Tag Archives | Dee Leopold

Talking About Round 3: Is it Worth Trying?

It’s that time of year for students to ask about MBA application chances for Round 3.  I’ve personally seen a number of students go through successful third-round quests, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Fewer Spaces, Tired Application Readers

First the odds are more competitive, as admissions committee members from Tuck recently posted on their blog. But not impossible, as they say. A work change could be a perfectly fine reason to make the third round plunge: Tuck bloggers tell the story of one student who “wasn’t completely satisfied with her professional life. She decided she was ready for a change, but, because she wanted to ensure that she presented the best possible application, she opted to let a few rounds pass..Providing a little explanation in your application as to why you’ve chosen to apply at this particular time helps the committee understand your motivations better.

And of course, Dee Leopold of Harvard Business School also chimes in with her straight talk about Round 3. Here’s what she said in a recent blog post:

Myth #1: There are no spots available.
Not true. We manage the selection process to ensure that there are always spots open for the candidates we want. Are there as many spots open as in Rounds 1 and 2? No. Are there as many applicants? No. Do I think a strong candidate has a fair shot? Yes.

Here’s more from her blog a few years back:

…we always conclude that we like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option. Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again. I know you wish I could define “interesting” with pinpoint accuracy but I can’t. Sometimes it’s work experience, sometimes it’s an undergraduate school we wish we had more students from, sometimes it’s a compelling recommendation …

Kurt Ahlm, admissions director for Chicago Booth, also gave this advice in a March 7, Booth Insider blog post (2013, but still fresh)

Make it your best effort, not a last-ditch effort to get accepted. Treat this round with the same drive you would for any round, for any of your target schools. We know when an application has been rushed, so make sure you’re putting together a product that you can be proud of and is an accurate representation of what you can do. Don’t use the opportunity to reapply a few months later as a back-up plan.

Do’s and Don’ts

Indeed, don’t take the process cavalierly, or you will be wasting your time and the political capital you had to spend to get people to write those nice recommendations. Last year I wrote up a list of Round 3 tips that still hold true

Do apply third round if

  • You realize that there are other schools after HBS and Stanford GBS
  • You improved your GMAT score by enough to put you within the target school’s range
  • Your work or life situation changed
  • You are considering part-time programs when you only applied to full-time programs

You should NOT apply third round if

  • You only want to go to a top 5 school and you didn’t get into the top 4
  • You are outside of the school’s class profile
  • You aren’t sure what you want to do
  • The thought of filling out another application gives you a rash
  • You hate your life and it just occurred to you to get an MBA last week

Yes, it is a little on the late side, and if you are just starting to think about taking your GMAT, you probably should delay until next year. But! If you are already in the process, and ready to go, take heart. Stranger things have happened.

Apply Now or Later?

“When should I apply?”  That’s one of the first things students ask when planning their MBA application process.  The highly personal answer depends on both strategic and tactical considerations.

The Decision is Part of Your Career Strategy

round-2-boxing

The “when” question is strategic because an MBA application requires asking yourself big questions about your career and where you want to go next. Often these decisions depend on the experience you already have. If you are looking at full-time programs, that means you have to figure out whether you have enough experience to convince an admissions committee that this is the right time to leave your current job and take on the hard-core leadership and managerial training to set you up for the next phase.  Remember, the admissions committee is trying to determine your value added to your future stakeholders: classmates, faculty, and alumni.

But I Hate My Job!

That’s among the worst reasons to apply to business school. It’s really better to apply from a position of strength. Sometimes you just need one more year to gain more work autonomy, or you might want to switch functions to round out your experience, or even push yourself in a completely different direction. If you are not sure now is the time , then you are probably not ready.

Is there a target number of years? Not exactly. Most schools publish their average age and years of experience on the class profile page.

HBS Histogram

You’ll see that over the past 10 years, Harvard Business School’s students matriculated with a range of 41-54 months of full time experience.  And there’s a standard deviation of a about year  around that, giving you a plenty to work with.

If you are on the young side, think hard about the quality of the challenges and emotional intelligence you’ve demonstrated to influence outcomes. Remember, your teammate may be an astronaut, a West Point-educated Tesla employee,  a prize-winning athlete,   or just a high-performing consultant. Do you bring enough maturity, self-awareness, and resilience   to add to your teammate’s experience? It’s quite a tall order, and that’s why admission to the top schools is so competitive.

You’ll note that I’m not writing too much about someone with many years of experience. In that case, your question is not “when?” but “if?” If you think you are on the “more experienced” side, then don’t wait.  For a good, balanced perspective on the “too old” question, take a look at  Wharton’s excellent Student2Student forum.

