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Should I apply in Round 2 this year, or Round 1 next year?

Updated: Feb 1

Round 2 deadlines are 40 days away. The question that many applicants are asking themselves is “Should I apply in Round 2, or wait until R1 next year?” If you’re unsure whether to apply in R2 or wait until R1 next year, these are the five questions you should ask yourself before making that decision.

1. Do I have enough work experience?

On average, MBA candidates have 4-5 years of work experience at the start of their program. For most programs, the work experience range is 2-10 years.

So, if you have more than 1.5 years of work experience right now, you technically have enough to apply for an MBA. But since you’re at the bottom end of the experience range, you shouldn’t necessarily apply now. Most applicant profiles get stronger as they approach the average work experience. That’s because they get new stories to write about in their application essays, and new leadership experience at work and in extracurriculars. So if you’re at the bottom end of the work experience range, consider delaying your application until R1 next year.

And by the way, if you’re concerned about not holding a managerial position at work, check out our blog of 5 ways in which you can demonstrate leadership without managerial experience.

On the other hand, if you’re at the upper end of the work experience range, with more than 7 years of work experience, your profile is becoming less attractive with time. That’s because schools are looking for candidates who they can mold into leaders and who have lots of time ahead of them to make an impact. So if you’re a more experienced candidate, with over 7 years of work experience, you should consider doing your application in R2 this year.

2. Do I have a competitive GMAT/GRE score?

Find out the class average GMAT/GRE score of your target schools. Then use this average as a guide to understand whether your GMAT/GRE score is competitive, given the rest of your profile.

Overrepresented Majority (ORM) applicants: If you’re a white male Investment Banker or an Indian male Engineer, you’re in a competitive bucket. You should aim for a GMAT score at least 20 points above the class average.

Underrepresented Minority (URM) applicants: If you’re a Tajikistani Public Policy Associate, African Financial Development Officer, or Latin American Entrepreneur, you’re what they call a “diversity candidate” and you can apply with a GMAT score close to or slightly below the class average.

3. Do I have interesting leadership stories to share?

As an MBA applicant, one of the most important traits you must demonstrate through your application essays is your “leadership potential.” Business schools are looking for candidates who can be trained into impactful, successful leaders. So they want to see an innate flare for leadership.

Leaders communicate using stories, so one way you can demonstrate leadership is by telling stories. Think of stories from your previous roles, current role, and extracurriculars (including community work, hobbies and interests) when you made an impact. Most applicants we work with can find at least 4-5 of these interesting impactful stories from their past.

If you’ve got these stories, that’s a good sign that you’re ready to build your MBA application narrative. You should probably apply this year.

4. Do I have glowing letters of recommendation?

Your ideal recommender should speak to your professional and personal character traits. They should be able to identify your strengths, weaknesses (politely referred to as “areas of improvement”), leadership potential and ability to receive feedback.

You don’t need them to present you as god’s gift to humankind. But they should be willing and able to position you as one of the best in your peer group, and as a value-add to the MBA class.

Remember, the best recommender is your current direct manager:

Current direct manager > Current indirect manager > Previous manager > Professor > Client > Supplier

If you’ve got a recommender lined up to give you a glowing recommendation, then you might be ready to apply in R2 this year.

5. Do I fit with the culture of my target schools?

Do you understand the culture at your target school? If you’ve done enough research, you should be able to explain why your target school is the right fit for you.

Unsure how the culture at different business schools compares? Check out our blog post Which b-schools should I apply for?.

Besides culture, some schools will be better positioned than others to give you the skills and network that you need to reach your professional goals. Check out the school’s curriculum, specializations, professors, class profile, geography, and notable alumni.

Understand the clubs available to see if you can imagine yourself thriving in their community. Do you have a clear understanding of how you will contribute to this community?

For most applicants, getting a good understanding of these factors requires having conversations with current students, alumni, and admissions staff. So if you’ve had those conversations already, and you’re confident about your fit with your target schools, then you might be ready to apply in R2 this year.

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re ready to apply in Round 2 this year. If not, best to target your areas of weakness and apply in Round 1 next year. There are also several external factors that might affect your decision whether to apply this year or next.

External factors to consider:

Tech layoffs may make next year more competitive

A recent spike in tech layoffs at the FAANGs (+Twitter) means a stream of smart, highly-qualified tech applicants are getting ready to apply for top MBA programs. We believe this is likely to make applications to MBA programs more competitive next year (2022-23).

So you should consider applying in R2 this year, especially if you’re a tech applicant. For more on this subject check out our article on “How the Tech Layoffs Affect Your MBA Applications This Year and Next.”

What about Reapplicants?

If you got dinged by your target schools in Round 1 and are unsure how to proceed, the first thing to do is a “Ding analysis”. An Admissions Consultant can give you unfiltered, specific and constructive feedback so that you understand where your application went wrong last time.

Maybe you simply told the wrong story in your previous application and got dinged as a result. Then your best option might be to switch up the schools and apply again this year. But maybe a lack of promotions was fundamentally undermining your profile, in which case waiting until next year (after your promotion) might be beneficial. A Ding Analysis can help you make this judgment.

If you still have questions, book a chat with us right away to discuss .

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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