Applying to a top MBA program requires a lot of thinking. You have to put together many components in this arduous application process. One of the tough decisions to make is when to apply. Many MBA programs have three application periods. Some have five, some have only two. However, mostly the choice is between applying for the first round or the second round.

Let’s see what the scenario is like in the first round.

The first round sees some of the best student applications. Those who apply on the first round are candidates with good grades, great work experience and a high level of organization in their activities.

If you are a strong candidate, applying in this round is the best choice. In the article “Timing Your Applications” on’s site, Linda Abraham says “Submit in the earliest round possible provided you don’t compromise the quality of your application.”

This does not imply that you should not try if you are not the stellar candidate. If your GMAT scores are above 600, the first deadline applies also to you. In the first round, the numbers of applicants are fairly smaller. Some people, who are offered seats, reject them for better seats. Such seats can come your way. Though colleges put out a certain number of available seats, reality is that they have many more available. You can get into the extra seats in the first round itself, even if your competition consists of extremely high-caliber students. You will require a neat presentation of your core competencies, decent scores and well-written essays.

Some schools provide feedback to students who don’t get in on the first round. This feedback can be used for effective reapplication. In the article “First Round Frenzy” on Businessweek’s site, Abraham says, “a re-applicant who heeds a school’s feedback becomes an obvious round-one admit the following year”. This is yet another option available for you.

Now, going into the scenario in the second round.

What you see in the second round is a lot of applicants. There are more candidates to compete with. For some MBA programs, they are receiving over 2,000 applications together during this round. Students of the best caliber usually submit during the first round. The kind of applications seen here are of students who generally do well, but could present more weaknesses – although this does vary from school to school and from year to year. More often than not, these are the kind of students against whom you would be competing during this round.

If you have a GMAT score that’s lesser than 600 and you feel strongly that you will do well in taking this test again, opting for the second round in MBA application might work the best for you.

In short, it is choosing which round is best for you as a candidate that works out to favor your application. The one thing that cannot be compromised is the quality of the application. Thus, if applying earlier means sending out an application package that offers less than the best of you, you might as well postpone your submission since your chances to be accepted will be slimmer.

Whatever round you choose, put in your outmost effort in expressing who you are professionally, personally and how you will bring an added value to the programs of your choice. No matter what round you choose, it is your time to take charge and pursue your most ambitious MBA admissions aspirations.


By Claudine Vainrub with references from:

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