Round 1, 2, or 3?

The decision about Round 1, 2, or 3, is more of a tactical one. I’m writing this article in the first week of January, so chances are, if you are reading it in early 2014, you probably have already missed Round 2. However, if you are thinking of next year, all things being equal (and they never are) I recommend Round 1. You’d rather have an admissions reader who is fresh and not looking to fill a gap in a class that’s already half-full. Furthermore, as a practical matter, Round 1 lets you enjoy the holiday season more, and your family with thank you for that.

This does not mean that Round 2 is an overly-tough round. Thousands of students apply and are admitted in the second round. Many have skipped on the first round because they haven’t done enough personal reflection to make sure their story and purpose are clear. Others wanted to take the GMAT score again, and for others, life got in the way. All of these are great reasons to postpone to Round 2.

Wrangling Recommenders

Recommendations are often overlooked when considering your tactical timing. I call this wrangling recommenders. You’ll need to brief and rally your recommenders to make sure they do the very best job for you. It is your job as project manager of your application to take this part of the application seriously. You will want them fully on your side, and the whole process WILL cost you some political capital. And no, you cannot write your own recommendations and just have them tweak and sign. That’s wrong.

Am I Crazy to Apply Round 3?

Finally, it’s come to this: the Round 3 question.  I personally know or have worked with students who have gotten into every top school in the country that has a third round. (MIT does not). The odds are against you, but if your tactical timing is right, then it may just work. As Dee Leopold, head of Harvard Business School admissions says,

“We like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option. Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again.”

Yes, it is a little on the late side, and if you are just starting to think about taking your GMAT, you probably should delay until next year. But! If you are already in the process, and ready to go, you may not be as crazy as you think.

The choice is always yours. Whenever you decide to apply, make sure you execute well. That probably means you shouldn’t rush. Business school is a big decision and a bigger commitment, so you should apply when you feel you are presenting your best, true self.

This prompt is partly about your ability to plan logically and partly about your ability to envision a wild future.

MBA Third Round Chances

Every year I get the same question: is it worth applying in Round 3?.  And every year I see students get in and happily matriculate, so … why not?

Fewer Spaces, Tired Application Readers

Well, it is more competitive,  as admissions committee members from Tuck recently posted on their blog. But not impossible, as they say. A work change could be a perfectly fine reason to make the third round plunge: Tuck bloggers tell the story of one student who “wasn’t completely satisfied with her professional life.  So although an MBA was something she had been considering, when her company began undergoing some changes, she decided she was ready for a change as well.  Because she wanted to ensure that she presented the best possible application, she opted to let a few rounds pass.  Additionally, providing a little explanation in your application as to why you’ve chosen to apply at this particular time helps the committee understand your motivations better.

Kurt Ahlm, admissions director for Chicago Booth, also gave  this advice in a March 7, Booth Insider blog post

Make it your best effort, not a last-ditch effort to get accepted. Treat this round with the same drive you would for any round, for any of your target schools.  We know when an application has been rushed, so make sure you’re putting together a product that you can be proud of and is an accurate representation of what you can do. Don’t use the opportunity to reapply a few months later as a back-up plan.

Do’s and Don’ts

Indeed, don’t take the process cavalierly, or you will be wasting your time and the political capital you had to spend to get people to write those nice recommendations. Last year I wrote up a list of Round 3 tips  that still hold true

Do apply third round if

  • You realize that there are other schools after HBS and Stanford GSB
  • You improved your GMAT score by enough to put you within the target school’s range
  • Your work or life situation changed
  • You are considering part-time programs when you only applied to full-time programs

You should NOT apply third round if

  • You only want to go to a top 5 school and you didn’t get into the top 4
  • You are outside of the school’s class profile
  • You aren’t sure what you want to do
  • The thought of filling out another application gives you a rash
  • You hate your life and it just occurred to you to get an MBA last week

And of course, Dee Leopold of Harvard Business School said this in her blog a few years back:

Round Three – Should You or Shouldn’t You?
…You may be asking yourself whether it’s worth your time and money to submit an application. Is it too much of a long shot?

…we always conclude that we like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option. Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again. I know you wish I could define “interesting” with pinpoint accuracy but I can’t. Sometimes it’s work experience, sometimes it’s an undergraduate school we wish we had more students from, sometimes it’s a compelling recommendation …

Yes, it is a little on the late side, and if you are just starting to think about it, you probably should delay until next year. But! If you are already in the process, and ready to go, take heart. You are not as crazy as you think.