3 Questions to Ask Before Applying MBA Round 3


Everyone says that applying MBA Round 3 is risky, and they’re not wrong. When you make the decision to apply MBA Round 3, you’re putting yourself in the ring at the end of the application season. So after admissions committees have already read thousands of applications, already accepted highly qualified candidates, and already waitlisted strong candidates, you still have to impress them. And it ain’t easy.

Fifty percent of people who apply Round 3 would be better off waiting, and we want to make sure you’re not one of them. So before stepping into the ring for MBA Round 3, stop and ask yourself these 3 questions.

1. Why are you applying MBA Round 3?

If you’re applying MBA Round 3, you better have a very good reason. People say that applying MBA Round 3 means that candidates are disorganized or didn’t get their acts together in time for Round 1 or 2, but that’s not the case. B-schools understand that there’s a lot that can get in the way of submitting your application, but your reason needs to be solid.

Good reasons:

  • Prior Obligations – “I just finished in the military / law school / Teach for America.”
  • Family Situations – “I just got married / had a baby / buried my great-uncle.”
  • Personal Situations – “I just recovered from deadly illness / moved from Europe.”
  • Market-force Reasons – “Right NOW, my target market is rocking, so I need to get started immediately.”

Bad Reasons:

  • Reapplicants – “I applied in Round 1 and the news was bad.”
  • Desperation – “I just want to go SOMEWHERE this fall.”
  • Narcism – “I want to because earlier is good for ME.”

2. How strong is your profile?

By MBA Round 3, most programs have filled 90% of the incoming class, and they have strong waitlists. So admissions committees are looking to balance out the class. They want highly qualified folks with strange or unique backgrounds or people who were busy being awesome in the military or Peace Corps.

Schools will always take all-stars, but differentiating yourself in Round 3 is a formidable challenge. Admissions committees have already read thousands of applications; they are tired. Their eyes are starting to cross, and everything’s starting to blend together. Standing out in Round 3 means pulling a really amazing, one-of-a-kind rabbit out of hat. Your application has to be damn near perfect – scores, grades, recommendations, and a really stellar story.

3. What are your target schools?

By applying MBA Round 3, you’re making the decision that getting into b-school a year earlier is more important than getting into a better school, at least in 95% of the cases. If you’re Top 5 material, you can probably expect to get into a Top 10 school in R3. So there is a trade-off between timing and ranking, except for those folks who really couldn’t have applied earlier (military, etc). So if you’re not sure if you want to accept this disadvantage, revisit Question #1 and really think about WHY the rush. Is it REALLY better for you to apply Round 3?

Let’s put it another way. What’s your back-up plan? What happens if Round 3 doesn’t work out for you? If you’re aiming for those top school and you don’t get in Round 3, you can’t re-apply to those same programs in Round 1. Not enough time will have passed for you to show progress and demonstrate that you’re a stronger applicant, which is the name of the reapplication game.

Keep in mind that this only applies to full-time MBA programs. If you’re trying for part-time MBA programs or EMBA, then odds are more in your favor. These programs are generally less competitive and tend to get applications at different times, since everyone is working and no one is quitting their job. Also, Round 3 isn’t a big challenge for schools that have 4 or 5 rounds. It’s only the LAST round that’s the toughest.

Applying MBA Round 3 is a risk, and for some, it pays off. But before you decide climb back in the ring and fight to the death, consider your options. And if you decide that this is your fight, then we’re here for ya.

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