First Round Blues: Three Common Misconceptions

With first round deadlines already flying by, many applicants are scrambling to figure out what their next steps should be. However, you probably have more options than you think. When I’m advising September applicants, I tend to run into three common misconceptions that are responsible for a slew of mistakes and stress. Let’s dispel them here:

1. “I need to apply first round. If I don’t, I have no chance of getting into X’s program.”

A lot of applicants believe that their success hinges on hitting the submit button during the first round. I’ve heard this especially from Harvard applicants this year (HBS has recently dropped their third round, becoming a two-round program: learn more here). While it’s true that there are some profiles that benefit from submitting an application earlier to some schools, it’s also true that many profiles may benefit from waiting a round and submitting a stronger application. What does that mean? If you have a spotless application, submit first round. But, if you can make a significant improvement in a portion of your application (e.g., better GMAT score, essays, recommenders) or improve your profile otherwise (e.g., promotion, extra-curricular work), then you can likely increase your chances of acceptance by waiting. And, if you’re worried about the rounds at HBS, we’ll oust that myth in our HBS blogpost.

2. “Two weeks? I can easily pen a few essays in two weeks.”

We have applicants come in all the time who, having spent months studying for the GMAT, want to submit their applications within two weeks. Is it possible? Absolutely. Are such applications accepted by top programs? Certainly. Is the applicant taking a risk? Probably. Any good strategy takes into account timing. If you rush a project, you could overlook some valuable aspect. For instance, during a rushed application, recommenders might be unavailable, unreliable, or they simply might not have enough time to understand a candidate’s reasons for applying, thereby hurting acceptance chances. So, rushed applicants need to be doubly careful about every aspect of the application or they should seriously consider applying in a later round.

3. “It’s too late! I’ll only apply to the school I’m sure I’ll get into.”

There’s no way to guarantee 100% that any candidate will be accepted to a top MBA program. But I can guarantee that you won’t, if you don’t try. Of course, I completely understand the rationale of an individual not applying to certain schools. After having poured your heart and soul into the essays, receiving a rejection is painful. However, rejection is just a part of the process. If you want to succeed, you need to be mentally prepared for it. And there’s something much worse than the possibility of rejection: the certainty of a missed opportunity. I’ve seen large numbers of unsure candidates apply to and be accepted by their dream schools. So, don’t automatically eliminate yourself from the candidate pool. When and where you submit are both equally vital questions.



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