Tag Archives | Round 3

Apply Now or Later? Business School Age Range

“When should I apply?”  “Am I too old to apply to business school?” Those are often 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

 

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

HBS range of years of experience

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 (now defunct) Student2Student forum (answers saved at the link).

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 2017, 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.

The Official Word on Round 3 MBA Chances

I recently wrote an article for Poets and Quants on Round 3, checking in with a whole bunch of admissions officers for their official word on the subject.  The quick answer: it’s a smaller round, and if you do apply, do it with gusto.

For those with only two minutes to read, here are some quick Do’s and Don’ts to guide you:

DO’S AND DON’TS FOR APPLYING IN LAST ROUND

You Should Consider Applying in Round 3 If:

  • You ran out of time in Round 2 and had some other target schools that interested you
  • You improved your GMAT or GRE score by enough to put you within the target school’s range
  • You overlooked a school and, after taking a closer look, you think you might be a good fit
  • After going through the whole application process, you finally realize you are less hung up on a Top-5 ranking.
  • You are looking at deferred-admit or a part-time programs

You should NOT apply Round 3 if:

  • You figure you can recycle the essays that didn’t work during Rounds 1 or 2
  • You are outside of the school’s 2015 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 job and it just occurred to you to apply to business school last week

The article is here:

February and March are funny times of the year in business school admissions.  First-rounders are going to admitted student weekends and making decisions. Second-round candidates are waiting or preparing for interviews. And there are some students who haven’t applied yet. And many, who are staring at the calendar and thinking about the unknown future are asking, “Should I consider Round 3?”

Like most things in life, it depends. Like with any round, it depends on when you are ready; for example, have you even taken the GMAT or GRE? In other cases, students are wondering if it is worth a “Hail Mary” pass, and if so, what’s the downside?

Notably, there are fewer places in the class, as the super-majority of the class will have been admitted in the earlier rounds. That usually means chances are a lot lower. But not impossible.

YES, SPACE IS AVAILABLE

Students do get admitted to top business schools in Round 3. It’s not a myth. As Harvard Business School admissions director Dee Leopold has written in her blog about Round 3, “Yes, we have spots available. We always do.”

Admissions officers agree: the third round is not a joke. “All applicants are taken seriously by the admissions committee no matter what round they choose,” says Amy Mitson, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck. “The bigger question is are they taking the potential opportunity seriously. If an applicant just tosses their application into the last round because they didn’t have better luck elsewhere, they should reconsider applying and maybe wait until next season when they can bring some gusto to their process.”

There are plenty of legitimate reasons a student might apply in Round 3 – life or career changes, such as moving countries or companies might inspire a later-than-expected application. Or perhaps a student came to the decision somewhat late in the cycle and doesn’t want to wait a whole extra 18 months to matriculate.

Christie St. John, director of admissions at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Business, is candid about the reasons a student might apply in Round 3. “There are various reasons, some being job dissatisfaction, layoffs, too much work to have had time to study for the GMAT– and of course, rejection from other schools,” says St. John. But they do admit “a good number of candidates in that round,” adds St. John.

The third round is perfectly OK for students in the deferred admit programs, such as those at Harvard Business School and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. As Dee Leopold explains in her blog, “Round 3 is a great choice for 2+2 applicants. Why? We can be more flexible about the number of 2+2 admits given that we are not worried about a ‘seat being occupied’ for this September. College seniors have another semester of grades to show us. And another semester of activities.”

A HIGHER BAR

No matter what reason you have for applying in one of the later rounds, given the odds, the bar is higher. Admissions committee members have been reviewing essays since September, and they’ve seen it all. Plus, they’re tired. And like it or not, fit is not just a three-letter word when most of the class has already been selected. Ann Richards, senior associate director of admissions at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management explains that during the final round, admissions committees are “continu[ing] to refine the make-up of the entering class.”  She advises students to make clear why they are choosing that school and what distinctive contribution they offer. “I think Round 3 candidates should make sure their application is tight, make a strong case for why a particular school is the right fit and be ready to clearly explain the unique contributions you will bring to that school and community,” says Richards.

The entire process of admissions is about shaping a class, and what Richards calls the “refining” process usually means filling in some gaps in the demographic makeup of the class, or it could even be that a certain industry is underrepresented. HBS’ Leopold writes that the students in the third round add value to the class. “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 and sometimes it’s just ‘something’. I will say that it’s always that we have absolutely no doubts about a candidate’s leadership talent, character or academic capabilities–the same hurdle we have for the earlier rounds.”

LATE-STAGE ISSUES

Sometimes it’s hard for a school to manage the numbers of good applicants and run out of room by the third round.  Or in the case of UNC Kenan Flagler, Round 4. (The school offers October, December, January and March rounds). Because class size is a moving target, they may have to put candidates on a waiting list. “If the class is full, we may have to waitlist candidates who might have gotten in had they applied in an earlier round,” says Alison Jesse, Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the UNC Kenan Flagler Business School.

For those who are trying to plan in advance, or are international candidates trying to get visas, the uncertainty of the third round may just present too much uncertainty.  Certain schools discourage those with visa issues, but not all.  In fact, according to Stephen Sweeney, Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions at Texas’ McCombs School, they are trying to make it easier for internationals to apply all rounds. “This year, we are opening our Round 3 up to international applicants and have tweaked the timing so international admitted students can complete their necessary visa requirements. We are hopeful we get great domestic and international applicants in round 3 this year.”

So do you go for it in Round 3?  If you can put together a great application, and the timing is right for you, why not?  If you are a serious candidate, you will be taken seriously. “We spend hours selecting and trying to bring in the most talented group of students,” says Kenan Flagler’s Alison Jesse. “If someone in [the latest] deadline would add special value and we have room, we are going to try and offer admission.”

