February 1st was either an exciting day or a tearful one for Harvard Business School (HBS) Round 2 (R2) applicants: the school’s MBA Admissions Board notified candidates whether they were invited to interview or had merited “early release.” Euphemistic though it sounds, early release should really be viewed by R2 applicants as the blessing that it is: you now know that you are out of the running for the HBS program and are free to consider your other options. So dab your eyes with a tissue, patch up the wall you punched, and take a look at what some of those other options are.
U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents
If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can still consider Round 3 (R3) at your top-choice programs, especially if you have a unique background or profile that these programs might still want to round out their classes. Did you steer growth in Africa, lead a new product in Eastern Europe, or pioneer a revolutionary health program in Mongolia? These are examples of unique experiences and insights that many top MBA programs would love to include among their student bodies. While visa challenges tend to be too difficult for R3 applicants who will need an F-1 Visa to study in the United States, those of you who do have U.S. residency will be prime R3 candidates. And many programs are waiving application fees for applicants who are victims of the recent tech layoffs.
Moreover, if you are living in the United States, you might find one of the many top MBA programs with part-time options to be the perfect alternative if there are weak points in your profile. Students in Berkeley Haas’s full-time program have an average GMAT of 729 but those in its have a median GMAT of only 700 (with 80% of students falling within the 640-740 range). The average GMAT score for students in Northwestern Kellogg’s full-time MBA program is 729, while its part-time MBA does not release data about student test scores (and Kellogg waives test requirements for applicants with an undergrad GPA of 3.4 or higher in a business, economics, or STEM field). Chicago Booth’s full-time students have a 729 average GMAT, but its average is only 691. If your GMAT score was a significant factor holding you back, then part-time programs offer the opportunity to graduate with the same degree without making another attempt – or several! – at improving your GMAT scores.
If you are not a good R3 candidate for the U.S. fall-entry MBA programs, you do have alternatives that will put you in a business school classroom in the coming year. First, if your heart is set on building your career in the United States, then there are other program options here. For example, if your goals are in finance, you might consider a Master of Financial Engineering degree at Berkeley Haas (next deadline March 23rd) or Baruch College (next deadline February 15th), or NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering Master of Financial Engineering (deadline February 15th). Columbia also offers a Master of Applied Analytics (which encourages international applicants to apply by March 15th) and an MS in Business Analytics (deadline February 15th). For those interested in careers in Healthcare Management, you might consider Columbia’s Management of Science in Industrial Engineering, which offers a healthcare management concentration (fall deadline February 15th, spring start deadline October 1st). Aspiring product managers and tech entrepreneurs might consider Cornell Tech’s MBA, which has rolling admissions through March 7th.
Outside of the United States
MBA aspirants who are seeking international careers can consider the top MBA programs in Europe and Canada as well. While Oxford Saïd (March 22nd) and London Business School (March 27th) each have one remaining deadline for this year, the MBA program at Cambridge Judge has three (March 6th, April 17th, and May 22nd)!
In addition, IMD practically just began its admissions process, with upcoming deadlines of February 15th, April 15th, June 15th, August 15th, September 15th, and October 15th still remaining to enter its program (pre-program work starts in October). Similarly, INSEAD’s Round 4 deadline for its September intake is March 7th, and INSEAD’s January-start program – which allows students an internship in the middle of the program – will not begin reviewing applications until March (with four rounds: March 7th, April 18th, June 27th, and August 8th).
For applicants who were particularly interested in HBS’s case study approach, the Ivey MBA program in Canada – which analyzes more than 300 cases over the course of its one-year MBA – might be the perfect alternative. Ivey’s program starts in March, so you can apply for the program starting in March 2024 in the next rounds (April 17th, July 10th, September 18th [the final round for international applicants], November 6th, and January 8th). IESE in Spain also bases its program on the case method and has two remaining deadlines for this year: March 14th and May 2nd.Other programs in Canada include Toronto Rotman, which advises international applicants (those from outside the United States and Canada) to apply by its March 6th deadline; Sauder, which accepts international applicants until its March 14th deadline; and HEC Montreal, which accepts international applicants until its March 15th deadline.
Address Your Weaknesses
Finally, if your heart is still set on HBS and its full-time U.S. program peers, early release offers you the time to assess your application profile and address its weaknesses over the next seven months. Many applicants find Accepted’s rejection review the perfect starting point in identifying the parts of their application and profile that would benefit from improvement.
Have you made a noticeable impact beyond the norm in your professional role? Have you demonstrated deep community engagement? Is your GMAT/GRE score meeting (or ideally, exceeding) your target program’s average score? If not, this is a great time to take action and patch those holes – in addition to the one you punched in the wall when you heard from HBS. 😉
If you would like a free profile review to identify weaknesses in your profile or shortcomings in your previous applications, register for a free consultation with me.
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