Acceptance to an M7 in Round 3? Yes it’s possible!

Round 3 (“R3”) deadlines are upon us, which for some applicants represents the last chance for 2017 admission to an MBA program or a “do-over” round for applicants who came out of Round 2 (“R2”) with unsatisfactory results for any number of reasons. As we discussed inThe Truth About Round 3, chances of admission in R3 are notoriously low, particularly at the top programs. However, they’re not impossible, and if you’re either considering throwing in a “hail mary” application in R3 or you’re hoping to better gauge your odds, we thought it would be helpful to hear from a successful R3 applicant to an M7 program from a few years back.
So we interviewed Lisa*, who applied to Columbia Business School one day before the final deadline in April. (Please note that we did not work with Lisa on her applications; she is a classmate of Vantage Point Co-Founder, Melody. However, given the volume of inquiries we receive from applicants considering R3 timing every year, we think it’s valuable to share a real example of someone who navigated the process successfully.)
Here’s a bit more about her profile:

 

Nationality: Canadian
Gender: Female
GMAT: 700
GPA: mid-80% from University of British Columbia (in Canada)
Pre-MBA Background: marketing & advertising at Ogilvy, then product marketing at Virgin Mobile – all in Toronto. 5 years of work experience at the time of application submission
Extra-curriculars: checked the box, nothing stand-out
Goals: ST – management consulting, LT – entrepreneurship
Now let’s dive into our conversation!
Did you apply to any other schools in Round 3?
Columbia was the only school for R3 but I had applied to Booth and Duke (Fuqua) in R2 and had been admitted to both with scholarships.
Why did you choose R3 timing for your Columbia application, especially since Columbia has rolling admissions? In other words, why didn’t you start sooner?
Well, I wasn’t really planning on applying to Columbia initially but after attending the admitted students weekends for Booth and Fuqua, I wasn’t really excited about either one. I had a cousin who was a current student at Columbia and who encouraged me to apply because she said that I should be super excited about any program that I’m committing two years of my life to. After further researching Columbia, I realized that it was a great fit for me and my goals. In terms of my decision to apply so late in the season, there was really no downside for me because I already had two acceptance offers to choose from.
Did you know that the odds of admission were significantly lower (statistically speaking) in R3 vs. the earlier two rounds? If so, what made you decide to go for it anyways?
Yes, I knew the odds were lower but the upside far outweighed the downside in my situation. I really didn’t have much to lose except for the time and money that went into the application itself. I went into it fully knowing the other downsides as well (no scholarships, low likelihood of securing on-campus housing, etc.) but I was willing to go without those for the chance of getting into a school that I would be happier attending.
How did your timing impact your overall application strategy? Did you think about your essays differently than you might have if you had applied earlier (i.e. more pressure to be unique, perhaps)?
No, not really. I had put a lot of work into developing strong applications for R2 and I knew my “story” was working because I had been admitted to two other schools already – so no need to fix what wasn’t broken. I put my Columbia application together in 2 weeks and leveraged a lot of the prior strategy, essays, and core message that I had developed for my other applications. If I had not been admitted to any programs in R2, then yes, I definitely would have re-evaluated my approach.
How big of a role did timing play in your application components? (i.e. did you address it directly in your essays, your interview, etc.)
Great question but no, I didn’t address it at all and frankly, it didn’t come up even in my interview. But I hear that’s often not the case for R3 applicants so maybe my experience was unique!
Ultimately, you were admitted to Columbia! Bravo!
Yes, I was! And I didn’t think twice about accepting the offer, even though it didn’t come with a scholarship. Fit was more important to me than anything and I knew that Columbia was the place for me. I only wish I had been more thorough in choosing schools earlier in the process!
To what do you owe your success so late in the game, do you think?
I honestly think it was a combination of things, along with a bit of luck. My cousin definitely helped guide me and I know she put in a good word for me with someone she knew in admissions. But I’m not going to pretend that was a “silver bullet”. I think my confidence helped a lot too – I didn’t go into it discounting myself or feeling like an underdog. I figured I’ll never know for sure until I try. I think my personal story was also a compelling one – I’m a first generation immigrant to Canada from Russia and I think I did a decent job at conveying how my family history has impacted my drive and my goals – i.e. story of a woman pursuing her passion because other women in her family before her couldn’t. That personal story together with my slightly less traditional professional background probably helped me stand out so late in the season. I imagine admissions saying “wow, we don’t have one of her in our class yet!”
Would you do it all over again if you could, or would you have started earlier?
Well, yes, of course I would have started earlier! I could have gotten scholarship money, at the very least.
What advice do you have for applicants considering applying in R3 or 4?
Well, I’d say apply earlier! But if that’s a moot point and you’ve decided to go for it in R3, give it your all. Make sure that your application is at its best in every way possible. Make sure your story, your goals, your reasons for pursuing an MBA, your reasons for applying to school X, etc. are very well-articulated. And I think you should be thoughtful about school selection. I applied to Columbia because I had done my homework and determined it was the right fit. That likely contributed to my acceptance. If you’re applying to schools in R3 out of desperation or a final attempt to get in “somewhere” instead of the “right where”, that could easily work against you so watch out. Lastly, be confident, believe in yourself! When classes start in the fall, everyone is equal, no matter in what round you were admitted.
Great insights from Lisa! We hope this gave you some added clarity, or at the very least, some added confidence going into R3 or even R4. Late round applications aren’t right for everyone and if you can delay until R1 of the following year, that very well may be the best option for you – especially if you’re an over-represented applicant profile (i.e. banker, consultant, Indian engineer, etc.) But if you’ve decided to go for it, Lisa’s experience shows some key best practices for R3 success: apply to the right schools (and do your homework on those schools), submit your very best application, and believe in yourself.
If you have any questions about your late round applications, please reach out to us. We’re happy to help. You can sign up for a free 30-minute consultation. Best of luck & we look forward to hearing from you!
* Name has been changed for privacy purposes.

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