A 7 minute read

Which MBA Application Round should I apply in? The answer to this question lies in understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each MBA application round. Many candidates often remain confused about applying early or waiting till the last round. However, chances of admission depend not only which MBA Application Round you apply in but also on the quality of the application that you come up with. The rule of thumb you should follow is “Plan well in advance and apply as early as possible to ensure your best foot forward.”

Round 1 vs Round 2 vs Round 3 MBA application round

In this article, we’ll look at how you can decide the suitable MBA application round to maximize chances of admission. Here is the outline of this article:

Factors to consider – Which MBA Application Round should I apply in?

The decision of choosing the most suitable MBA Application round depends on these factors

  1. Application Readiness

If you are satisfied with your GMAT score, have a polished resume, and, have really good letters of recommendation, then Round 1 is your best shot. In case you feel you need additional 2-3 months to improve your application, then submit your application by Round 2. In case, you have an extraordinary profile and have a solid reason for waiting till Round 3 then, this round will be suitable for you.

  1. Target Business School Ranking

If your target Business School is one among the top 15, then applying in Round 1 or 2 is absolutely essential. Why? Because the acceptance rate for these business schools is significantly lower for Round 3 as compared to the first 2 rounds. More on this in the later part of the article.

  1. International Students

As international students have to spend extra time on Visa application and other related formalities, it is better to apply in either of the first 2 Rounds.

Expert Advice – What do Business Schools and MBA admission Consultants say?

mba application roundMost top Business Schools except a few, typically say that they there’s no preference for Round 1 vs Round 2. But, they still do not encourage applying in Round 3. The biggest example of this fact is Harvard Business School eliminating its third round of application.

However, Tier 2 Business Schools have a higher acceptance rate in Round 3 as compared to Round 1 and 2. More on this later.

mba application round CBS

Columbia Business School, which prefers candidates applying in their early decision round. CBS reviews applicants on a rolling basis and early decision candidates are given decisions before regular decision candidates. But, you also have to sign a commitment to attend CBS and withdraw all other MBA applications. You also have to pay a $6,000 non-refundable tuition deposit within 2 weeks of admission

Most MBA admission consultants offer solid advice on which rounds of application are meant for which type of candidates. Let’s take a look at what they really advise students on different MBA application rounds.

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MBA Application Round 1

This round is most suitable for those applicants who are well prepared with their MBA applications. They are satisfied with their GMAT scores and have been working on their essays for a considerable amount of time. Their resumes highlight extracurricular activities and leadership positions held by them.

mba application round 1

Advantages – Applying in round 1 increases your chances of admission as:

  • It shows serious intent and planning to the admission committees
  • It also conveys that a particular business school is your first preference and their admission committee could reward you with an admit as well as a scholarship
  • You are compared with applicants from round 1 only
  • Applying in this round gives you a chance to apply in other programs in other rounds if you’re not admitted in round 1


  • This round witnesses strong applications. There are higher chances of getting wait-listed in round 1
  • If you feel your application needs improvement at this point, it’s better to apply in Round 2

Do you know what makes you postpone your MBA Application? An unsatisfactory GMAT score. One of the reasons for this can be the choice of your test center. Learn how to choose a GMAT test center

Aayush was waitlisted with a 710. After scoring a 750 he received admits from Columbia and Michigan Ross.

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MBA Application Round 2

This round is most suitable for students who don’t have compelling applications till round 1 deadline. For the next 3-4 months they should put in an effort to improve their GMAT scores or their resume by seeking leadership positions at work, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work.

mba application round 2


  • A lot of applicants get a chance to visit the campus, which helps them to convey their program fit to the admission committees
  • It is more favorable for candidates with less than perfect applications as most of the strong applications are submitted in round 1
  • If you get an admit in this round, it becomes easier for you to move on to the next phase of your life. You have enough time for putting in your notice periods at your jobs.
  • In case your application is rejected, you’ll have ample time to strategize for next year


