-thought-out list of full-season targets, and you had planned to get five of them done in Round 1, and at this point after now recognizing how much work needs to go into each, you’re starting to think maybe three is a better number to reasonably pull off in the next four weeks, and you’re trying to figure out which ones…
The obvious choice is to move the less-competitive schools to Round 2. In many cases, this is the inverse of how prestigious or popular a school is — but not always. There are some schools that may surprise you at how hard it is to get in, based on how selective they are (Berkeley Haas being one) and there are others that are not quite as odds-defyingly difficult as you could expect (Booth, Tuck, Duke being some). You have opportunity to juggle your strategy based on these factors.
You also need to carefully consider the reasons you’re pushing a school out. If you’re doing it because you know you can do better on the GMAT and you have an actual retest date already scheduled for October, it could make sense to move, say, Kellogg to Round 2 — but only if you’re confident you’re going to improve (and we know, that’s a tough thing to assess). A lower GMAT app in Round 1 compared to a (hopefully??) higher GMAT app in Round 2 is sometimes a tough call to make. This is, again, a case where we would need more details of your exact profile to offer any substantive advice. For some people, yes, pushing to Round 2 in this case would totally be worth it. For others, absolutely not, a push into Round 1 is key.
You just need to be honest with yourself.
How much do you REALLY want to go to School X?
How competitive is School X? Do you know? Is it just a favored school on the applicant boards, or is it really hard to break into? (No, these are not always the same.)
How much will you REALLY work on your apps between now and December?
That’s really the crucial question to answer.
Some people definitely will take full advantage of having a few extra months.
Others? Nah. They’ll just fall back into procrastination mode — the same behaviors that got them into this boat today. Despite all the best intentions, and all the self-promises, it’s often a tough hurdle to overcome. An object at rest stays at rest; a BSer not writing essays stays not writing essays. Many people say, “OK, I’ll get these first apps in, and the others, yeah Round 2 is fine, and I’ll use all this time to make them better.” And then they never pick up that later app again until two weeks before deadline, so they end up not actually making it any stronger than if they’d just pushed through and finished it at the earlier round.
So just be straight with yourself. Don’t set yourself up for more heartache. Make some clear-headed decisions.
If anybody tells you that you don’t really have to submit in Round 1 to make it in, they are not wrong — but they’re also not helping you. Round 1 is an advantage, always and forever, at any of the schools you’re considering. It’s a more critical advantage at certain schools; at others, Round 2 is just fine. Go into this knowing your options, and make a plan, and execute. Don’t let it all happen by accident. That’s not a way to live a good life.
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