MBA Admission: The Great Round 1/Round 2 Fight

By - Aug 18, 12:02 PM Comments [0]


“On my right, now entering the ring is Round 1. A perennial favorite with those who have stratospheric GMATs, patents, Nobel Prizes, and the like. And on my left, waving to the crowd is Round 2. He is favored by those with more average, but still respectable scores, grades, and experience.”

So goes the fight about when to submit an application. I am not impressed by attempts to win the admissions game through timing, at least using these arguments, which are specious and weigh less significant or non-existent factors as opposed to those that really count.

What counts above all else is the quality of your application. You want to submit when it is at its best.

The argument that Round 1 is for superstars simply isn’t true. Many superstars apply round 2 (and even later, but I am going to limit this discussion to Rounds 1 and 2). But when you wait to apply Round 2, many seats have already been given to round 1 applicants.

At the same time, some applicants are absolutely determined to submit Round 1 because they want the “early advantage.” They will even foolishly rush their applications, submit something less than their best in this mad dash to a R1 deadline.

Let’s call this match a draw. The boxers can take off their gloves and pull up a chair. Listen to Linda’s rule:

“Apply as early as possible PROVIDED you don’t compromise the quality of your application.”

Just today I received an email from an applicant who has been struggling with her GMAT and wants to attend a top 15 program. She is unlikely to be admitted with her current score and she wants to apply Round 1. She is better off raising her GMAT and postponing her application to Round 2.

Someone else writes to a mailing list that he has good scores, grades, and work experience, but is in a common applicant sub-group and wants to apply round 2 because he believes competition will be less intense.

Big mistake. Competition is intense both rounds. Instead of focusing on this timing question, he should be working to improve his profile, differentiate himself, learn about the schools, and start on his essays so that he can submit round 1 when there are more spots available.

Is there an advantage to applying early in a round, especially round 1?

I don’t think so. More importantly, there is an advantage to holding onto a completed first application and submitting it closer to the deadline (Any school, CBS for example, on rolling admissions could be exceptions to this part of this post.) As you work on subsequent applications, you will improve your essays and see (and relate) experiences and goals with greater clarity. If you just put that first completed application away while you work on applications 2, 3, & N, then you can go back to Application 1 before that school’s R1 deadline and tweak it before you submit. That first application will then benefit from your recent writing experience and greater clarity.

Don’t, however, wait until the 11th hour to upload your app and press SUBMIT. Many times servers are overloaded on deadline day. You don’t want to miss a deadline on an application that was completed weeks earlier because you waited too long.

Navigating the MBA Maze

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.


Related Resources:

How Many B-Schools Should You Apply To?
How to Write and Edit MBA Essays
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This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

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