People really do get into business school in the third round. I personally know students who have been accepted at HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, and Fuqua in the last round. Even so, business school is a big decision and a bigger commitment, so you should apply when you feel you are presenting your best, true self.

 

January 2013 Update

This is embarrassing. I haven’t been on this blog since last November. It’s all for good reasons; I’ve been working one-on-one with my new friends who have applied to some wonderful schools. It’s funny when you have a boutique practice like mine; I get to see all of the top business schools. Of course I get a lot of HBS, after all I went
there and keep up with the school. I also get a fair amount of Stanford GSB applicants — that’s partly because of the work I do down there on writing and resume coaching — and partly because I live in the region. But funny enough, I only got a few Berkeley applications this year, so the regional argument doesn’t seem to hold.

For some strange reason, this year I had a lot of Tuck applicants, and all of the first-round applicants did quite well. In fact, they may all be visiting each other in Hanover next year, for after all, Tuck is very self-selecting. I also had quite a few Duke applications, which made me smile, because the 25 Random Things essay is a lot of fun. If they keep that essay next year, or if you are crazy enough to apply in Round 3, I encourage you to do the Duke application first, because it helps you wrap your brain around some of the things that make you unique.

So it’s been a successful Round 1 — no bad surprises, some great fun surprises, and even some cash money surprises!
For Round 2, let’s see where it goes; right now a few students are finishing up the NYU Stern application, MIT Sloan Fellows is also this week, and Haas’s third round (out of four rounds) is also this week.

I’m tee-ing up some other blog posts to make up for lost time, so stay tuned. Also, if you’ve got a burning question, feel free to email me, or check out my forum on Wall Street Oasis.

Happy New Year, Western and Lunar

The Round 3 Question

Some business school applicants are legitimately wondering whether they should go ahead and apply in Round 3 for the 2012 entering class.  Some realize that if they don’t apply in this round, they probably won’t matriculate this year. Others figure that they should take advantage of this one last chance to round out their choices.

If you are thinking of Round 3, take a look at the following list of do’s and don’ts. It just may help you decide whether to go through the process one more time. At the bottom of this post you’ll also find an unscientific list of schools that may be worth reviewing for third round. This does not mean that it’s a cakewalk, just that they may have more flexibility than, say, Harvard or Wharton.

You should apply third round if

  • You ran out of time second round and had some other target schools that interested you (and you fell within the profile of the class of 2013)
  • You improved your GMAT score by enough to put you within the target school’s range
  • You overlooked a school and, after taking a closer look, you think you might be a good fit
  • After going through the whole application process, you really realize you are less hung up on a top 5 name.
  • 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 2013 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 job and it just occurred to you to apply to business school last week

If your scores/grades are lower than average/mean/standard distribution for your target school, take the time to retake your tests, or take a few courses in finance/accounting/business statistics and ace them.  If your work experience isn’t strong enough, take on more projects or a team leadership role.

The final round is not the death round; I know some very successful third-round admits at schools as competitive as Stanford.

As a bonus, I’m reposting excerpts from Harvard Business School admissions director Dee Leopold’s 2011 blog post about Round 3:

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 …

So if you are interested in trying for HBS in Round 3, make sure you get your application in by April 10, 2012.

An Unscientific List of Third-Round Deadlines that Might Be Useful, (in date order)

Indiana Kelley 3/1

Carnegie Mellon Tepper 3/5

Duke Fuqua 3/8

Cornell Johnson 3/14  (R4)

USC Marshall 3/15

UNC Kenan-Flagler 3/16 (R4)

Texas McCombs 3/26 (R4)

UCLA Anderson 4/18

 

–Betsy Massar

Don’t forget to check out our new book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting Into a Top MBA Program

 

 

 

 

 

MBA Admissions: Third-round thoughts and how not to drive yourself crazy while waiting

This is the time I don’t wish on anyone. I’m not talking to the MBA candidate who had their act together, applied first round and just came back from admit weekend. I’m talking about the candidate who applied second round, is pulling her hair out waiting for the drip, drip, drip of interview invitations, or already had the interview and probably didn’t blow it. But we have no information. It’s that feeling of, “Should I have applied third round to other schools?” Or, “Should I have re-taken the GMAT for a fifth time?” Here’s the worst: “Should I refresh the Business Week or Beat the GMAT forums one more time just to make sure that I am even more miserable?”

Really, there are no shoulds. If you only applied to one or two schools, or you applied only to stretch schools, you knew the risk you were taking when you did it, and second-guessing isn’t going to help. That internal dialogue is pretty deadly. If you applied third round, as I’ve written in a previous post, the final round is not the death round; students are admitted in later rounds and matriculate. It’s not a myth – I know several people who have done so. As for the GMAT, the magic number is three. Admissions officers have told me that they normally see a flattening out after three, and, given that they are human, they do think it starts to look a bit desperate.

Finally, do not read the Business Week or Beat the GMAT forums. I admit, I have read them in this admissions cycle to verify interview that invitations have gone out. I’ve read the Harvard and Stanford GSB forums and gotten profoundly depressed. Which is pretty silly, since I graduated from HBS and work at the GSB as a writing coach

So here’s my advice: don’t read the forums, don’t worry, and don’t second-guess. It’s easier said than done, and I’m actually a terrible example. So I turn to my students, and salute them:
They are cooking, playing music, training for a road race (on foot or wheels), traveling (!), working (hmm…), or hanging out with family. Dia, an admissions officer at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business wrote a great article with some good thoughts on the subject. She is a wise, wise woman, and I’m going to link to her post and let it speak for itself. I especially like the part about helping others who are applying stay on track. It’s a very generous idea, and I endorse it.

Here’s the link to the Tuck blog. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth blog

In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to email me: betsy@masteradmissions.com