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Three Signs You Shouldn’t Submit an MBA Application in Round Three

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Mar 9, 2024

Everyone has an opinion about submitting an MBA application in round three. Without fail, much of the conversation circles around how competitive it is. If you tried your best but couldn't pull together all of your materials before round two deadlines hit, you might wonder whether round three is the answer.

By the time the final admission round starts, admissions committees will have seen thousands of qualified applicants. Therefore, they have a pretty good idea of what the incoming class will look like. Plus, they have also compiled a waitlist of additional qualified candidates.

Before round three closes out, a certain percentage of people admitted in the first two rounds will have already committed to a program. In short, precious few spots remain when the admissions committees finally turn their attention to final-round applications.
As such, deciding whether to submit an MBA application in round three requires serious reflection and sound reasoning. Weigh these three crucial considerations before you take the plunge.

Reasons Not to Submit an MBA Application in Round Three

1. You had no luck with earlier-round applications.

This is a guaranteed red flag that your MBA application needs more work. Applying in the final round will likely yield the same results.

It's a huge mistake to think that fewer applicants in round three means less competition and better chances of admission. As we've mentioned before, successful round three applications offer the schools something that has not appeared in applicants from the previous rounds.

The admissions committees know what they need to round out the class. They have become good at estimating numbers and evaluating and accepting applicants who fit their criteria.

“You are usually being considered along with the waitlisted applicants and need a compelling reason as to why you waited so long," says SBC consultant Sarah. "If you are in a traditional industry, it’s a steep climb.”
As SBC consultant Margaret notes, "Several of my Round 3s were military people on deployment, and this was the earliest they were able to pull together applications.”

Only the strongest, most compelling candidates make the cut. So, if your applications didn't generate sufficient interest in earlier rounds, they certainly won't amid the exceptional candidates at the end of the season. Instead, you should regroup, restrategize, and apply again next year.

2. Your test scores are mediocre, and you've only tested once.

Applicants need to consider retaking the GMAT or GRE if their initial test scores aren't in the 80-percent range for their target MBA programs. Like it or not, test scores greatly influence admissions decisions. As discussed in prior posts, preparing early and adequately for the entrance exam is critical.

“Most students take the GRE or GMAT test two or three times—and that’s fine,” says Anthony Ritz, SBC’s Director of Test Prep. “Schools will take your highest score, and you can even cancel a bad GMAT score without a trace if you want total reassurance that it won’t count against you.”

We hear of that miracle case each year where someone gets into HBS with a 650 on the GMAT. Keep in mind that that person's profile was likely so extraordinary in every other way that it offset the low score.

Devote ample time to test prep this spring and bring that crucial application component in line with what the admissions committee expects to see from successful candidates.

3. You're rushing to get all of your materials together.

The golden rule in MBA admissions is to apply only when your application is as strong as possible—and not a moment before. Maybe projects at work have kept you ultra-busy these past few months. Perhaps one of your recommenders seems less enthusiastic about your B-school plans, and you need to find a new one. Or maybe you just haven't devoted as much time as you'd like to those vital extracurricular interests that the admissions committee loves to see.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast Episode #104: The Importance of Extracurriculars and Community Service

Think of every part of the MBA application as precious real estate. If you're rushing any one component just to get everything submitted on deadline, the quality will suffer.

Take a breather, thoughtfully organize your materials, and wait for round one deadlines. This extra time will allow you to approach the application more strategically and undoubtedly yield a more positive outcome than a sloppy last-round application.

Finally, if you decide to submit an MBA application in round three, be sure to have a Plan B if things don't go your way. Developing resilience is incredibly important if you need to reapply, but it's also essential in life. Even when you put your best out there, you might still fail. However, to succeed, you must learn how to bounce back and try again.

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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.