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Save the backup schools for next year??

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Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 07:20
I am trying to figure out what schools to apply to this coming Fall and I was curious how do some of the people on the forum manage the top schools vs reserve schools applications.

First, I should point out that although ideally I would love to go for MBA next year, I could wait another year. I am only 25.

Also, let us assume I can get a 720+ on my GMAT, have a solid GPA and good work experience. My ECs and undergrad school are probably my weakest parts. So I think if i write solid essays I have a decent chance at top schools. But of course, it will be a challenge and if i get dinged at the likes of HBS, Wharton, etc. I would not be surprised.

So, my question is, should I apply to only my reach schools this year and save the reserves for next year? Or does it make sense to stagger the application in rounds (i.e. reach schools in R1, R2, and reserves in R2, R3)?
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 07:44
It might make sense to apply to a mix of both reserve and reach schools in Round 1 - as many as you can complete while maintaining quality - and in Round 2, apply to the rest of the schools on your list. Reason being, since all schools technically have more spots and scholarship $$ available in the beginning, even if you possibly get dinged at one of your reach schools, a reserve school is more likely to view you as valuable and offer you a healthy scholarship in an early round versus waiting till round 3. That can be an important aspect if finances are likely to influence your decision.

Alternatively, since you have the gift of time, you could also apply a little more conservatively this year (2-3 reach schools), and see what happens. If you are not successful, you can try to get feedback from the adcoms on areas in your application that might need work, and then work the heck out of those points over the course of a year to apply again more broadly next Fall.

I'm not an expert by any means, but the former is more or less going to be my approach :D

Would love to hear feedback from anyone who's more seasoned in the app process, as the same questions have been swirling around in my mind. :?

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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 07:53
I was reading more on this subject and see that most people are saying if you have time, it is better to apply only to your top choices and take the dings...
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 08:27
From my experience this year, I really wish I would have applied to my top two choice schools in round 2 rather than round 1, and only applied to my safety schools in round 1. Think of using your safety schools as an application "test run." By doing that, you will have plenty of experience with the application/interview process before you get to your top choices. I feel the results of a few applications would have come out differently had I followed this plan.
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 09:58
Completely agree with MR2015 , the application process teaches you a lot of things and one important thing is never apply to your dream school in early rounds. Put it simply the first few applications take a lot of effort , but the actual refinement and the flow of the essays is only built towards the end of the application cycle. So in R1 focus on schools you wouldn't mind if the school dings you. In R2 with more experience you should focus on a mix of 1-2 safety schools + dream schools.
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2013, 21:06
I applied to arguably my most difficult school (Stern) first in R1 and in retrospect, I wrote a horrible, irrelevant application. The same goes for Johnson, which I applied to right after Stern in R2. (Johnson has 4 rounds, so R2 is very early) Of course, in retrospect I would have unofficially started the application process during the summer and applied to Tuck/Fuqua in the Early Action round. However, I think if you start thinking about your apps now, you do have the highest statistical chance of getting admitted in R1 so it's worth applying to at least some of your top choices in R1. One strategy would be to apply to 1/2 of your top schools in R1 and apply to the other 1/2 in R2, along with a couple of safety schools in each round. It's probably best to apply to a safety school first; if you think you're H/S material you might want to make your first application somewhere with a non-binding EA round like Tuck or Darden. If you're a domestic applicant, a Consortium application may help you control costs with your safety school applications.
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2013, 03:21
wown wrote:
I am trying to figure out what schools to apply to this coming Fall and I was curious how do some of the people on the forum manage the top schools vs reserve schools applications.

First, I should point out that although ideally I would love to go for MBA next year, I could wait another year. I am only 25.

Also, let us assume I can get a 720+ on my GMAT, have a solid GPA and good work experience. My ECs and undergrad school are probably my weakest parts. So I think if i write solid essays I have a decent chance at top schools. But of course, it will be a challenge and if i get dinged at the likes of HBS, Wharton, etc. I would not be surprised.

So, my question is, should I apply to only my reach schools this year and save the reserves for next year? Or does it make sense to stagger the application in rounds (i.e. reach schools in R1, R2, and reserves in R2, R3)?


