Whether or not to apply in the first round of MBA admissions is a question that plagues many students hopeful of gaining admission into top business schools much before the admission season fever begins. The two main questions that worry students the most are:
Will applying in round 1, make my application less visible amongst A-listers?
Is applying in round 2, a safer bet?
Earlier, most admission cell officers opined that round 1 and 2 are practically equal with regard to candidates’ chances of getting admission into a school of their choice. However, many members of admission cells have now made a shift in their tone and say that students who are well prepared and are able to complete their applications well in time should submit them in round 1, itself. There are many reasons for this change.
Many candidates feel that round 1 is the most challenging round as 1st -round applicants are inclined to be exceptionally well-prepared candidates who have been working hard to join their dream business school for quite some time. They would have invested significant effort and time in their preparations for the GMAT exam, developing their profile for extracurricular activities, and undertaking opportunities for honing their leadership skills, either in professional or volunteer scenarios.
However, the fears behind the first question are unfounded. The reason being that though a school’s round 1 includes strong candidates, the school would not limit its admissions by offering a fixed number of seats, but would prefer to possibly place better candidates on its waitlist so that they can be reconsidered in the 2nd round. Another good reason to apply early is that an early application reveals the seriousness of your intent and the extent of your planning. Moreover, in the 1st round, you can have the maximum statistical chance of making it, since you are only being compared to your contemporary candidate pool.
To answer the second question, 2nd round students do stand a good chance of gaining admission to their favourite schools, but statistics from many schools reveal that almost 65% of the admissions are accepted in the 1st round itself. After all, there are more seats offered in round one and you have greater opportunities to find a place on the waitlist if you apply early. Therefore, a second round application may well be a bit late if your application is ready.
Candidates with good credentials have another advantage when they apply early. When they apply to a second-tier school (the top 20 to 40) a first round application indicates that the school is a preferred choice for the student and this may result in a grant of scholarship for the candidate. Additionally, applying early also allows you to tender applications to another program of your choice in later rounds if you fail to gain admission in your favorite program in round one. Lastly being accepted early gives plenty of time for candidates, particularly overseas students, to make a well-informed decision on a school, plan their move, and have a chance to participate in a welcome weekend in the school.
To sum it up, candidates must make every effort to apply early. However, do not compromise on the all-important quality. Send in your application letter only when you are sure of submitting your best.