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Round 1 v. Round 2: What should you target?

When considering application strategy, one of the biggest inquiry MBA candidates struggle with is whether to apply in Round 1 or Round 2 to the school they most want to attend.

Generally speaking, if you are an exceptional candidate and have had sufficient time to set up your application, then, at that point, you ought to apply in the first round in your top choice school. If you are strong candidate, yet are not in the highest level or would benefit from having some more time and experience in the application process, consider postponing your application to your top choice school until Round 2. Meanwhile, apply to two or three different schools (that you would join in on the off chance that not admitted to your top choice) in Round 1.

Advantages of Round 1:

  • As the Admission committee just start selecting candidates for their current cohort, they tend to be slightly generous and easy going in the early stages/rounds (no point of comparison yet) i.e. candidates with the slightest apprehension about a certain element in their profile- Applicant from the overrepresented pool with low GPA (Indian | Male | Engineer), Less experienced folks compared to the median work ex requirement, etc. should apply in R1 to increase their chances. As the rounds advance, Admission committee go through thousands of profiles to fill up their diverse cohort- as projected in the class profile of every university; the recruiting managers would like to fill up the class with diverse profiles from every background, ethnicity and industry. The competition is generally quite high amongst the over represented categories as we progress.

  • Covid-19 forced the world to take a 180 degrees turn and adjust accordingly, B-Schools have been no exception- extending their deadlines, accommodating unusual requests of students, deferrals, and announcing waivers -all to fill a certain cohort. Admission committee would want to fill up and close on certain seats to avoid any such VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous) circumstances in the near future.

  • Admission committee have the new year's freshly allotted scholarship budget; they tend to be generous (comparatively) and the scholarship chances are the maximum.

  • Being an early bird candidate always has its benefits, especially if you have a strong application ready. This is on the grounds that you get the valuable chance to show your application to the admissions committee at the earliest in the admission cycle. Being at the beginning of the cycle implies the admission committee has reviewed fewer applications, read fewer essays, and addressed fewer candidates.

  • If you're not sure about your candidature either as a result of your profile or your scores, once more, applying early is still an advantage as the admission committee has not yet gone over many profiles and you hold an upper hand.

  • It likewise conveys that a specific business college is one of your first preferences and their admission committee could provide you with a scholarship. Many schools quietly or unmistakably express that scholarship odds are most certainly higher in Round 1. Check your preferred schools' sites to ensure you know their scholarship policy.

Advantages of Round 2:

  • GMAT definitely is a quantifiable factor, a strong determinant of how strong one's candidature is. If you're from a very competitive pool, a very high GMAT could be a differentiating factor that sets you apart from many others. Applying with a mediocre GMAT is as good as not taking a chance if you're not very certain of your other attributes, at least one other spectacular element in your profile. Apply with a good score is always recommended. Don't rush through GMAT in a manner it doesn't result in any positive outcome (just to finish in time)! You don't get a prize for finishing; this is a competition and the competition is quite high.

  • Many Indians are conditioned in a way that we consider the Global B-School selection process to be quite mechanical- score oriented/ academics orientated; but students need to understand this - Excellent scores and academics would definitely be a great start as this validates one's competence, but that's only half way. Ultimately, it really comes down to how well are you able to sell your story strategically through your essays, recommendations and every other aspect of your application. It should sing and be relative- which can be time consuming. Submitting a mediocre application again is an absolute no no. Take your time, seek professional support and polish your overall application- put together the best application together and submit be it R1 or R2.

  • R2 also doesn't significantly hamper your admit or scholarship chances, if we look at our youngest incoming student (Fall 22) Techie Riya Pannu (#1 Chicago Booth MBA ) qualified in R2 with $60K scholarship in R2 this year.

  • We cannot emphasize enough on how important Networking is when applying to B-Schools, this definitely is an additional way of showing your continued interest in the programs/Schools and is also a way for the admission committee to assess your employability for the long run. Go out of the way, show the schools you are interested- connect with students, attend webinars. This definitely can set you apart from the rest and counter your slight disadvantage of applying in R2.

  • R1 and R2 split is often also to capture a wide range of industry professionals for the diverse cohorts. Some industries tend to get busier during a certain time of the year compared to others, do such candidates miss out on the opportunity for a year? The answer is no. If by any chance you miss out on the first deadline, make the most of the next i.e., Round 2.

  • Assuming you believe you can acquire some leadership skills and experience in 3-4 months, you can go for that and further strengthen your application.

As we gear up for R1, please bear in mind- an applicant should only and only apply when his/her application is the strongest.

Applying in R1 would often be preferred, but where do you stand in your GMAT journey or applications is a very subjective question. You should at the end apply when your application is the strongest (Strong GMAT -> at least the median score of the targeted program) and a well-rounded application- be it round R1 or R2.

With everything taken into account, while Round 2 offers an upper hand to work on your profile, the competition that you might end up in is somewhat more than the Round 1! Best is to apply when you think you have the strongest application.


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