Round 3: At this point in the admissions cycle, your potential of being accepted to your dream business school is getting slimmer, as the vast majority of seats have already been filled. Are you wondering what your chances are of being accepted into an MBA program in Round 3 this year?
In this episode of Business Casual, you’ll learn why Caroline (of Fortuna Admissions) advises against continuing your application in the third round, especially if you want to attend a top program
[00:00:07.690] – John
Welcome to Business Casual, our weekly podcast at Poets and Quants. This is John Byrne with P&Q. I have with me, my cohost, Maria Wich-Villa and Caroline Diarte Edwards. You know them? Then well, I bet you could tell each one apart by their voice. And I hope you can tell me apart from them by my voice. Hey, it’s that time of the year again when there are a lot of the round two application deadlines are pretty much done and finished. And there are people out there who are wondering about round three at US schools. At the European Asian schools are typically longer deadlines and additional rounds. But what about round three? The common perception is that, man, your chances are really low if you apply in that final round, because after all, the vast majority of seats in the classroom are already gone. And what admission directors are typically looking for are people who are underrepresented in one way or another and fashioning their class make up. So we want to explore this round three because we’re thinking this one is going to be different and will tell you why. Domestic applications to US business schools is way down in MBA programs, in many cases in double digits at different schools.
[00:01:27.300] – John
There is a war for women to reach gender parity after Wharton hit the 52% Mark with its cohort that enrolled last fall. And US schools have as a major priority, diversity and inclusion. So there’s also a race to get more diverse classmates in those cohorts. And we think this is creating an unusual opportunity in round three for domestic candidates overall and then particularly for women and for diverse candidates. Caroline, what do you think?
[00:02:05.060] – Caroline
Yeah, I think you may be right, John. Often we advise candidates against applying round three, especially for the very top schools, because typically they allocate the vast majority of their places in rounds one and two. Right. So chances are very slim in round three. And I think the Stanford admissions director once described it as sort of desperate chances in round three, very incredibly long shots. Even more also been in the early rounds, if you wait to the last round. But we’ve had a very unusual ride over the past couple of years with the pandemic creating a surge of applications. And often when there’s a surge of applications, that’s followed by a dip.
[00:02:50.370] – Caroline
[00:02:50.770] – Caroline
Because it’s pulled demand forward to a certain point in time. So people who might otherwise perhaps have applied now maybe already applied last year because of their circumstances then. So it created a search then followed by a dip now. And that’s often been the case historically when you look back at how things pan out over time with application volume. So I think you’re right that there is a bit of a dip now. And also typically in round three, admissions committees are looking to fill out the class, and they’re looking very carefully at the class statistics.
[00:03:32.700] – Maria
[00:03:33.020] – Caroline
So they’re looking to use that round to craft, put the finishing touches on the class and make sure that they’re meeting their goals of number of women, different profiles, not having too many consultants or investment bankers or engineers looking for more diverse profiles. And so round three is often really critical for that, and probably this year even more so if you have a profile that is not one of the most common profiles in the pool, then you probably do have a better shot in this round than you would have had, for example, twelve months ago.
[00:04:13.080] – John
Maria, what’s your general advice on round three?
[00:04:16.790] – Maria
Yes, I think well, first off, in case this hasn’t already been said, I think international candidates should not consider around three, even if there are more spots now than usual. There are so many hurdles to jump, especially if you’re applying to a US. Right. The visa process and you have to get a loan and scholarship money. As we were chatting a little bit before we started recording, at this point, scholarship money may not really be exhausted at this point. So I do think that this advice would really only apply to domestic candidates. And as Caroline said, people who have something relatively unique to add to the pool from rounds one and two, consultants, bankers, engineers, not only are those seats getting filled, but there’s a waitlist, probably a pretty extensive wait list of those folks from the earlier rounds already. Right. But I think in round three, people from say, I think the military, for example, those folks have a pretty good chance in round three, in part because sometimes if they are deployed or if they still have to fulfill a certain number of years of their service, they may have sort of an excuse for why they haven’t applied sooner.
[00:05:23.390] – Maria
Or entrepreneurs, for example, I think could be let’s say that someone tried to be an entrepreneur for the past couple of years and only in the past month or two they realized I either need the MBA to keep this growing or maybe I shouldn’t keep this growing and I should go back to business school and figure out what I did wrong. So I do think it has to be someone who is a strong candidate and who brings something unique. I also think I would be more inclined to tell someone to do it if they were a little bit on the older side, only because I do think that there’s a point after which it becomes really hard as an older candidate to justify going back for a full time MBA. So if someone is sort of at the six year Mark, seven year Mark of experience post College, I would say, hey, go for it, because for you the clock is ticking. I refer to it as the expiration date. Right. If you’re nearing your expiration date, you might as well apply now. But if you’re only two or three years, I would even still advise you to perhaps wait until round one is only six months away.
[00:06:29.670] – Maria
For most people, it’s probably better to simply wait until the round one. That’s coming up. But, yeah, like Caroline said, I think some people this could be a great chance for them. Why not grab the opportunity and see what happens?
