The Final Round Conundrum

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It’s almost that time of the year again: April. That means that, in addition to the arrival of beautiful Spring weather, a host of closing third round MBA deadlines are fast approaching. Many applicants are now faced with a nail-biting decision: to apply in the final round or wait for the next intake session. To help you make a choice, we’ll share a few important points to consider.

Final Round Deadlines Are Hard but Not Impossible

For many MBA programs, the final round is a way to fill out their classes. In other words, MBA programs are looking for profiles that are unique or exceptionally strong. This is especially true for those MBAs that are known for taking far fewer candidates in third round, including Wharton and Stanford. In fact, Harvard had so few seats left in Round 3 (about 5% of its class), that in 2018 it decided to eliminate the deadline from its standard application process (though the round is still kicking for HBS 2+2 candidates).

Even schools, such as INSEAD,  which take in equal amounts of applicants throughout all their rounds, naturally have to be more selective in final rounds with their those choices, as they need to balance their classes carefully in terms of profiles. So, more than ever, it’s important to stress what really makes you stand out from the crowd, if you’re submitting an application last round.

Applying Last Round Can Impact How Your Profile Is Viewed

MBA schools want to feel that applicants to them are serious and well-prepared. When they receive applications in their final round, they can have doubts concerning how truly interested and dedicated a candidate is. You really have to work hard to prove that this project isn’t just an after-thought or the result of a series of failures, at work or in applying to other schools, that have pushed you to apply late.

Additionally, in the case your application gets dinged, your chances at reapplication may be somewhat impacted. With such a short period of time between the last round and the first, it will be difficult to develop and illustrate the necessary improvements in your candidacy that those MBAs are seeking in reapplicants.

Outlook and Alternatives

If you have concrete reasons for applying in round three, it’s important to temper your expectations. You’ll need to work doubly-hard on your application to be competitive, but, for top MBAs, a great deal of effort may or may not be enough. That’s why it’s important to take the time to really understand your chances, so you’re better prepared to deal with the outcomes.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for alternatives, you have two major options. Firstly, you can always delay your application to the next September intake. This of course may carry certain risks relative to your chances (age, future job status, etc.) and, in certain cases, those risks may outweigh the benefits of a round 1 application. Otherwise, you can apply for an MBA with a January intake, for instance, IMD and Columbia offer a winter start date. However, only a small number of programs offer this option, so it may not be available for your top target schools.

If you’re unsure what will work best in your situation, feel free to contact us and we’ll put you in touch with an admissions expert who can help you figure it all out.