MBA - Application Process
Emily Liner

Which Application Round Should You Target?

Emily Liner Forté Fellow

Emily Liner
Forté Fellow

Create a timeline of important application dates before you dive into filling out applications.

Even though the application process is fairly standardized, every school’s deadlines are different.  For example, when I applied to business school last year, the Round 1 deadline at my top choices ranged from October 15 to November 25.  Furthermore, one school’s Round 1 deadline was scheduled within a week of another school’s Round 2 deadline!

To keep all of these details in order, I created a central document with all of the important dates I needed to know.  I designed mine with columns for each school and rows for the following items:

  • Deadlines for each application round;
  • Dates for the decision announcement for each round;
  • Dates for open house events, like visit weekends for accepted students;
  • Deadlines for sending school deposits if accepted.

Format your timeline however you like, but don’t skip over this important organizational step.

The deposit deadline is the most important factor in determining the right rounds to apply in.

Last year, I intended to apply to most of my schools in Round 2, but I thought that I would sneak in one school’s application into Round 1 since it actually fell close to Round 2 for all of the others.  However, a Round 1 application would have required me to accept my admission and send a deposit before I got a decision from the rest of my schools.  Make sure you look out for that before you get started – and even more importantly, before you talk to your recommenders.  Deposits are typically $1,000 or more, so this could be an expensive mistake!

Check to see if the first round deadline requires a binding decision if you are accepted at that school.

At many business schools, the first round is similar to the Early Action or Early Decision process that you encountered during college applications.  If you want to send out a lot of applications and compare acceptances and scholarship offers, then you should steer clear of any Early Action or Early Decision deadline.

Consider which is more important to you:  Having more time to make a decision, or having more time to write applications.

The round system is typically structured to give you, the applicant, control over your own destiny.  For example, at one of my schools, Round 1 had a submission deadline of November 1, a decision by January 15, and a deposit by April 15.  Meanwhile, Round 2 had a submission deadline of December 1 and a decision by February 15, but the deposit deadline was the same, April 15 – so it was up to you to decide whether you wanted to hear back earlier or spend more time working on your essays and GMAT.

You are not at a disadvantage if you apply after the first round.

Every admissions officer I spoke to gave me the same advice about timing:  Don’t submit your application until you are completely ready.  If you want to retake the GMAT to get a higher score, or if you need a few more weeks to polish up your resume and essays, take advantage of the opportunity to apply later.  If you are a strong candidate, they will admit you no matter when you apply.  In fact, I applied to Kenan-Flagler in Round 3.

In some cases, it is OK if some of your application materials arrive after the deadline.

Don’t postpone hitting “send” because you’re still waiting on your official GMAT score report or a recommendation to come through.  Many schools will accommodate you.  Just be sure to communicate with the admissions office in advance of the deadline if you anticipate that this could be a problem.

When in doubt, contact the admissions department.

With something this important, it is critical to have every date and detail confirmed before you hit “submit.”  If you are unclear about a deadline, do not hesitate to email or call the admissions department.  You do not want to jeopardize your application because you guessed about something.  Remember, the admissions staff is there to help!


Emily Liner
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate 2015
The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Related posts

Get newsletters and events relevant
to your career by joining Forté.

our partners