I was in your exact position, and did end up saving my 'safety' schools for the next year.

I applied to Tuck and Sloan in 2012, and decided to save Darden and Fuqua for 2013. While I don't regret my decision, I do agree with what other posters have said regarding application quality. I think I would have been rejected to most schools last year regardless, I had a lack of career advancement which hurt my chances. But even aside for that, my applications weren't as good last year as they were this year, and in particular my interviews weren't as strong since I didn't have much experience with school interviews.

I would recommend that even if you dont apply to all your backup schools this year, I would think about including one school with earlier deadlines to get some practice with the process.

One caveat: Don't apply anywhere you wouldn't actually go to if admitted. It's just a waste of everyone's time and money, but especially yours.
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2013, 03:32
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You've got some good advice about how to stagger school applications above, so I'll take this in a different direction. Having a safer school on your list is fine, but please please don't apply to a "safety" school unless you'd be willing to attend. Time and time again I see people apply to a bunch of similarly rated schools, then a handful that they know they're easy admits at...decision time comes around and the applicant is left only with their safety school and turns them down to apply to the top schools next year. The application season is intense, why bother with additional work if you know you won't be going to that safety school?
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2013, 04:52
hamm0 wrote:
You've got some good advice about how to stagger school applications above, so I'll take this in a different direction. Having a safer school on your list is fine, but please please don't apply to a "safety" school unless you'd be willing to attend. Time and time again I see people apply to a bunch of similarly rated schools, then a handful that they know they're easy admits at...decision time comes around and the applicant is left only with their safety school and turns them down to apply to the top schools next year. The application season is intense, why bother with additional work if you know you won't be going to that safety school?

This is fantastic advice. Identify the lowest-ranked school at which you'd matriculate this year and have that be your "safety" school, regardless of how highly regarded it is. For people for whom it's M7 or bust, a "safety" may be Booth, but for someone who would be pretty content to go to any top-15 school, the safety could be Ross or Duke.

Ultimately, if you are okay with the prospect of having to apply again, then you can be more aggressive with your school choice. Just make sure you don't take the first application year as a "test run;" still give it everything you have!
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2013, 05:10
Oh, also. I should say that I thought I wouldn't mind re-applying the following year, but it was actually VERY hard to get re-motivated for my applications this year after getting rejected at my reach schools last year.

It's worth considering - you may think you're happy to apply next year if you don't get into your reach schools this year, but it may be harder to ramp back up than you think. I had spent sooo much time and money and emotional investment in my applications last year that this year I honestly don't feel like I was ever really into the application process, I kindof "phoned it in" (if you know the expression).
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Re: Save the backup schools for next year?? [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2013, 05:45
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I feel strongly about this - save the backup schools for later! Apply to where you really love, throw your heart and soul into it, and worst case scenario is that you wait one year, make money and develop skills during that time, and apply again when you're 26 (read: still young). On your second attempt you can add the safety schools. Best case scenario is that you get in to your top school/schools and didn't have to waste the time/effort/money applying to somewhere you wouldn't go anyway.

Trust me, I was making this exact decision this fall. I decided to apply to the schools I LOVED; Wharton and Kellogg. I got into both, and am matriculating at Wharton this fall. I'm not a superhero with an 800 GMAT. My stats are average (680 and 3.55 gpa), but I put a lot of thought into my applications and could very clearly articulate why these schools were perfect for me. To be fair, I have strong extracurriculars, reccs, and work history, but there's no reason why someone else couldn't duplicate my results.

This is the question you should pose to yourself: "If I got into (insert safety school here) this year, would I go? Or would I wait a year and apply to (insert top 10 school here)". The answer, invariably, almost always is "no, I wouldn't go", unless you have a serious deficiency in your application and honestly wouldn't ever get into that top school. Have faith in yourself, be selective in where you apply, clearly articulate your story, and you'll rock it!

I wrote a post on this exact same topic, if you want to read more in detail:
don-t-settle-149186.html
Re: Save the backup schools for next year??   [#permalink] 03 Apr 2013, 05:45
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