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Admissions Tip: How Round 1 Applicants Should Approach Round 2

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For many applicants who have applied in Round 1, now is a time of great stress and uncertainty that is likely testing your patience. This is because any of the following scenarios might apply to you:

  • You have been denied by schools without the opportunity to interview
  • You have interviews scheduled with schools, but not yet completed
  • You have completed interviews with schools and are awaiting a decision
  • You have been told that your file is competitive but will be pushed into R2 for further review (a sort of mid-season waiting list, if you will)

And of course, many of you have a mix of two or three of these statuses. What’s most important here is that few candidates have answers yet.

So what should you do in terms of a Round 2 strategy? The answer will depend on the partial results you have seen thus far in the process – e.g. which schools have rejected you and which have invited you to interview. There is significant signal value in these decisions, and you can start weighing the odds of a successful decision based on these early signals, and then use those odds to predict an overall outcome from Round 1. This may all sound a bit geeky, but you are applying to business school after all.

Here are a few quick examples:

Scenario 1: The Wind at Your Back

You applied to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, and you have interview invites to all three schools. Because Harvard typically admits candidates it interviews at a rate of more than 50%, Stanford at a rate north of 40%, and Wharton at a rate of 33% then you would presume to have a fairly good chance of gaining admissions to at least one of these schools. There is, however, one caveat to this calculus; each school evaluates candidates on many similar criteria, and while you were successful in passing the first hurdle of admissions in all three, you could sit in the lower quartile of candidates that were successful at this stage. The point is, even someone with invites to all the top programs may not be successful. If these are the only three schools to which you applied, and you are determined to go to business school next year, it would be smart to start researching a couple of additional schools, and prepare a Round 2 strategy in mid-December when you will know the outcomes of Round 1.

Scenario 2: Aiming High

Imagine you applied to Duke / Fuqua, Northwestern / Kellogg, U. Chicago Booth and MIT Sloan in Round 1. You interviewed at Kellogg (no need for an invite), and were invited to interview at Duke, MIT and Booth. The two interviews you have had so far make you feel real good about your overall chances with at least one of the schools – but you still do not know the decisions these programs will render. Is it worth examining additional schools at this stage, as you wait for the decisions to roll out in December? Should you be prepared for possible Round 2 applications as in the scenario above? Of course. With that said, you also have to consider another outcome – one in which you are admitted to all four schools. Would that be the end of the process for you? Would you just sit back and weigh your options? Or, should you consider schools that are traditionally rank a bit higher than the schools you have already selected? Perhaps it is worth that R2 application to Harvard or Stanford?

Scenario Three: Striking Out

In some cases, you may already be staring at a handful of rejection letters – without any interview invites to your credit. Under this scenario, you have two tasks ahead of you. First, you need to figure out what may have gone wrong and determine whether or not the weakness(es) in your candidacy can be remedied in time for a stronger set of applications in R2. If so, you’ll then want to begin work in earnest on your improved set of applications to an additional set of schools. Second, if you determine that addressing the flaws in your candidacy is more of a long-term project (and/or if you don’t want to look at schools with higher acceptance rates this year – and would prefer to reapply next fall), you need to map out a longer-range plan for application next fall.

Scenario Four: Mixed Signals

Of course, it is quite likely that your own situation isn’t crystal clear. You probably have a mixed bag of results to ponder, a couple of interviews under your belt, and perhaps a denial of admission without interview. In this scenario, it becomes even more important to have a Round 2 strategy in place long before the deadlines approach.

The Way Forward

As you may know, 90% of the Round 2 deadlines typically fall within 10 days of each other in early January. In this case, with the Thanksgiving Holiday forthcoming, it makes sense to gear up now as you wrap up your work for Round 1. Make sure your recommenders are kept abreast with your plans and start researching other schools to apply. Begin sketching out your essay topic ideas and tackling the online applications. Those early deadlines will be here before you know it.

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