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The Tuesday Q&A: Reach or Safety Schools in Round 1 vs. Round 2

September 03, 2013 :: Admissionado Team


Round 1 vs Round 2 : Which schools should I apply to in Round 1, and which schools should I save for Round 2? Should I apply to all my reach schools in Round 1 and save my safeties for Round 2?


Ah yes, application strategy. All the micro decisions that go into crafting a winning application…we know all about this. (And we think we’re pretty damn good at it.) And we know how much you love it when we give you definitive, simple answers. We love that, too. But the strategy behind submitting your apps for Round 1 vs. Round 2 is a different animal. Some folks say you should go for all your reach schools in Round 1. [We say that if that was the best strategy, it would be in YOUR best interest to apply to HBS and Wharton and Stanford in Round 2… when no one else will be.] Others say to do a mix of reach and safe in both. Others say safeties first, hands down. Frankly, it’s enough to make your head explode.

Sorry to have to break it to you pal, but there’s no hard and fast rule here. It all depends on which schools you’re targeting, what your timeline looks like, and how much time you’ve got to work on your apps.

That being said, here are some rules we follow (loosely) around here at Admissionado:

Rule #1:

If you’re an International applicant, you must get some apps in during Round 1. On some level, it’s a numbers game, folks. There are only so many spots available for International applicants, and it’s in your best interest to apply early, while the bulk of those spots are still open. You don’t need to get ALL of your apps in during Round 1, of course (after all, plenty of people get in during Round 2… or they wouldn’t have a Round 2), but definitely submit SOME.

Rule #2:

Apply as early as possible to CBS. And if you can, submit during Early Decision. From our experience, it’s just how they operate. They do rolling admissions, so every day you wait, you lose out.

Rule #3:

An A+ application in Round 2 is better than a B- application in Round 1. If your app is lacking in luster and no amount of polishing is gonna make that baby shine as brightly as it needs to for Round 1, take the extra time to amp up your game, and wait til Round 2 to submit.

Rule #4:

Never do your DREAM app first. Get some practice/experience under your belt, then go for it. Spending some quality time with apps that are somewhat lower pressure will get you more comfortable and more savvy with the process, and make your dream app better in the long run.

Rule #5:

Start as early as you can. Regardless of when you plan to submit your apps, just start early. Start as soon as you finish reading this blog post. (Why haven’t you started yet?) Even the best laid plans can get totally derailed, and if you think right now you’re gonna get every single one of your apps in for Round 1…you won’t. So get in the mindset of starting early so if you DO get pushed…it’s not into R3.

Because if there’s one rule we DO follow, it’s that you want to avoid R3 as much as possible.

But as we said, we follow these rules loosely. Everybody’s situation calls for something different. If you have more questions about this, drop us an email. Let’s talk about it. Because right now, we gotta stop asking questions and start cranking out those apps.

Jon Frank, Admissionado Founder