[00:06:42.330] – John
Yeah. And one of the reasons why domestic apps are down so much is because the US economy has been very strong despite the lingering pandemic, and that’s kept people at work, because more opportunities exist in front of them and they feel they may not need to go to graduate school right now. The other thing that I hear happening from many admissions directors at both Berkeley and UVA Garden and other schools is that after someone gets admitted, employers are doing everything they can to hang on to them. They are offering off calendar raises and promotions and cool assignments to keep them in their seats and to keep them out of business school. And that’s opening up some opportunities around three, I think that would never have been available in the past. Now, Caroline, you’ve been on the other side of this fence, and I’m sure candidates that you’ve admitted that NCR who were told that their company just offered them a new promotion or a big raise or a really cool assignment, and now they don’t want to go to NCI even though you admitted them. What would you tell them?
[00:07:56.310] – Caroline
Every year I speak to candidates who have been admitted, and they really wanted to come, but the company was doing everything they could to stop them leaving and offering all sorts of exciting new projects and promotions and more money and so on. And that is incredibly difficult to turn down. It’s very hard to walk away from success. But I think that candidates need to take the long term view, because by their very nature, by definition, the vast majority of candidates heading off to the top schools or they all are very successful young people who are going to have lots of opportunities. Right. And regardless of whether they go to business school, they have a great profile and they can get job offers, et cetera. But I think they need to take a long term view of what is in the best long term interests. Right. The company that they’re working for does not necessarily have you as a candidate have your long term interest at heart. They’re looking to hang on to you for the benefit of the company. And maybe in the short term that’s great for you, but it might not be the best thing for you in the long term.
[00:09:10.800] – Caroline
Right. There’s a lot of long term pay off of doing the MBA and doors that will open, but otherwise will remain closed and the network that supports you throughout your career. And I think it’s a shame when candidates sort of hesitate to take up a great offer to go to business school and walk away because of those other opportunities, because often it’s not in their longer term interests. You may be able to get a deferral.
[00:09:42.630] – Caroline
[00:09:43.120] – Caroline
Or maybe you can reapply later, but there’s no guarantee that that will happen. And I think there is a sort of optimal time for most people to go off to business school. And if you leave it too long, then maybe you won’t get back in again, or maybe it’s going to have such a big impact on your career.
[00:10:00.880] – John
[00:10:01.200] – Caroline
You might as well have passed your best. As Bruce said, I know it’s very difficult to turn down great opportunities when they’re raining down on you, but I would tell candidates to think very carefully before turning down an offer to head off to business school when if that was their dream school and they really wanted to go there. Keep in mind what was the original motivation for applying and keep in mind the longer term benefit that that will have.
[00:10:32.540] – John
Yeah, I always say and I always think this is really true in general. If you’re about to leave your company for another job or for graduate school and suddenly your company recognizes the contribution that you’ve made, meaning that they didn’t recognize it fully before. There is a sense of being held up. And I don’t think that that is a positive in the long term for you at your company. You’re given a new opportunity so you don’t leave, and you’re only given that new opportunity because they don’t want you to leave. But now they feel, oh, my, we have to give you something that we wouldn’t ordinarily have given you. And there could be some unspoken resentment over that. That’s especially true when people change jobs and they’re talked out of a new job. Oh, you’re going to leave us for that? I imagine it’s the same for graduate school. Maria, what do you think?
[00:11:26.190] – Maria
Yeah, absolutely. I was offered unofficially something really exciting to move to Italy, actually, to continue my career there. And on some levels, look, that actually would have been the right choice. But I also think, look, as Caroline said, ultimately I was really on the fence. But the thing that ultimately tipped me towards doing the MBA was thinking about the long term and something that I had spoken to a female mentor of mine who had gotten an MBA. And she said, look, if you ever need to take time out in the future from your career, whether voluntarily or involuntarily having that MBA, is just going to help you jump back into the workforce in a way that you otherwise would not have. It’s either going to give you the network, it’s going to give you the credibility. And so I think that was the argument that ultimately tipped me over. And then the other thing was I was told, well, Maria, you’re already en route to running a division so far. Like Caroline said the sort of Catch 22 of MBA admissions is that you don’t get in unless you’re already a superstar at work.
[00:12:29.170] – John
[00:12:29.530] – Maria
So the good news is if you don’t get the MBA, you’re probably going to continue being a superstar. And so one of the messages I received was like, wow, but if you just hang in there for another couple of years, we are going to give you that general manager responsibility. And the other thing that tipped it towards me leaving and going to get the MBA was I thought, well, but what if I get that position and I mess it up because I don’t actually know formally stuff about marketing and operations and all this. I’m pretty much self taught in a lot of this. And what if that’s not good enough and I blow it? So that was part of it. I had seen people rise quickly through the ranks and I had seen those people just as quickly get their heads chopped off if they blew it. So I was like, Well, I don’t want that to be me. So, yes, as Caroline was saying, I think ask yourself, what sorts of things are you looking for in the long term in your career and in your life? And also ask yourself if 24 months ago, this very same employer was mumbling about layoffs and dropping hints that you might have to take some time off of unpaid leave.
