Should You Apply Round 1 or Wait for Round 2?

HBS is due in 13 weeks. This is the time of year when many applicants realize that the crazy project from work, your wedding planning, or whatever else has been a major time commitment has left you feeling pressed for time in what is actually a longer process than you originally thought. As such, this is also the time when many applicants start wondering whether they should just push their round one applications to round two. Right now, you still have plenty of time to get your act together; but here are a few other items to consider when making this decision over the coming weeks.

While there’s no conclusive data to support it (notice all of the heavy caveats on any “data” you find), many applicants believe that their chances of admission in R1 are higher than in R2. The logic (which I believe in) is pretty straight forward – in R1 you are starting with a blank slate more or less; and by R2, admissions committees have already started to build-out their classes. Our former adcom team recommends R1 especially for those with 4+ years of experience and/or who are coming from overrepresented industries like consulting and finance. The reality is that the R1 vs. R2 acceptance rates fluctuate from year to year (yet we do know clearly that R3 is always a very low acceptance rate round for most US schools). I like to be very conservative, so if you have the ability to apply R1, I say go for it; but not if you’re going to submit a second rate app.

For your mental health, by this point in the application process, we know there’s a strong desire on the part of many applicants to ‘be done with it already.’ We get it. You spent a few months studying for the GMAT, you’ve talked to your recommenders, you’ve memorized the schools’ websites. You’re ready to do this and then hopefully know the outcome one way or another so you can start planning next year. 

That said, we always appreciate someone gunning to a finish line, but we do not recommend sacrificing one ounce of quality just to apply round 1. This is a competitive process – you have to bring your A game. If you don’t have time to execute on your plan of retaking the GMAT, writing essays and learning about the schools concurrently over the next 13 weeks, then you may want to start thinking about plan B. Our advice for people having this internal debate right now is to keep marching forward but focus on quality over speed. This process takes a lot of hard work – don’t dilute it and submit anything but your very best.

On the other side of the coin, just being stressed and maybe a little nervous doesn’t warrant panicking and punting to R2 simply for the comfort of time (or continuing to spin your wheels). Once you can say ‘I’ve done everything I possibly could’, then go for it.

If you decide to wait, give yourself a break. You’re making the right decision to put yourself in the best position for success, but deciding to do so is hard and can feel a bit like defeat. So go ahead and reward yourself with a week or two off. Reconnect with your friends and family. Go to the gym. See a movie. Do whatever you need to do to clear your head, and get ready to come back to your applications with a fresh set of eyes and a renewed focus.

If you’re wondering whether your application is ready for R1, feel free to reach out. We can give you some feedback and/or you can run your application through our Trial Run process so that a former top 10 adcom member can simulate your application review before the real thing.

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