Continuing our Round 3 MBA Strategy series today, we’ll follow up the recent posts about some risks and challenges in Round 3 ( part 1 and part 2 in case you missed them) with a flip to the positive: There’s a few categories of Brave Supplicant for whom we’re more inclined to see a potentially happy outcome for a Round 3 app to a top school.
The easy one to call is the sponsored applicant.
If you’ve got your company behind you and they’re willing to pay for your MBA and you’ll be going back to work with them thereafter, you’re in a better position to pitch the adcom even potentially for a late-season app. You still need to have a solid GMAT score, and you still need to do your homework and convince the school why you’re interested in them and why you need an MBA for the next step in your career — and it goes without saying that the recommendations especially need to be superlative, and they need to sync up with the sponsored strategy you’re laying out. (Side note: Recommendations are always important, but for a sponsored applicant, they need to be an integral part of the whole strategy you are laying out.)
If you only think you might get sponsored or if the sponsorship isn’t locked up yet, then this is too risky. But if your company is so sold on you that they want to keep you as part of the organization and have enticed you to return post-MBA through some hefty support like this, then that can be a positive signal to the adcoms, too. It’s no guarantee, but you may find it easier to get in, even at this stage of the cycle. This also might be true of someone who is planning to return to a family business straight after bschool, though there are more variables involved in that case and we’d need to know more before we could say.
Another Brave Supplicant who may be in a good position to still try in Round 3 is one with a superlative GMAT score. If you’ve got a 770+ score AND you truly impress the adcom with something wholly distinctive about your profile and/or the pitch, then even a school like Kellogg might be open to a late-season app. It fully depends on the execution and how you put all of the pieces together. It’s a case where your final app needs to be more than a sum of its parts. The 770+ alone won’t carry you, and if your GPA is lower than a 3.5-equivalent it’s likely to be harder, but if you have a GMAT score that’s on the upper end of impressive then you could potentially still have a shot. It truly needs to be a water-tight app, though, and we’re only offering this as a possibility because we’ve gotten some whiffs so far that this season has evolved to be a smidge less competitive than it was in the most recent few years. That’s purely an anecdotal sense though, and not based on any actual statements from adcoms that we’ve seen, so YMMV and all that. But if your GMAT will help a school maintain its competitiveness against its peers then that could be a greater advantage right now. For this BSer especially: Go through the full Essay Decimator process on those essays. Start on them NOW. Leave nothing to chance. A 770+ is not going to make a single cent of difference at a school like Harvard or Stanford, and trading up rarely works anyway. 🙁 So keep your sights set rationally and manage expectations — and go into it with a reapp strategy mapped out. But might it work for you? Yeah, perhaps. You can give it a go and we’ll be eager to hear of your outcomes.
The next category of applicant is the college senior who’s trying for Harvard 2+2, Yale Silver Scholars, Darden’s Future Year Scholars, MIT Early Admissions (unfortunately named given the potential for confusion on other schools’ “early” rounds), or any of the plethora of other admit-from-college options that are now available. In the past year alone, we’ve seen nearly every top school formalize an admissions program for this cohort. And, because a lot of the MBA admissions people want to see final-year grades as part of the application, then they either require or strongly encourage that college seniors apply at this time of year. If you’re finishing up your bachelor’s and are considering the MBA as your immediate next step, or if you went straight into a master’s program following undergrad and are about to finish, then you can look into such options and yes, these are viable candidates for final-round applications.
Most top schools require at least some professional experience as a pre-requisite to starting a full-time MBA program, but the policies do vary. Even if they don’t have a formal track like the ones we’ve just named, they may still consider you for a guaranteed seat in a later class. Again, each school does it differently, so do some Googling and make some phone calls and see what you find out. The other advice of course if you’re still in school at the moment: Consider taking the GMAT, whether you’re planning on applying very soon or not for many years out. You’re in “study mode” in your life right now and it’s going to be way easier to do well on the GMAT today than in several years’ time when you’ve gotten rusty on all of those important subjects and skills. There are some downsides to this strategy, however the upsides may outweigh them — as long as you only take it once!!! Don’t blow through all your reservoir of test attempts if you’re not going to apply to school for several years.
This is not an exhaustive list of each situation where a Round 3 application might pan out. Again, each case is different. Whether you have a shot at a specific school at this specific time of the year is totally dependent on the details of your profile. If you’re not in one of these categories outlined above, we’d never say never try — and this year might be different!! It’s been competitive again, but it hasn’t been as competitive as it was just a few years ago. Traditionally, it’s been rare that we have seen significant success at the most popular schools in Round 3. With a well-considered strategy, it totally may work out for you though!