  • Among all the rounds, the highest number of the applications are submitted in this round. Therefore, the competition is fierce.
  • You are compared with round 2 applicants as well as selected applicants from round 1.
  • The chance of getting wait-listed are low as compared to round 1

MBA Application Round 3

This round is the most competitive one. Business schools have a few seats left and they are willing to offer it to you if you have a highly compelling application. At this point, a few Business schools also expect an additional essay on why you chose to wait until round 3 to apply. Business schools also review wait-listed applications in this round. In short, this round is reserved for wait-listed and “exceptional” applicants. So, until and unless circumstances forced you to apply in round 3, don’t wait till this round.

mba application round 3


  • Tier 2 Business Schools have a higher acceptance rate in Round 3/ Round 4. If you don’t want to wait for one more year, applying to these Business Schools will surely work to your advantage. Look at the table on MBA acceptance rates of Business schools by round.


  • You are compared with accepted and wait-listed applicants of Round 1 and 2
  • If you belong to a generic pool of applicants, then your application might not be compelling at this point
  • It is highly unlikely any admission consultant would be willing to help you for this MBA application round


Round 1 vs Round 2 vs Round 3 Acceptance Rate (2014 – 2018)

Below statistics are based on self-reported data from gmatclub. The acceptance rate is the average from the year 2014 to 2018.

S. No. Business School Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
1 Harvard Business School 13% 9%
2 The Wharton School 17% 16% Low Data
3 Booth School of Business 26% 23% 13%
4 Stanford Graduate School of Business 8% 6% 3%
5 Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University 22% 20% 13%
6 Sloan School of Management MIT 18% 10% Low data
7 Haas School of Business 14% 14% 6% Low data
8  Tuck School of Business 26% 24% 20% 7%
9 Columbia Business School 20% 16%
10 Yale School of Management 21% 21% 11%
11 Ross School of Business, University of Michigan 26% 31% 24%
12 NYU Stern School of Business 19% 22% 22% Low data
13 Duke’s Fuqua School of Business 24% 23% 15%
14 Darden School of Business 29% 28% 13%
15 UCLA Anderson  19% 22% 9%

Applying in Round 3 of MBA application for the top 15 Business Schools might not be a good idea. These Business Schools show a significant drop in acceptance rate in Round 3 applications.

Business Schools showing little or no disadvantage during Round 3/ Round 4 applications

You can see that for the majority of top 15 Business Schools, applying in Round 3/ Round 4 is a disadvantage, except for NYU Stern, Ross, and Tuck.

However, there are a few colleges who have higher acceptance rates in round 3, which are as follows

In which MBA application round should international candidates apply?

mba application round international applicants

If you are an international applicant, it is always better to apply by Round 2. Applying in Round 3, gives you less time for formalities related to immigration to the country where your B-school is situated. Most of your time will be consumed by Visa application and scholarship applications. The chance of getting an MBA Scholarship is much more if you apply early. Therefore, it’s always better to apply as early as possible.


  1. Decide your MBA application round based on your application readiness, Target Business school ranking and if you are an international applicant.
  2. If you have been working on your application for the last few months, have an envious GMAT score, a compelling essay and an impressive resume, apply in Round 1
  3. If you feel you need to improve some aspects of your application (GMAT score, extracurricular activities, leadership positions held, etc.) apply in Round 2
  4. Don’t wait until round 3 to apply unless you have an extraordinary and non-generic profile and had exceptional circumstances preventing you from applying in MBA application Round 1 and 2

After reading this article we are sure you would have the answer to the question – “Round 1 vs Round 2, Which MBA Application Round should I apply in.” Remember, a solid MBA application submitted in Round 2 is superior to an average MBA application submitted hastily in Round 1. You should be confident about your application first. Only then you should decide on “Which MBA application round should you apply in.” For any further doubts, you can write to us at acethegmat@e-gmat.com and our Strategy experts can help you out.

Payal Tandon
Co-founder, e-GMAT
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