The round 3 deadline window at several top schools is nearly upon us. While the final round is the biggest gamble of the application cycle, schools have that round for a reason. Typically, they use it to admit those stellar students that add something special to their classes.
Successful applicants might have unusual work experience, substantial community service, a diverse background, compelling leadership examples, unique or uncommon interests outside of business, or entrepreneurial success of some sort.
Of course, this year is an application year like no other, with tech sector layoffs set to surpass 94,000. As a result, many schools added another round to accommodate newly laid-off skilled workers who might want to pivot to b-school.
Without further ado, here’s a sampling of recent reactions from the admissions teams at well-ranked MBA programs on whether round 3 is a viable option for applicants in 2023.
UV Darden School of Business
Darden announced rolling round three deadlines earlier this year in response to the massive layoffs affecting the tech industry and beyond. Upcoming deadlines hit on April 1 and May 1, 2023. Like most schools, Darden welcomes strong applicants to apply in the later round. They understand personal circumstances may have prevented you from applying sooner.
“We are very intentional about how we bring together the next class of Darden students, and we always ensure space for Round 3 candidates,” Darden’s Maggie Dodson explains in a recent blog post.
Nevertheless, applicants should use the Additional Comments section to explain their application timing. Doing so offers the AdCom helpful information for understanding your individual story and timeline.
Candidates applying during the round 3 deadlines should also know that Darden still offers merit scholarships to later applicants. But, the school has a finite amount of money to award, and naturally, there is less available later in the cycle.
Darden also has an answer for MBA hopefuls on the fence and wondering whether they should wait until next year. “If you have the time and resources, there is almost no reason not to apply,” Dodson writes.
“The MBA landscape is a constantly-evolving one,” Dodson notes. “If you’re not quite sure, you may want to consider applying now and going through the process as a test run.”
Dodson adds that the school often sees reapplicants from Round 3 in the next application cycle. “They’ve had a unique chance to reflect on their goals and have been through the application process once already. We value our reapplicants!” she says.
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Michigan Ross School of Business
Like UVA Darden, Michigan Ross School of Business has two late rounds still to come this application cycle: April 3 and May 1, 2023. There’s truly no stigma to applying in round three at Ross. In fact, the interim director of admissions, Taya Sapp, is confident about candidate quality in the later rounds.
“We have many students we’ve admitted in May and June that have gone on to be leaders in the class and land great jobs. Your classmates and recruiters will never ask you which round you applied in,” she notes.
Whereas other programs (and many SBC team members) want to see an explanation of why the applicant waited for the final round deadline in the supplemental section, that isn’t the case at Ross.
“We never question the reason you chose to apply in a particular round,” Sapp says. “We assume that you apply when you are ready to apply. Everyone has their own factors that influence the timing of their application, and you don’t need to worry about explaining them. Focus on making your application as strong as it can be and not the deadline you chose to apply within.”
If you’re on the fence about applying this year, Sapp says there are no drawbacks to trying for a shot this season to start school in the fall. If you don’t get in, “you can repurpose your essays and recommendation letter for next year’s application and we will waive your application fee,” she adds.
“We admit many reapplicants every year, so there isn’t a downside to applying now if you’re trying to decide between applying now or waiting until next year.”
Duke University Fuqua School of Business
Like the previous programs, Fuqua added an additional application round this year to meet the needs of applicants with unusual circumstances. The round 4 deadline at Duke Fuqua is coming up on March 28, 2023. As with UVA Darden, it’s vital that you explain the reasoning behind your decision to apply in the last round.
As this myth-busting post from 2022 explains, they see many common reasons for a late-round application. Maybe you delayed your application while you worked to improve your GMAT or GRE score. Perhaps an all-consuming project at work made applying earlier impossible. Many applicants may have a pandemic-related reason for the delay.
“Or perhaps it’s simply an epiphany you had recently about where you want to be in the next two to five years,” Allison Jameson, assistant dean of admissions, writes. “Whatever the case, make it clear in the application what that catalyst was and why this timing is right.”
Yale School of Management
While Yale School of Management didn’t add a new deadline in response to layoffs, the school is especially welcoming of late-round applicants. “Given the overall economic climate, we anticipate our final application round this spring will be much more active than usual,” says Yale SOM Assistant Dean Bruce DelMonico.
“We are planning to admit more aggressively in this round than we typically would,” DelMonico adds.
“So, although you may normally hear the advice that you shouldn’t apply in Round 3, I would say that this year could well be an exception—if you’re open to beginning your MBA studies this fall and able to prepare your application by our April 11 deadline, it is worth submitting now.”
SBC’s advice for applicants targeting the round 3 deadline
You should definitely use the required or optional MBA admission essays to explain your reasons for waiting until the third – or final – round to apply.
Otherwise, the AdComm could jump to the wrong conclusion. They may wonder whether you’re using round three as a last-ditch effort to get into business school in the fall after receiving rejections from other schools in earlier rounds.
With fewer slots available, fine-tune your focus on schools where you’ll be a compelling candidate. A robust and well-thought-out application is critical. Ensure your academic profile aligns with the school’s median GMAT and average GPA. Also, consider whether you add something special to the class that the admissions committee didn’t see earlier in the season.
Check out B-Schooled Podcast Episode #40: Round 3 (or Final Admissions Round) Considerations
Standing out from the pack is imperative, and never more so than when applying later in the game. To do well in the admissions process, you must communicate who you are, not just what you do.
Finally, it’s essential to have a Plan B if things don’t go your way. You can always apply to a set of schools in round 3, knowing there is a good chance you will need to reapply to them and add in some new options next season.
Request a free MBA advising session with Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help with your complete MBA applications. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.
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