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MBA Admissions Insights on Round 3

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Mar 29, 2024

Round 3 deadlines are coming up in late March and early April for most top schools. While the final round is the biggest gamble of the application cycle, top MBA programs have it for a reason. Chiefly, they use it to admit those stellar students who add something special to their classes. We've surveyed the SBC consultant team, which includes former MBA Admissions Officers, to gather MBA admissions insights on the nuances of Round 3.

Round 3 MBA Admissions Insights from SBC's Team

For top US full-time MBA programs, we almost always encourage candidates to apply in rounds 1 or 2. That’s because there are simply fewer spots open in Round 3. To gauge viability at top MBA programs in this round, we evaluate what is truly remarkable in the candidate's profile.

What do we mean by remarkable? Sometimes, it may mean unusual work experience, substantial community service, or compelling leadership examples. Or, it might mean having a diverse background, unique interests outside of business, or entrepreneurial success of some sort.

SBC consultant Sarah shared this perspective about round 3: "You are usually being considered along with the waitlisted applicants and need a compelling reason as to why you waited so long. If you are in a traditional industry, it's a steep climb."

The flip side is that R3 is perfectly acceptable for other program types. This includes part-time (PMBA), executive programs (EMBA), EU programs, and some full-time, 2-year US MBA programs.

Lisa on the SBC team clarified why:

EMBA and PMBA tend to have a more consistent application volume throughout the cycle and admit people up to the last minute. There are also full-time programs with similar application patterns; they are just not the top-tier ranked, big-name programs.

Some full-time programs in medium to large urban areas have a decent size R3 (and R4 if they have one). That’s because they might have industries or other aspects to their area that see a spring/summer heavy transient population.

For example, urban areas with major hospital systems utilizing residents release matches in Feb/March to start in July, so a trailing significant other might not know where s/he will be until spring. Or, if a large industry hub is doing well, more people might be moving to the area—and that usually coincides with promotions in the new year and/or school year.

For programs in these areas, they often know there will be a small, quality application bump in the last round. So, Lisa says the last round(s) can still be viable/make sense depending on your profile and the schools you target.

Contact us today to request tailored advice to determine whether round 3 is viable for your profile.

Use the Optional Essay

You should use the optional MBA essay to explain why you waited until the third–or final–round to apply. You don’t want anyone to jump to the wrong conclusion. They may wonder whether you’re using round 3 as a last-ditch effort to get into business school in the fall. Or, they may wonder whether you received multiple rejections from other schools in earlier rounds.

Margaret, who has been with the SBC team for over 15 years, shared:

"It makes sense to include an optional essay about timing. I don't think a person needs to apologize for applying in Round 3. What would be the point of giving people this option if you're going to blame them for using it? But, I do think there needs to be a good reason for it."

"Several of my Round 3s were military people on deployment, and this was the earliest they were able to pull together applications," Margaret adds.

Candidates with extremely specific backgrounds or personal reasons will have the best odds in round 3 at the top MBA programs. As SBC consultant Sarah notes, "We often support round 3 for applicants who come from those 'exception' groups—those working offshore on an oil rig, deployed from July through November. Military. Those in the midst of selling a company and unable to move until the new year."

With limited slots available, SBC recommends that you fine-tune your focus on schools where you’ll make a compelling candidate. A strong, well-thought-out application is critical.

Ensure your academic profile aligns with the school’s median GMAT and average GPA. Also, ensure that you add something special to the class that the admissions committee didn’t see earlier in the season.

If you want to do well in the admissions process, you must communicate who you are, not just what you do. Standing out from the pack is imperative, and never more so than when applying later in the game.

What MBA Programs Say About Round 3 (and Final Rounds)

Here’s a sampling of opinions from several top MBA programs regarding Round 3*.

Tuck School of Business

Last year, admissions director Amy Mitson said, “Throughout all three of our application rounds we are inviting candidates to interview, making offers of admission, and awarding scholarships. And the average scholarship award for an admitted student in Round 3 is on par with our overall average scholarship of $30,065 per academic year.”

The Round 3 deadline at Tuck is March 25, 2024.

Yale School of Management

“While you may view a Round 3 application as risky, I believe it should be viewed as an opportunity,” Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico has said in the past. “If you’re successful, you will be able to begin your MBA in just a few months.”

“And if you happen not to be admitted in Round 3, know that the admissions committee offers feedback on request, which is a rare chance to learn how to fine-tune your application for next year. There is no stigma or bias against reapplicants, so a Round 3 application this year, if unsuccessful, can be a good ‘dry run’ for an application next season.”

The Round 3 deadline at Yale SOM is April 9, 2024.

Kellogg School of Management

The Insider Kellogg blog features this advice from now-graduated Marcus Schneider. He accelerated his MBA plans to join his girlfriend at Kellogg. This is how he answered the question, What is one piece of advice you would give current applicants applying in Round 3?

“Have a concise and compelling reason for why you are applying in Round 3. This is a question I was asked in every interview,” Schneider reveals.

“Without a great answer, the assumption may be that you were just too lazy to get everything in order for the earlier deadlines. That’s probably not the case, so make sure your interviewer knows your specific rationale.”

The Round 3 deadline at Kellogg School of Management is April 3, 2024.

UCLA Anderson School of Management

The MBA Insider blog at Anderson has offered this perspective on the Pros and Cons of applying in Round 3.

Pros: Perhaps the biggest benefit in applying in Round 3 is not just having the most time to put together the strongest application possible, but you also have additional time to enhance your application profile -- the additional time may allow you to get a promotion at work, take on a new project, and/or get involved in more leadership activities, for example.

If you applied to other programs in earlier rounds, you will likely also be equipped with acceptance information from those schools. You will also have ample time to take (and potentially re-take) the GMAT/GRE and/or TOEFL/IELTS exams.

Cons: Unlike Round 2 where it’s competitive due to the sheer number of applications received, this last round is the most competitive because our class size is capped. Fewer applicants are historically admitted in the last round simply due to the limited spots we have remaining to round out the incoming class.

While you can still be placed on our waitlist, there are still likely many other individuals from earlier Rounds on our waitlist that you'll be still compared against.

The Round 3 deadline at UCLA Anderson is April 12, 2024.

UT McCombs School of Business

This advice comes from the Texas McCombs admissions blog.

"Often, it’s not clear that the time is right to pursue your MBA until later in the application cycle, and candidates don’t want to wait a year before getting started. Sometimes an application can be even stronger when you wait to submit until after you’ve landed a promotion, closed that latest deal, or had more time to prepare. The Admissions Committee recognizes this dynamic. When you’re ready to apply, we’re ready for you."

The Round 3 deadline at UT McCombs is March 26, 2024.

MIT Sloan School of Management

"We decided to add a Round 3 application deadline for a variety of reasons, one of which was because we wanted to accommodate applicants who become ready to apply later in the traditional MBA admissions cycle," MBA admissions director Dawna Levenson, has previously explained.

"The Round 3 application deadline was designed to give these individuals—whose professional or personal circumstances have unexpectedly changed—an opportunity not to have to wait another year. So if this sounds like you, and you are now ready to begin your MBA studies next fall, I encourage you to apply!"

The Round 3 deadline at MIT Sloan is April 8, 2024.

Lastly, it’s important to have a Plan B if things don’t go your way. If Round 3 doesn’t work out this season, know that you can reapply to those same schools next year. Plus, you can add in some new ones, too.

*R3 refers to the final round. For schools that have a fourth round, then R3 is still more viable.


Stacy Blackman Consulting is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every M7 program and the elite European MBA programs. We offer multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help with essay editing, interview prep, and MBA resume review. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.