Whether you are a procrastinator, or you were simply waiting until you were ready and the time was right, round three is quickly rolling by. Do you have what it takes in the most competitive round?
If you have decided you will take the plunge and apply to school in Round three, there are a few things you need to know. First and foremost, you must realize the odds of admission go dramatically down in round three because of the relatively few number of slots that remain. This is simple mathematics—the lower the seat count, the more competitive it is to get one of them—think of it as musical chairs with way more people than chairs.
Granted there are fewer applicants in round three vs. rounds two and one, but not nearly so few as to make the ratio of applicants to available seats compelling. Additionally, you must pass the sniff test against those on the waitlist. Granted, schools need all their seats filled, but they will choose the best candidates available, and whether they come from the waitlist or from the third round admit pool is irrelevant to them.
So how do you navigate these choppy waters?
One thing you must do is to make a very compelling case for why now is the right time to apply to school.
Even more than those from the earlier rounds, if you can convince the adcom that the reason you need to start this fall is a strong one, it will help them select you over someone who may appear to have time to wait. This reason is different for everyone, but your job is to make them believe you cannot wait until next year—they will lose you to a competing school, and b-schools hate to lose. Don’t help them push you into round one by giving them a reason why you can wait.
Next, you must dig for the attributes in your profile which make you a standout against someone else in your peer group.
Ask yourself why you should be chosen vs. the next accountant (or engineer or salesman, etc.) because you are being compared by the admissions committee against others with a similar background. Sure, this is something you should do no matter when you apply, but let’s say for arguments sake, your target school has decided to let one more accountant in for round three—your uniqueness becomes much more of a factor now vs. round one or two, when there were several slots for someone with an accounting background.
Finally, you should have your recommenders speak to why now is a good time for you to return to school.
Whether it’s because you have climbed as high as you can, or because your contributions have been maximized, it never hurts to have a third party make the case for why now. In case you’re not paying attention, the why now question is super-critical in the third round. Make sure you are building a strong case to convince them to squeeze you in.