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.