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MBA Application Deadlines: How to Decide Between Applying in Round 1 vs. Round 3

[For more top 20 b-school application deadlines and requirements, click here to visit our 2016-2016 MBA Application Deadlines and Requirement page]

Are you struggling to decide whether to apply in a late round or postpone your application to the first round in the fall? 

There are so many opinions for and against applying to business school in a late round. The right answer depends on your particular situation.

In this post, I’ll outline the 3 evaluation criteria that MBA admissions boards use to evaluate MBA applications in late rounds.

I’ll also give you 4 questions to ask yourself to determine which MBA application round is right for you.

But first, let’s look at things from the admissions boards’ perspective.

Their number one task is to find the most talented, diverse group of students who will fit in their community.

By the third round they’ve seen every profile imaginable:

1. investment banking analysts who’ve led billion dollar deals

2. students who speak 5 languages fluently as well as those who’ve worked/lived in multiple countries and have a global worldview

3. marathon / triathlon runners, Mount Everest climbers

4. applicants who’ve had to overcome personal challenges and hardships

But most importantly, they are tired.

Does that mean you should not apply round three if you are ready and now is the best time for you to apply?

The simple answer is that you should apply round three if it makes sense for you. But first ensure that you have a compelling case before applying.

How MBA Admissions Boards Evaluate Late Round Applications 

So how do you determine if you have a compelling profile for a late round application?

Here are the 3 evaluation criteria the admissions board will use to evaluate your MBA application:

1. academic profile

2. leadership track record

3. diversity and fit

Take a close look at the evaluation criteria that the admissions board uses and objectively determine whether you stand out or if you need to improve on your profile.


Is your GMAT score exceptional, strong, average or weak?

The answer to this will influence whether it’s a good idea to apply in the late round.

An exceptional GMAT (for example 760/780) could give you an extra bonus point in the evaluation process, especially in the later round when the overall quality of the pool can be slightly weaker (especially based on grades/GMAT).

If your GMAT score is weak or just average, it may suggest devoting more time to prepare and retake the exam and applying in the early round in the fall.

There are always exceptional situations where someone’s test score is significantly weaker than the average class profile but the other aspects of their application are compelling enough to land them an admissions offer.

Strong-to-exceptional GMAT scores are attractive to the admissions board.

Average to weak GMATs may suggest a need to retake the test before applying in the late round or pushing off the application to the early round the following admissions cycle.

How strong is your undergraduate (and graduate) experience? What was your GPA, major, school reputation, and grade performance.

The admissions board is attracted to applicants with excellent academic track record.

Weak to average GPA can raise concerns but they can be offset by very strong GMATs and you can still go for a late round application if the GMAT is strong to excellent.


A strong leadership profile will be attractive regardless of which round you apply in.

Schools are looking for candidates with strong leadership profile so if you can demonstrate evidence of consistent impact at your job and beyond, it may still be worth applying round three.

You will need to communicate why you are choosing to apply now instead of earlier.

There are fewer spots available in the third/late rounds.

However, applicants with strong/exceptional leadership can secure one of these few spots if they can show that they have a strong leadership profile.

If your leadership profile is average, it is in your best interest to defer your application and proactively address this hole before applying.

Diversity & Fit

Round three or late rounds are used by the admissions board to shape the final class.

Applicants from traditional career profiles can still get in during this late round but they have to have a clear reason why they are applying now instead of earlier in the process.

Additionally, they need to have something impressive about their profile/brand that will enrich the diversity of the class. It could be from their personal or community life.

The late round favours applicants with unusual backgrounds who can make a strong case for their need for the MBA.

While schools value diversity a great deal, they will not compromise on fit. Neither will the admission board compromise on quality by admitting a non-traditional candidate with very low academic records.

If you have a strong academic profile, clearly articulated rationale for why you need the MBA, and come from a less popular professional profile (doesn’t include bankers and consultants), then it is worth applying in a later round.

There are some instances where usual suspect applicants can get away with applying in the later round.

A recent promotion or greater opportunity at work that reveals a hole in your skill set or further need to develop yourself is a fair reason for why you may decide to apply in a late round.

Some people also have unusual circumstances such as military commitments or even personal commitments that made it difficult to apply in an earlier round.

You will not be penalized for applying in a later round if you have a legitimate reason for applying later.

How to Decide When to Submit Your MBA Application  

Deciding to apply? Ask yourself these 4 questions:

1. Are you applying from an over-represented applicant profile?

2. Is your leadership average or worse?

3. Are you concerned about your GMAT/GPA?

4. Could you improve your overall application if you delay it by several months?

If you answered yes to anyone of the questions above, then take another look at whether it makes sense for you.

The last thing you want to do is apply with the view that you will simply reapply if it doesn’t work out the first time around.

It is best to apply as a first time applicant than as a reapplicant. If on the other hand you feel ready to apply and have all the factors you need, then go for it.

Which Round Will You Apply? 

I’ve outlined the 3 evaluation criteria that MBA admissions boards use to evaluate MBA applications in the late rounds.

I’ve given you 4 questions to ask yourself to determine which MBA application round is right for you.

What do you think? Which application round do you think is right for you? Round 3 or Round 1?

I love to get your comments and feedback, so please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Your Success,


If you want more useful MBA admissions tips, follow @EXPARTUS on Twitter.

[For more top 20 b-school application deadlines and requirements, click here to visit our 2016-2016 MBA Application Deadlines and Requirement page]

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