Risk and reward are directly related. While you would rarely ever risk it all on one opportunity, when it comes to applying to business school, great reward can sometimes be found by betting on one single school.
The phenomenon of the early admit application was first invented by schools who had trouble attracting enough applicants. In an effort to woo MBA candidates away from more competitive schools, lower-ranked schools promised easier admissions hurdles if one committed up front to attend. This backfired in many cases, with many admitted applicants simply walking away from their offers when they obtained slots at more attractive schools. The increased application numbers, however, got the attention of several schools in the top tier.
Before long, schools like Cornell, Columbia, Duke, Darden and others began experimenting with an early action round…
But this time, they learned from the mistakes of the market. Top schools started adding various caveats to their EA rounds, such as requiring students to withdraw applications from other schools if accepted. They also required hefty cash deposits to be made, the combination of which helped reassure schools the seats they offered would indeed be locked in. In exchange for committing up front to one school, the early action b-schools offered preferential consideration and even in some cases, rather generous accommodation for what would be perceived as shortcomings in the regular rounds.
The early action option is not a panacea.
If you have a crappy GMAT score, bad grades, and unimpressive work experience, no amount of accommodation or bar-lowering will likely get you into a top school, but if you are lacking in one single area and feel your profile is rather impressive in other areas, then it could possibly pay off to put all your proverbial eggs in one basket. But how do you decide?
Firstly, you must ask yourself how happy you would truly be if you “had” to go to your EA school.
Next, ask yourself if you would still feel happy there knowing you also gained admission into your other schools. If the answer is yes, then you are a good candidate for EA rounds. If you waffled on your answer, you may want to reconsider. At the end of the day, you will get what you need in your graduate education experience at any accredited b-school. You should be analyzing the subtleties of what you desire from your school and make sure that beyond the core education, your chosen school is providing you what you seek. If that school has an early action round, well...lucky you!