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How do Business School Application Rounds Work and When Should I Apply?

Business schools work with two admission policies: rolling admissions and rounds of admissions.

Rolling admissions: Candidates should submit their application before a deadline. The applications are considered as they come in.

Rounds admissions: In this case, there are multiple deadlines and the school will consider all the applications from that round before moving on to the applications from the next round. The average number of rounds is three (in the fall, in the winter and in the spring), but a school could have just two rounds or more than three. 

It is important that you get the correct information about the number of rounds and their deadlines from the schools you are planning to apply. Deadlines differ from one school to another so make sure you don’t mix the dates and force yourself into applying in the later rounds by accident.

Which round should I apply in?

Here we prepared a small table where we go through the important aspects to consider from each round:

First Round Second Round Third Round
Program availability Full availability Less amount of seats available Least amount of seats available
Usual amount of applicants Small pool of applicants Largest pool of applicants Smallest pool of applicants
GMAT score If your GMAT score is weaker, then you are compared to a smaller pool of applicants which will benefit you Your GMAT score should be solid, since you are compared to a large group of candidates. A second round is a good option if you want to retake the GMAT before applying. Your GMAT score should be excellent
Overall application It should be strong. Make sure you don’t rush in this aspect just to make it to the first round. This round gives you extra time to keep working on your application Your application should be impeccable.

This round gives you extra time to keep working on your application

Others aspects If you are an international candidate, finding out about your admission early, gives you more time to organize visas and logistics – It is advisable you include a convincing argument on why you waited until the last round to apply.

– An unusual background/profile is an advantage at this stage, since schools tend to put focus on diversity before the end of the rounds.

Can I Be Accepted If I Apply In the Third Round?

Your chances of acceptance do decrease significantly if you apply in the third round and it also depends on the schools you are planning to apply to. For example, if you aim for a top ten U.S Business school, then your chances to be admitted are significantly higher in the first two rounds than in the third.

If you are thinking of applying third round, it is usually recommended that you wait to apply the following year in the first round. Despite lower probability of success in the third round, it is still possible to be accepted.

To get a better idea of your chances, it is recommended to speak with the admissions committees of the schools you are interested in, current students at those schools, or an admissions consultant. Of course, also think about which round is most suitable considering where you in the application process and if you have or haven’t already sat for the GMAT and received a competitive score.

In conclusion, it is always better to apply early in the admissions process – whether you are applying to a program with rolling admissions or admissions by round. If you are determining which round to apply in, consider the pros and cons of each option and pick the most suitable considering all the aspects of your application.

If you need help with the GMAT or the admissions process we can help.  For more information on our different GMAT products see:

  • GMAT private classes – see the stories of Will, Teddy, Jessica and Nico and how they approached their GMAT journey with Merchant.
  • Merchant Academy – a GMAT teaching innovation that makes taking the GMAT, like an MBA. Click to find out more about the Merchant Academy format.
  • Merchant GMAT Hall of Fame – a gallery of some of our clients over the last eight years.

For admissions help see some of the client stories on our admissions page.

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