Act Early

As you begin pulling together your MBA applications for round one, you have a very critical decision to make:  leverage early action deadlines, or apply regular round.

The early action decision from b-schools is a relatively new phenomenon from a historical perspective.  The option for applicants to go “all in” with a particular school in exchange for preferential consideration, however, was met with so much success, that it spread fairly rapidly across the industry. 

The truth about b-schools is, no matter how highly they are ranked, none of them enjoy battling the yield demons.

For those new to higher ed application world, yield is simply the percentage of applicants who have been offered admission who actually end up saying yes.  Most people realize that far more applicants are accepted to b-school than there are seats available.  The reason for this is fairly obvious:  people apply to multiple schools, yet they can only attend one.  The reason this is frustrating for b-schools in particular is that they are expensive, and count on filling every seat to generate an extraordinary amount of revenue.  They literally can’t afford to leave empty seats, since capacity utilization is critical to meeting their budgets and paying their very expensive faculty (b-school faculty are among the highest paid in all of higher ed).

To combat yield, b-schools first began requiring early deposits, but this soon failed to deter applicants from backing out.

Let’s face it:  what’s a couple thousand dollars when compared to spending $150K to attend your dream school. The early action approach has been far more effective, because many schools now require a commitment up front, essentially amounting to giving “your word” that you will drop other applications, making a deposit and attending the school.  In fact, if you fail to honor this commitment, schools have been known to actually notify other schools of this dishonorable choice, resulting in the applicant’s rejection. Clearly you would not want to go the early action route unless you are truly ready to lock in.

Never forget that MBA world is extremely small, so don’t assume another school won’t find out about your decision to renege on a commitment.

The good news is, if you are convinced you have decided on a particular school (aka your “favorite choice”), then the early action offering is a great choice.  Schools love to fill seats early (thereby reducing the extent to which they will end up playing the yield game), so they do indeed relax their tough admissions standards slightly in order to do so.  Now, don’t start thinking you’ll get into Duke or Virginia with a 500 GMAT and unimpressive work experience.  While they can indeed afford to bend a bit here or there, even early action candidates must meet minimum qualifications.  But if you have one area in particular in your candidate profile that troubles you, you might find that early action is a way to have it overlooked.

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