[00:13:31.780] – Maria
Just sort of remind yourself of how you felt 24 months ago when the pandemic started. And if they’re sweet talking to you now, ask yourself, what did I feel that they had my back back then?
[00:13:41.650] – John
Oh, boy, that’s a really good point. It’s so easy to forget that. It really is. So in general, for round three, what we’re saying here is there may be a unique opportunity for domestic applicants who are female or diverse in general, it’s a tough round because most of the seats have been filled and what admission officers are looking for are basically filling out the class profile. Maybe they need some people from healthcare, from manufacturing, maybe they need some military candidates. So there’s a bit of more randomness to round three admissions than is even around one and round two. The other thing about round three and this is another important aspect of it is that as we mentioned earlier, the European and Asian schools have extended deadlines. And so technically, if you’re an international application and you want to apply and get into a school later this year, really at this point, your best bet is one of the European schools. Ncr has it five or six deadlines and two intakes every year. Right, right.
[00:14:51.310] – Caroline
Well, so there’s four deadlines for each intake and there are two intakes. So there’s eight deadlines here. There’s a lot more flexibility there than you have at the top US scores. Right. You have all of those deadlines. So certainly for someone who’s thinking right now about applying. I think, as you say, the international programs are a great option to consider.
[00:15:11.130] – John
True. And in those cases, because of those longer deadlines, I would imagine that the scholarship money is spread out a little bit better than it would be at US schools where most of it is expanded in round one, round two, and there’s nothing left for round three, which is another consideration. I think that if you really need money to go to an MBA program, you really want to be applying around round two. And round one is even preferable than three for sure. Right?
[00:15:43.920] – Caroline
Yeah. Actually, it’s better to apply in round one or round two for scholarship money as well, then three or four. There are still some funds available, but far less later on. So for someone who is targeting getting that financial support, we should consider applying earlier. But applications have just opened. Right. For the January intake. You can get your application in early for. Yeah, that’s right. For next January.
[00:16:13.350] – John
Is there any general advice for round two applicants? Do you need to explain why you’re applying in what could often be the last round of the business school admission cycle? Is that necessary? Because you don’t want people to think, oh, you came at this at the last minute and you put together a sloppy application.
[00:16:32.730] – Maria
Yeah. So I’m a very big fan of always addressing the elephant in the room in your application, whether that’s a low GMAT, a low GPA, getting laid off, anything that might cause this moment of, like, in the reader. I am a big fan of just addressing it upfront. And so I think there are two risks to applying in round three beyond simply the fact that it’s later. One is, as you just mentioned, you might put together a very sloppy application, and two, it might be, oh, okay. So you applied to other schools, you didn’t get into any of them, and now you’re crawling back to us. Like, where were you six months ago? You weren’t on our webinar, you haven’t signed up for our mailing list. You haven’t reached out to any students. Like, oh, you’re sort of the leftovers, and you’re viewing us as, like, the leftover. So that way, even if you get in and you come here, are you really going to be super into me? Like, are you going to be engaged in the campus and excited to be here, or are you just going to view it as, like, the consolation prize?
[00:17:33.090] – Maria
I absolutely just explain what happened. Unless, of course, if it was, I applied to other schools I liked more and I didn’t get into any of them. But you can always have there might be a really important project at work. Maybe there was a new product launch that had to happen by a certain date and you were just swamped with it. There might be personal health reasons, there could be a number of reasons. So if you have a good reason or at least a plausible reason that you could write about. It might not be the actual reason that you’re applying around three but if it works, absolutely just address it upfront like any time there might be a question Mark appearing over the Reader’s head you just want to squash it up front whenever you can.
[00:18:15.670] – John
That’s true. That’s a really good point because everyone, including a business call wants to know that it is wanted and not a leftover or a second or third choice and explaining that you are all out on a heavy assignment or that there was some your parents had covet or whatever it is and you couldn’t get to the apps earlier. But this is the school of my choice, school of my dreams. This is where I’ve always wanted to go and getting that into the optional essay or even the railer essay if there’s no optional essay is probably worthwhile for round three. Caroline, any other thoughts on round three?
[00:18:55.420] – Caroline
Yes, I totally agree with that and so do your research. Right shows the insight into the program because schools definitely see as the season goes on. You see, as I said less motivated candidates have been rejected elsewhere and so we’re sort of working their way down the list and the applications become very generic and clearly they haven’t spent much time engaging with the school. So it’s important to really set yourself apart in that context and show that you have made the effort to get to know the school and you do understand what you will get out of that specific program and so tailoring your application in round three to that specific score is even more important really than in round one. Right. Whereas they assume in round one you’re applying in round one then you probably fairly motivated candidate but there’s a big question Mark about your motivation. Round three.
[00:19:53.310] – John
Yes, really true. Okay, there you have it all that we could tell you about round three. That mysterious and often scary round that some people dare to apply and we’re telling you if you are a domestic candidate, a woman or a diverse candidate, go for it. This is an unusual and unique time given the double digits decline at many schools and domestic applicants and the race for gender parity in how diversity and inclusion has become a very high priority for many schools. Thanks for listening. This is John Byrne with Poets and Quants. Of course, you’ve been listening to Business Casual our weekly podcast.