MBA Applications | Deadline Dilemma | Round 3 or a Year Later?

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So, you’ve missed the early rounds of MBA applications. And are thinking, “Should I apply in third round in MBA admissions  or apply next year”?

You may be feeling compelled to apply in R3 for genuine reasons. A job change, moving countries, your age, or just being rejected by your favorite school, understandably qualify as legitimate reasons to pursue an R3 application.

First off, there is absolutely nothing wrong with applying in the second or third rounds. There are quite a few who have applied in the later rounds and succeeded too.

Dig a little deep, and you will find that schools are quite welcoming of applicants applying in later rounds.

Soojin Kwon, the Admissions Director of Michigan Ross School of Business proudly states, that the school specifically reserves seats for round three applicants. In fact, they also set aside scholarships for late applicants. She further adds that 60% of the 2019 round-three applicants received a scholarship (international students too).

The only caveat here is that your profile must stand out from the rest. A well-thought-out and robust application will make a compelling case.

Must Know Key facts, MBA Applications- Third Round


When it comes to scholarships, third round in MBA admissions may present a challenge. Shari Hubert is the Associate Dean for Admissions at the Duke University-Fuqua School of Business. She says that it is very important to make your overall application strong. It does not matter which round you are applying in. However, she insists that applying as early as possible (without sacrificing the quality of application) will increase your chances of getting a scholarship.

Fewer Seats

Compared to earlier rounds of the MBA applications, there are fewer seats up for grabs in third round in MBA admissions. This is because many have been taken during round 1 and round 2.

Bruce DelMonico (Assistant Dean of Admissions at Yale), is frequently asked if it makes sense to apply in Round 3. He says you must send in your application bearing in mind, that it is consistently their smallest cycle. After all, there are far fewer seats up for grabs as compared to the previous cycles.

Judith Silverman Hodara (Ex-Head of Admissions at Wharton) reiterates this point as well. She says that Round 3 decision time centered around the main question- “who are we missing?” Wharton receives a ton of great applications in the earlier rounds and many seats are filled up.

Logistical Issues

Applying in third round in MBA admissions or the last round can present some logistical issues (visa, housing, interviews). Considering this, B-schools have been known to discourage international students from applying in these rounds. However, Texas McCombs is doing something about it. They have tweaked the third-round deadlines, so international students have time to complete formalities. Similarly, UV Darden School of Business is trying to dispel myths surrounding such application by encouraging international students to go ahead in the third round, especially if they have the time and resources.

Other options

If you are unable to meet the fall deadline, consider programs that begin in January. European schools such as HEC, INSEAD, ESMT, IMD offer such an option. Further, INSEAD and LBS (London Business School)  are known to have a higher number of seats available in R3 as compared to US schools.

Work harder for Round Three of the MBA Applications

Many schools are looking to see if there is a justifiable reason for you to have waited to apply in round three. You do not want the schools to think that this is a last-ditch effort after you have been rejected by other schools in the earlier rounds.

You will have to work a little harder to secure an admit in round three, and that is fine, considering we still have some options open.

Communicate Your Preparedness

If you are applying in round 3 of the MBA applications, you must ensure that your application stands out as being truly exceptional or uncommon. The onus is on you to communicate your motivation and conviction about your preparedness.

For instance, you can highlight that if you do not apply now, you may not be in the average age range of the program. It is important to align with the ‘ideal R3 candidate’. While it may not be possible to forecast the same accurately, you can study the class profile data to see how you compare.

Highlight Non-traditional Experience

At this point, focus on your non-traditional work experiences. Like we quoted Wharton lady, it is about who are we missing? What do you bring to the table compared to the other applicants been selected in earlier rounds? How about exploiting your international experience. You can also use the optional essay to support your decision to apply late.

Differentiate yourself

Then again, a fabulous undergrad GPA and/or a solid GMAT score are not going to cut it. How do you differentiate yourself then? Well, consider highlighting an academic background that is unusual for MBA perhaps? There have been instances of veterinarians, and opera singers making it into the best schools.

Shall I consider applying next year?

As Bruce DelMonico (Yale Admissions) says, you must look at Round 3 as an opportunity, and not a risk. If you feel that you are not up to the mark with your application, then defer it to the next year. The following are excellent reasons to postpone your decision to apply in third round in MBA admissions.

Doing well at work?

If you know you are due for a promotion, it makes sense to grab it and apply next year. It is going to look great on your resume. Committees always look for markers (traditional ones such as raises, awards, or promotions) in the MBA applications, to indicate the candidate’s potential for future leadership success.

Jim Holmen, the director of admissions and financial aid at Kelley (Indiana University) says, schools look for career progression in the application. It is a strong indicator that you can handle responsibility and challenges in your chosen field.

Out of Country Assignments

An international experience on the cards? A typical MBA class will feature students from diverse cultures, professions, and age groups. This is where work experience outside your country becomes relevant. You will be able to convince the school that you can work with a diverse group effectively.  Further, since not everyone may have such experience, it is the perfect way to make your application stand out.

Large Project/Team

It is a well-known fact that you must highlight any experience in managing teams or projects. However, if you have an opportunity to lead a large team or project, then it is a great way to make an impact. Managing a large team or project highlights numerous capabilities specifically leadership qualities, broader perspectives, and the ability to collaborate across regions (larger teams are typically based in different parts of the world).

New Technology/Skill

You must indicate to the admissions committee that you are willing to do what is required to progress in your career. You can highlight the fact that you took the time to acquire a new skill/technology to adapt to a new setting or contribute better towards the business objective.

Target school

If your target school is among the top 7-10 programs in the US, then apply next year. Round 1 is competitive enough, but Round 3 and beyond are tough. At this point, the schools have a specific profile in mind, as they are looking to balance the group as best as they can.  If personal issues such as age, work commitments, and others are not an issue, deferring the application to the next year is the best choice. You can focus and work harder at your profile and application.

Campus Visits

Irrespective of the school, applying in the first round indicates seriousness on your part. If you decide to apply the following year, you can show your intent through a campus visit. Attend lectures, converse with current students, and get a feel of the campus. Such campus visits allow you to explore the school better before you make the right call. In fact, Early Action is the way to go if a school is convincing enough. Apply early and guarantee yourself a seat.

You are left with less time to take care of the visa process. Just two months in some cases!

So, take your call wisely. You can reach out to our consultants on info [at] GyanOne [dot] com, to discuss your case and proceed with a well analysed MBA admissions decision.

Let’s read the success story of one of GyanOne’s students who went through the process:

Jyostna Kamat

Jyostna is a learning enthusiast and a brilliant student who is strongly interested in research with a masters in Pharmaceutical Sciences. The decision to apply to UNC Kenan-Flagler was a challenging one, but her experience in the field acted as the usp for the MBA in Marketing, Business Analytics & Management Science program. With specific guidance, GyanOne could help her achieve this dream. She is a cheerful person currently with Eli Lilly & Company, as the Associate Manager – GPORWE BioMeds. We are sure that with this MBA, Jyostna will turn around her career and reach great heights.


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