As we introduced recently, it’s Round 3 Debate Time! How do you make a decision on whether to try for an MBA in Round 3?
Are there standing rules for who should, or should not, try at this time of the season?
Are there schools that you should never try at for Round 3, or others that always offer a fair chance?
We’re going to dive into all such matters today!
This is about evaluating your priorities, and understanding what you’re up against, and most important, being honest with yourself.
We’re going to give a simple decision tree type of map for you to navigate if you’re thinking about whether or not a Round 3 project is in your future.
The first question is a basic one: Have you submitted any applications yet?
If not — if Round 3 will be your first-ever apps to any school — then most years, we’d caution you against trying for Round 3 at all. In the past, we’d suggested brand-new-fresh BSers should hold back. The reasons are that people coming in hot and hard for a Round 3 app as their very first attempts are often rushing things. They’re unlikely to be as prepared for the process as would be necessary to develop an app that will win at the very best schools.
The pithy advice that we heard from an admissions person once is, “Don’t be in a hurry to get rejected.” Your very first applications are going to be a big lift. Writing good essays is HARD — much harder than you may realize — and getting in to a top MBA program is difficult — again, much more difficult than you may appreciate if you’ve just started this process.
The reason that we draw a line in the sand and suggest that those who are hot to trot and ready to go consider not applying right now if they’ve not yet applied anywhere before is: You are fresh to the process. This freshness is an asset. Yet you may not know what you’re up against. Round 3 is a tough nut to crack, regardless of whether it’s a softer season or not. If you rush into things at this most difficult time, then you’re turning that freshness you’ve got going for yourself into a liability.
The fact that you’ve not submitted anywhere before says either that you’ve just now in the last month realized that you want to try for an MBA, so by definition you have not done much research on the schools and opportunities, and you’ve almost definitely not visited any schools. You probably don’t have a clear sense of which program is even a good fit for you — and these posts from the ‘snarchive can explain how school fit is a very important aspect to determining which schools to apply to in the first place. It’s also key for the schools to understand if you’re the right fit for them. Understanding this concept and the importance of culture is a nontrivial exercise that takes awhile for most people to “get” — and the best way to do that is to do significant outreach, including visiting the schools, and talking to lots of people, and basically stalking them until you have a sense of what each is about and how they’re different and which one resonates with you.
So, we suggest that you take the time to do it right. It may feel like you need to do this NOW if you’ve just made the decision to go do it, and we acknowledge that this advice to slow down often goes unheeded. Very often, we get BSers who read this advice that they should wait, and they go ahead with apps in Round 3 anyway, and then they end up coming back to us in June when they didn’t get in and they’re ready to take the time to go through the process intelligently. And then they realize that it is indeed harder to pitch the school as a reapplicant when they only a few months earlier tried the first time. It’s setting the bar even higher than it already is.
It’s also likely that your GMAT score is not where it could be. If you just decided to go for an MBA and crammed in some test prep and threw caution to the wind and took the GMAT and maybe you weren’t as fully prepared as you could’ve been, but you landed a 680 or even a 710, then you may be fooled into thinking that that’s good enough, since it’s within the 80% range of students at all the top schools. We can tell you, in Round 3, a 680 is going to be a very difficult score to carry you in on. Even a 710 is super difficult to convert in Round 3. If you have only taken the GMAT once then there is almost definitely upside to you available on that test and you would end up in a better position to take it again, bump the score up, and then get all your ducks in a row for a Round 1 app in the fall. You will almost definitely end up with more options in the end (more admits, and even potentially some scholarship money depending on how everything plays out).
Speaking of which: Scholarship money at some schools is very hard to come by at this stage of the season. Nobody can ever count on getting offers of free money along with an admit, but if it’s important to you to get some financial support for the MBA then Round 3 is not your friend. Some schools allocate money evenly across the entire admissions calendar but not all of them do. Round 1 and Round 2 are where the bulk of the fellowships come.
The main reason that we caution against doing apps right now is that if you don’t make it in, then you’re making it harder on yourself in the Fall when Round 1 comes around. Your first application to any school comes with a fresh app advantage: You can use all your best stories and leverage all of your strengths. If none of those apps turn out, then you’re a reapplicant next season which will hit in just a few months, and then you’ll be pulling your hair out to figure out new content to use in the essays. For a school that does not change its essay questions, this can be a shear torment, and even for schools that do, you will need to develop a new approach. You cannot reuse the same stories you used initially (or at least, you cannot if you want to impress your adcom reader as a reapplicant). This can be truly challenging for many.
So those are the basic reasons why someone who’s just recently decided to try for an MBA should take full advantage of the fact that they literally have MONTHS of runway ahead of them to prepare a good strategy. We suggest that you sit on your hands and not be tempted by the siren sound of the Round 3 deadline that most schools have on the calendar in the March timeframe.
There are though some exceptions to this which we will go into more details on. Please come back for the continuation of this series, or if you just cannot wait, you can check out the ‘snarchive of all of our Round 3 posts, and we also have that mini-guide on Round 3, and the Late Season Targets Review for personal input on your specific situation.
And oh yeah, if you’re going to totally disregard our advice to sit out the last round, and you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and apply anyway: We’ve got a screamin’ deal available on the Complete Essay Package right now: $1,099 instead of standard price in the $1,399 range. Expires soon! Like later today or tomorrow. New clients only; no adjustments, credits, or refunds available on past purchases. Hit us up if you have questions on how all of this works!