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. For some schools, like Columbia that use rolling admissions, there is most definitely a distinct advantage, but for the bulk of the schools that use rounds, there is truly no advantage.
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, the number of inquiries a director observes compared to the number of inquiries year to date. With this information at hand, a director instructs his or her admissions team to invite a percentage of the applicant pool to interview (or in the case of open interviews, advises his or her 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 he or she does not yet know the yield on any of the decision he or she has 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 to 6 times the size of round 1 and the adcomm is not only reviewing and interviewing applications in round 2, but also trying to yield the round one 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 he/she is reviewing round 2 or 3.
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 classmate and you can alleviate your safety schools from your list, sit back and relax.
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, former Admissions Dean/Director at 3 top business schools. Natalie would be happy to advise you as you apply to business school.