In the last post, we discussed the virtues of applying in round one, but there are a few reasons why you might want to consider applying in round two instead.
Firstly, you should be considering your personal readiness to submit an application no matter what strategy you employ for timing.
- Do you have the best GMAT score you can achieve?
- Do you have the appropriate amount of progressively responsible work experience logged
- What if there is a pending promotion in your near future, and by delaying your application a few months, you will be able to experience something extraordinary which could impress the admissions committees?
I know of an applicant who was on the verge of receiving a new international assignment and decided to wait until round two so they could add it to their resume where before they had no international experience at all. These kinds of opportunities are not only good for the resume, but can also provide great fodder for the essays themselves and will position you as a more mature, seasoned employee.
Another reason to wait until round two might be to give you more time to visit individual schools.
The personal visit is one of the most important components of the due diligence process, as there is simply no substitution for sitting in an actual class and meeting real, live students in your target program when it comes to deciding where you fit in. Some schools will even give you brownie points in the admissions process for visiting in person. Look for schools with a historically low yield number (yield being the number of students who actually accept an offer of admission), which assume that an in person visit indicates you are truly serious about coming there.
Finally, the most important reason you might want to delay your application is because it is simply not its best yet.
If you feel you are rushing things and not spending an appropriate amount of time on introspection, you shouldn’t submit in round one. Submitting an application that is incomplete or sub-standard, especially one that has not been vetted by either a consultant or confidant who perhaps went through the process themselves, you should delay. Statistically, your chances of admission in either round is similar, so don’t let application strategy tempt you to submit an application that is not fully ready.
Here’s a good, basic rule of thumb for when during the application season you should apply to b-school: go for round one if you can, but only if your application is at its best.
This rule will serve you well, particularly if you fall into either one of two categories: you have several different schools you would be thrilled to get into, and you consider yourself to be a fairly competitive candidate.
If, however, you have one school you favor very strongly and/or if you feel you have weaknesses in your application which could potentially hinder your chances, you should take a serious look at a third option which often flies under the radar for many applicants: the early action deadline.
What is early action?
Not every school offers it, but those that do, provide “extra consideration” for candidates who 1) apply early in the process (typically a few weeks before round one), and 2) can commit to attending their program if they are offered admission. The rules are different for various schools who offer this option, ranging from a requirement that all other applications be withdrawn upon an offer of admission, to simply posting a tuition deposit to reserve your spot, which would be forfeited if you change your mind. Checking with each school individually about this is important, since you definitely don’t want to hinder your chances at other schools, particularly if you ended up getting into your reach school. But if you would be happy attending University X and you feel you could benefit from some of this “extra consideration” for making a commitment up front, you could really be pleasantly surprised by leveraging early action. The bonus upshot? You find out far before your friends whether or not you are admitted, which makes for a much more relaxing holiday season at year-end.
So let’s summarize the "when to apply" strategy.
- Go for round one if your application is ready and you want to take a chance on your dream school,
- Go for round two if you feel delaying your application will make it better,
- And go for early action if you can muster a firm commitment to your chosen school and you could also use a bit of special attention in the process due to a weakness.
One final note:
Early action is definitely not a way for under-qualified candidates to gain admission to schools for which they would normally not have a chance. It’s simply a way to tease out an offer from a school which prefers to book applicants early and therefore avoid the dreaded waiting game for folks to make up their minds on which school to pledge before the normal spring deposit deadline.