Right now, most of my clients are scurrying about trying to complete their Round 1 applications. Many of them will be ready to submit for Round 1, but there are a handful of clients I’ve suggested wait until Round 2, and we’ve discussed whether or not there is a true advantage to Round 1 vs. Round 2.
What’s the difference between Round 1 and Round 2?
You may be wondering, is there a difference in acceptance rates between Round 1 and Round 2? The short answer is “no.” For some schools, like Columbia that use rolling admissions, there is most definitely a distinct advantage to applying early, but for the bulk of the schools that use rounds, there is truly no advantage. Here’s why the Round 1 and Round 2 acceptance rates are usually very similar.
As a former Admissions Dean and Director, my job was to project the number of offers I could make given the Dean’s enrollment target and my projected applications. The projections are typically quite accurate and based on several factors including the number of GMAT/GRE reports sent to a given school, the overall number of test takers, and the number of inquiries a director observes compared to the number of inquiries year to date. With this information at hand, a director instructs their admissions team to invite a percentage of the applicant pool to interview (or in the case of open interviews, advises their team to make a percentage of offers).
When the admissions team begins to make offers in Round 2, the director uses the same percentage because they do not yet know the yield on any of the decisions they have made Round 1. Round 1 tends to be a smaller pool and more clear cut (very qualified candidates and also weaker candidates that believe that Round 1 gives them an advantage over Round 2). Schools tend to encourage Round 1 applications to smooth out the bottlenecks in Round 2 because Round 2 tends to be 2–6 times the size of Round 1 and the adcom is not only reviewing and interviewing applications in Round 2, but also trying to field the Round 1 candidates. Once first-round admitted applicants begin to make enrollment deposits (typically in Round 3), the director will adjust the percentage of admits for all subsequent rounds and for the waitlist, often looking at the waitlist at the same time they are reviewing Round 2 or 3.
Which round is best for me?
So, what does all this mean for you? If you aren’t ready for Round 1, don’t worry. Your chances of getting in for Round 2 should basically be the same for schools that do not roll their admissions. If you are ready to apply in Round 1 and the MBA program admits you, you have the advantage of knowing your fate earlier, obtaining financial aid, visas, housing, and getting to know your classmates. You can eliminate your safety schools from your list, sit back, and relax.
Remember, this is only if you are ready to apply in Round 1 – there is a substantial disadvantage in submitting a rush job that doesn’t reflect your best. You will be better served using the time leading up to Round 2 to perfect your application and maximize your chances of acceptance.
A word from Accepted’s founder
Watch this video for Linda Abraham’s 1-minute answer to: Which round should I apply to business school?
Unsure when to apply for your MBA program? Should you push for Round 1, or hang back and wait for Round 2? The answer depends on your own unique circumstances – which is why you need Accepted. Our tailored Admissions Consulting Service partners you one-on-one with an experienced and professional consultant to create an application that presents you at your best. Whenever you decide to apply, we can help you get Accepted!By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, former admissions dean/director at three top business schools. Natalie has reviewed over 70,000 applications, interviewed over 2,500 candidates, and has trained nearly 700 admissions directors and alumni volunteers to select outstanding candidates for admission. Her clients gain admission to top programs including Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley, and NYU. Natalie holds an MBA from Michigan Ross. Want Natalie to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
- Round 3 vs. Next Year: When Should You Apply? an on-demand webinar
- The Most Important Asset in Grad School Applications: Time, a podcast episode
- School-Specific MBA Application Essay Tips