Many of you are putting finishing touches on Round 2 apps – huzzah!
With the turn of the calendar, we’re also getting many new folks who set a resolution to try for an MBA, who were maybe unaware of the admissions calendar, but showed up here looking for how to get in right away. They’re the Round 3ers.
And whenever we talk about a Round 3 application around here, most of the time we warn people: “DON’T DO IT!!”
A last-round app to bschool is very very challenging and has much less probability of success than it does in the first two rounds of the admissions season. There are many factors and reasons for this and we discuss them all over the place. If you’re seriously thinking about a late-season application then please read up on all the pitfalls first.
You’re probably going to do it anyway though 🙂 so this post is for you.
More specifically, this post is for anyone who has never even considered applying for bschool until like two weeks ago, who hasn’t even taken the GMAT yet or just raced to do so for the first time in the last month.
We’re calling you a Just In Time applicant — meaning, the kind of person who’s gonna maximize efficiency and take care of each step of the process just in time when it’s due. GMAT or GRE, essays, recs, whatever, you’re not gonna leave yourself any spare moment, you’ll be cranking this stuff out lickety split!
In all seriousness, there are a couple unique issues to think about for you as a Just In Time applicant. The compressed timetable is the reason for most of them.
We’re starting here because this is at least as important as getting your GMAT/GRE test date scheduled (and prepped!! prep is of course critical!). You don’t need official transcripts in order to apply, but do you have ANY transcripts? If you just rolled out of bed and decided to apply to bschool, make sure you have what you need from all past academic institutions. If you’re an international candidate, then that may be more complicated, depending on what the process is to request academic records from your school.
Pro Tip: ALL of your courses earned towards your degree must be captured on the transcripts, including study-abroad or transfer credits. Make sure yours are complete!
GMAT/GRE Score Availability
When you take the GMAT or GRE Just In Time, you may not receive a full testing report with percentiles and/or writing scores until after the school’s application deadline. You can still submit your app with that unofficial info. Most schools simply want you to enter the data that you were given at the end of the test, then email the test report into their admissions office once it’s received. No biggie, but it could cause a minor increase in heartrate when you see those fields in the app form and you don’t have that data available from your test yet. Check each school’s requirements on this and every element carefully, because some policies do vary.
Also, if your GMAT is significantly below the school’s average, then there hasta be something super compelling about the rest of your profile for an adcom to say yes in the final stage of the season. If you’ve tested only once, and you know you can do better, we don’t really want you to apply in Round 3 without retesting to bump the score. You’re risking throwing away your money. Sit on your hands — prep harder for the test — take it again, and then submit — or maybe you’ll consider sitting it out and waiting till Round 1, when you have everything going for you. It’s rare that a <700 score will be sufficient at this point in the cycle. However, we know how hard it is to put everything off that long, and we understand why you may try in Round 3; we just get nervous because it is so hard to make it in right, and if you don't, it does make it especially difficult when you're looking at reapplying only a few short months later. And please don't try a flurry of retests and cancels if you haven't prepped sufficiently! This stuff takes time and most people need to devote a year-plus to putting all the pieces in place. Cramming didn't work so great for you in college and it's unlikely to pay off for you now. And then finally, most important of all:
A late-round application really warrants some longer-range planning. You cannot assume it’ll work out, and even though sitting here in January it’s hard to comprehend it, there is only a tiny window of time between a Round 3 app and an upcoming Round 1 app the following Fall. What you want to do in tight conjunction with your last-round applications is to also start planning for Round 1. That means, put efforts in place on the job to start building out your resume of achievement and contribution. The hardest thing about reapplying to any top school is coming up with new and impressive stories in the next set of essays. This is particularly true when so many schools keep the same questions from year to year. Once you submit your app for this season, then pivot into build-up mode and immediately begin working on elements of your profile that will show how you’re improved and even stronger. If it doesn’t work out in Round 3, you want to have plenty of material to deploy come Round 1 deadlines later on! Yes, it’s difficult to get the brain around such a scenario, but it’ll happen before you know it (such is the nature of time, it passes more quickly than we ever get used to) and your Future Self will be ever so grateful to the steps put in place by your Now Self if you do this!
We also encourage you to be super selective on which schools and how many you try for, but today’s post is already running long, and hopefully most of you are not the Just In Time types and this isn’t even that relevant for you! 😉
(But just in case…)
We have a little booklet we wrote many years back called Everything You Need to Know about a Round 3 Application — directionally all the info is sound but it hasn’t been updated in quite some time. It’s really cheap though so could still be worth your while if you want to snag it.
This season in particularly is pretty hard to predict, especially in how the final round of the year will pan out. Lots and lots of schools used the waitlist really liberally in Round 1, so that means they’re hanging on to many, many high qualified candidates who they’re actively still evaluating along with all the new applicants they’re getting in Round 2.
All of this means that we’re not very confident of many openings happening for those Round 3 seats…. but the schools’ll be happy to accept your app nonetheless, and they are likely to even be encouraging to you if you ask them “What are my chances in Round 3?” in an applicant forum or info session. That’s because their interests are not aligned with yours: They’re motivated to get as many apps in so they can choose from a wide pool. That doesn’t mean you have a shot if you try at that stage of the season. Usually it’s the particularly distinctive candidate who has a chance, meaning a very high GMAT or something compelling about the profile. But heck, that’s true for all rounds, ain’t it? The main question that many adcom reviewers will have if they see your high-GMAT-scoring-self apply in their final round is, “What’s up with that? Did he/she get rejected all over the place in Round 1 or Round 2?” If may make sense to offer a quick one- or two-sentence explanation for what’s behind your final-round app. You don’t want them to think you’re damaged goods and have been abandoned in the leftover bin like the unsold Christmas tree sitting on the lot on December 25th that ends up chopped into firewood.
You may also be interested in: