“On my right, now entering the ring is Round 1. A
perennial favorite with those who have stratospheric GMATs, patents,
Noble Prizes, and the like. And on my left, waving to the crowd is
Round 2. He is favored by those with more average, but still
respectable scores, grades, and experience.”
So goes the fight about when to submit an application. I
am not impressed by attempts to win the admissions game through timing,
at least using these arguments, which are specious and weigh less
significant or non-existent factors as opposed to those that really
What counts above all else is the quality of your application. You want to submit when it is at its best.
The argument that Round 1 is for superstars simply isn’t true. Many
superstars apply round 2 (and even later, but I am going to limit this
discussion to Rounds 1 and 2). But when you wait to apply Round 2, many
seats have already been given to round 1 applicants.
At the same time, some applicants are absolutely determined to submit
Round 1 because they want the “early advantage.” They will even
foolishly rush their applications, submit something less than their
best in this mad dash to a R1 deadline.
Let’s call this match a draw. The boxers can take off their gloves and pull up a chair. Listen to Linda’s rule:
“Apply as early as possible PROVIDED you don’t compromise the quality of your application.”
Just today I received an email from an applicant who has been
struggling with her GMAT and wants to attend a top 15 program. She is
unlikely to be admitted with her current score and she wants to apply
Round 1. She is better off raising her GMAT and postponing her
application to Round 2.
Someone else writes to a mailing list that he has good scores, grades,
and work experience, but is in a common applicant sub-group and wants
to apply round 2 because he believes competition will be less intense.
Big mistake. Competition is intense both rounds. Instead of focusing on
this timing question, he should be working to improve his profile,
differentiate himself, learn about the schools, and start on his essays
so that he can submit round 1 when there are more spots available.
Is there an advantage to applying early in a round, especially round 1?
I don’t think so. More importantly, there is an advantage to holding
onto a completed first application and submitting it closer to the
deadline (Any school, CBS for example, on rolling admissions could be
exceptions to this part of this post.) As you work on subsequent
applications, you will improve your essays and see (and relate)
experiences and goals with greater clarity. If you just put that first
completed application away while you work on applications 2, 3, &
N, then you can go back to Application 1 before that school’s R1
deadline and tweak it before you submit. That first application will
then benefit from your recent writing experience and greater clarity.
Don’t, however, wait until the 11th hour to upload your app and
press SUBMIT. Many times servers are overloaded on deadline day. You
don’t want to miss a deadline on an application that was completed
weeks earlier because you waited too long.