By betsy On Tuesday, February 16 th, 2016 · no Comments · In

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.