Surviving Round Three Applications

Round three is not for the faint of heart.  Often considered the most competitive, surviving round three takes fortitude.

By the time round three arrives, most business schools have filled the majority of seats in the upcoming class.  This is the simplest explanation for why it’s so darned difficult to get in at this point.  There’s simply no more room.  Still, some schools have holes in the class makeup.  Perhaps they have too many finance candidates and scarce few public sector applicants.  Or perhaps they still need some under-represented minority MBA candidates to round out the class.  It’s anybody’s guess, but suffice it to say that schools become snipers at this point, with the cross-hairs specifically trained on some very unique profile attributes. 

The question is, do you have the kind of characteristics in your profile that they are looking for?

A big misnomer for round three is that you need to have a perfect GMAT score or work for Goldman Sachs or Google to make a good impression, but the truth is, you may only need to have some or all of the precise attributes that they are looking for.  If you are a round three applicant, you want to think creatively about what makes you different.  It’s the differences that will appeal in this round.  While you can’t mask or change your job or role, you can bring to the surface other attributes that stand out in the crowd.

Do you do any unique volunteer work?  Do you identify with an unusual or under-represented group?  Have you had any deep or extended international experiences?  Speak any languages?  All these things can help set you apart from the crowd since the average applicant doesn’t have them. 

Still struggling to find an “in?”  Just ask.

Often, speaking directly with the admissions office can help reveal the special qualities they are looking for to complete their incoming class.  While they may not tell you specifics, they will sometimes tip their hand towards a general industry or professional type they seem to be having trouble finding. Again, you won’t be able to use the information to change your background, but you could avoid wasting your time filling out an application and writing essays if you’re way off.  Keep calling around and perhaps you will find another school that you’d be happy with who is looking for your special brand of awesome.  In the meantime, it certainly won’t hurt to boost that GMAT score a little more.

To find out more about your options and how we can guide your business school application process, email us at or contact us via