The key to putting together compelling applications is to start early. By doing so, you will be able to address any gaps in your profile in a systematic manner without having to scramble to try and overcome weaknesses. The ideal scenario is to be able to approach application season calm and confident that your profile is the strongest that it can be.
The first question as you think about the timeline is which round to apply in – Round 1, Round 2, or Round 3? My thoughts on each of the application rounds is below.
The consensus is that Round 1 is the best round to apply in since the entire class is open at that point (i.e. all the spots at available). In my view, this is more pertinent for business schools that have smaller class sizes. However, my advice is to apply in Round 1 only if you can put your best foot forward. In other words, your GMAT or GRE score should be as strong as possible and you should have impactful professional and extracurricular examples to point to in your essays. If you are not ready, then wait to apply in Round 2.
If you would benefit by having a few more months to strengthen your profile, then it's much better to apply in Round 2. Let me repeat that. Having a stronger, better quality application in Round 2 trumps trying to meet Round 1 deadlines with a subpar application. Do not rush your applications; applying to business school requires a considerable amount of time and investment.
I would not recommend applying in Round 3. Very few spots are left at that point, and Admissions Committees are primarily trying to round out their classes with certain profiles that may be missing. In addition, by Round 3, there is typically less scholarship money available, and for international students, Round 3 may be challenging when it comes to visa processing (since that requires time). Therefore, candidates are often better off waiting until Round 1 of the subsequent application cycle to apply.
Once you have determined which round to apply in, you will be able to more confidently work towards crafting your application in a timely fashion.
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.