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The Great Debate: Applying Round 1 vs. Round 2

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The Great Debate: Applying Round 1 vs. Round 2 [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2013, 10:46
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The Great Debate: Applying Round 1 vs. Round 2

Many have debated the existence of God, the validity of truth, and the intricacies of equality and liberty. And now, there’s another great debate to add to the roaring fire of controversy – the Round 1/Round 2 debate. Should you apply Round 1 or Round 2? When is it right to apply early and when should you push it off?

As suspected, there’s no simple answer here (otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a debate, would it?). Each situation is different and so I can’t tell you when to apply. But I can offer some advice that will help you make the best decision for YOU.

Who Should Apply Round 1?

Applicants who have put the final touches on their A+ application in time to submit. Everyone in the great debate will agree that if you can apply Round 1 to b-school, then you should. So what does if mean in this position? IF your application is ready, then you should apply. If you’re not at all sacrificing the quality of your application, then you should certainly take advantage of the early advantage that accompanies applying R1.

Actually, that’s it. There’s only one group of candidates who should apply R1 – those that are ready. Quality is really the most important thing – if your application is not R1-ready, then you shouldn’t apply R1. It’s as simple as that.
NOTE: R1 is not just for superstars. That means that not everyone who applies R1 is a superstar and not everyone who waits to apply R2 is a loser. If that were the case, then adcoms wouldn’t bother looking at R2 applications (not to mention R3 apps, which is a subject for another post).

Who Should Apply Round 2?

Applicants who aren’t confident with the quality of their application. This is obviously the converse of what we’ve been saying before. If you’re not ready to apply, then don’t submit a mediocre application simply so you can get it in before the R1 buzzer.

Applicants who want to retake the GMAT. Related, if you plan on retaking the GMAT because you weren’t satisfied with your score, then you should wait to apply R2.

Applicants who don’t have their LORs in hand. If you were slow to the punch requesting letters of recommendation, and you know that your recommenders won’t get their part of the job done in time, then you should push off applying until R2 (unless your school says it will wait for letters of recommendation and start processing your application without them). An application with late or missing LORs will just be pushed to a later round, so don’t apply before you know that your application will include them.

Applicants who need a bit more time to grow and learn. This applies to growth in the work place and outside it. Sometimes applicants are so close to presenting a strong work history or impressive extracurricular activities or hobbies, but just need some more time to fully go the distance and reach the goals they’ve set out for themselves. If you know you’ll be promoted or given new work responsibilities in the next month or two, then you may want to wait for R2, especially if you think this new growth will impact your letters of recommendation. Similarly, if you are taking classes or going for a CFA to offset a less than desirable undergraduate GPA, wait until you can show those new shiny As or a pass on the CFA exam.

Yes, it’s true that when you wait to apply Round 2, seats have already been given to R1 applicants, and that’s why I recommend that if you can apply R1 without sacrificing on quality and you know that all components are ready to go, then you certainly should apply R1. But if your application is not top-notch, then you can assume that you wouldn’t be getting one of those R1 seats anyway, and that you’d be better off applying R2.

Let’s look at a few examples and determine whether the applicant should apply in each case:

Applicant A:

Applicant A has been struggling with his GMAT and wants to attend a top 20 program. He is unlikely to be admitted with his current score, but wants to apply R1 because the rest of his application is ready to go, and quite impressive at that. Should he apply Round 1 or Round 2?
Answer: Maybe the rest of his application is already impressive; but if he can raise his GMAT and make it even more impressive, then that’s what he should do. This applicant should apply R2.

Applicant B:

It is two days before the R1 deadline and Applicant B has all application components ready to submit. She does a quick look over her essay and sees a typo. And then another typo. Then she realizes that maybe she was too quick to call this copy her final copy, and maybe she shouldn’t asked a friend/colleague/cousin to review her writing. Should she apply R1 or R2?
Answer: While one typo won’t doom an application, several reveal sloppiness. Even if it’s one or two days before the deadline, contact If we have availability, we can review your application with an experienced and objective professional eye. Then you can submit R1. If you aren’t confident your essays are typo-free or if you have them reviewed and it will take more time than you have to get them into top-notch shape, wait to apply R2. A sloppy application is a dinged application – so don’t take that risk!

Applicant C:

Applicant C has good grades, scores, extracurriculars, and work experience. He is in a crowded applicant sub-group and thinks he should apply R2 because (he thinks) the competition will be less intense.
Answer: This is a big mistake. Competition is intense both rounds. This race isn’t about timing; it’s about differentiating yourself from the competition, improving your profile so that you really stand out, learning about the schools so that you choose the one that will best suit your goals, and creating essays that show that you’re unique despite your profile group. He should submit Round 1 when there are more spots available.
TIP: Don’t apply too early within either round. Unless you’re applying to an MBA program with rolling admissions (like Columbia for example), then you may actually benefit from applying later in the round rather than earlier. The reason for this is that as you complete more applications and write more essays, you’ll get a clearer window into yourself and a strong understanding of what these applications are all about. It would be a shame to come to some sort of breakthrough in application #6 and then realize that you can’t tweak applications 1-5 because you sent them in weeks before the deadline. Hold on to completed applications until you’ve completed them all so that previous applications can benefit from your recent writing experience and greater clarity. Obviously, calendar the deadlines and submit a day or two before.

Why a day or two before the deadline?

You don’t want to wait until the 11th hour to hit SUBMIT. If you encounter a problem uploading your application or if servers get overloaded on deadline day, then you’ll be sorry. You don’t want to miss a deadline on an application that was completed weeks earlier because you waited too long.
We’ve touched on a lot of subjects here but I’d like to sum up with what has become one of my b-school application mantras: Apply as early as possible PROVIDED you don’t compromise the quality of your application.

Linda Abraham

Co-Author of: MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools

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The Great Debate: Applying Round 1 vs. Round 2   [#permalink] 08 Jul 2013, 10:46
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The Great Debate: Applying Round 1 vs. Round 2

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