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3 Signs Your MBA Application Should Wait Until Round 2

Sep. 29, 2017 US News and World Report

In the world of b-school admissions, there’s definitely a lot of pressure for candidates to try to submit in the first round, when all the seats in the class are available and applicants are only compared against other early applicants.

You have numerous advantages if you apply in round one and receive an admission offer – from more time to prepare for school to the ability to start networking with your classmates early.

The most prepared applicants generally apply in the first round. If you have a solid application ready to submit in October, this is an excellent time to do so.

But don’t expect your admission chances to increase just because you apply early. And don’t rush to apply if you aren’t ready.

We advise clients to apply in the round that allows them to put together the best possible application. Here are three possible reasons you may be better off holding your application for round two.

1. You’re not fully convinced of your application’s quality. The admissions committee evaluates all facets of your materials, so make sure every element strongly supports your MBA ambitions.

Cast a critical eye over your admissions essays, making sure they succinctly answer the provided question. So often we review essay drafts in which applicants are so intent on positioning themselves a certain way or highlighting a particular achievement that they fail to adequately respond to what their target program has asked.

Pay close attention to editing errors, and make sure you have utter confidence in your test scores and letters of recommendation. It’s always better to wait than submit with only 90 percent confidence in your application.

A former client, Michael, was deep into his business school applications when, two weeks before round one deadlines, his primary consultant asked me to review his essays. He had great raw material about his distinct family background, impressive work achievements and extensive volunteer activities, but the essays needed more polishing to really shine.

Although Michael strongly preferred to apply in round one, we advised he wait and apply in round two. He took our advice and spent another three weeks editing and honing the focus of his essays. Fortunately, that extra preparation paid off, and Michael received an admission offer from Harvard Business School.

2. You’re considering taking one last shot at the GMAT. Even if all other aspects of your application are solid, a lower-than-average test score will stand out as a red flag at the most competitive programs.

If you’re extremely close to the score that your target schools generally require – say the average is 710 and you got 690 – think carefully before deciding to retake the exam. You may be better off focusing on your essays or coaching your recommenders instead.

However, if you’re not even in the ballpark, it’s time to buckle down and improve those test scores before applying. Applicants looking at ranked programs in the top 20 or 50 should check the average scores of admitted students to determine their personal target GMATscore.

Another case for delaying your application is if you’ve decided to take a college-level calculus or statistics class on the side and you want the grade to come in first to prove you can handle the quantitative component of the curriculum. Or perhaps you’re expecting a promotion to come through any moment and you want to use that in your application.

I always tell clients that great is better than now. Use the extra time to bump everything up and submit when all elements are as strong as possible.

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