All things being equal, round 1 may be a bit of a smarter strategy. At the beginning of round 1, all of the seats in the class are available. At the beginning of round 2, a bunch of seats have already been given away, and you are also competing with those on the waitlist.
The truth is that the admissions committees know what they are looking for. They have become pretty good at estimating numbers, and evaluating and accepting applicants that fit their criteria. The best strategy is not to play the game of which round, but to submit your application as soon as, but not until, it is ready. Recently, I spoke with a client who believes she can raise her GMAT from 650 to 700, but it will mean waiting until round 2 to submit applications. My advice? Go for the 700 in round 2. Always make sure all aspects of your application are the strongest they can possibly be, and then submit. Never sacrifice quality just to get into round 1.
Final rounds for a given school (be it round 3 or round 4) are often a bad strategy. For many schools, this is the time they are focused on completing their class and picking very specific profiles. In addition, if you submit an application in March and are not admitted, you do not have much time to regroup and improve your profile before reapplying in October for the next season.
Conrad and the Stacy Blackman
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Stacy Blackman | Stacy Blackman Consulting Inc | http://www.StacyBlackman.com | +1 323.934.3936
MBA blogger, US News and Author, The MBA Application Roadmap