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Which Round Should You Apply for Top MBA Applications

Updated: Mar 16

Let's talk one of the most common questions that MBA applicants have - which round should you apply to top MBA programs to maximise your admission chances?

should you apply to MBA in round 1

The journey of an applicant for higher education is pretty complicated. There are multiple decisions that the candidates have to take, right from identifying the need for a higher degree to choosing the schools to apply to, and from which experiences to highlight in their applications to what to wear during the interview!

One question, however, that often isn’t given enough importance - but has tremendous consequences - is “when is the best time to submit the application?”

If you are applying for Sep 2025 intake, the admission process would actually begin around July 2024, or maybe even a tad bit earlier for most of the top b-schools.

Most top MBA programs start their admission process way before the selected candidates actually show up in the class - almost 13-14 months before the classes begin. So, in practical terms, it means that if you are applying for Sep 2025 intake, the admission process would actually begin around July 2024, or maybe even a tad bit earlier for most top MBA programs.

Another point worth mentioning here is that most b-schools conduct their admissions in multiple rounds. This helps in segmenting (making their work easier while going through thousands of applications), filling out the seats in a regular flow, and even locking the prospective students with lucrative scholarship offers.

The best time to apply is when you feel that your application is complete.

While some schools have fixed number of rounds - HBS has 2, while Stanford has 3 - some schools might even have a rolling admissions policy, for instance, HEC Paris or NUS - which means that they assess the incoming applications on a regular basis and only have a final deadline when no more applications can be submitted.

Now comes the big question - among all these rounds, when is the best time for you to apply?

I wish there was a simple answer.

First things first, the best time to apply is when you feel your application is complete, and you cannot make any more short-term improvements. For example, if you have a good GMAT score, and you cannot make any significant improvements in your work profile in the coming 3-6 months, then you are ready to apply.

Second, apply as early as possible. Ideally, this would mean Round 1.

There are several benefits that come with applying in Round 1.

  1. Lower number of applications: Your application is often judged relative to other received applications. Add to this the fact that usually Round 1 sees a lower number of applications compared to Round 2. Combine these two facts, and you get a better chance of making your profile stand out in front of the AdComs.

  2. Scholarship Options: Being the first ones to apply also means that all the scholarship options are available for you! In fact, some top scholarships might even be available only if you apply in the first round.

  3. Quick Decisions and Clarity: Applying early also means that you get your admission decisions fairly early. This helps you immensely in making your plans - if you have your dream admit, you can start planning your move, if not then you can start applying to schools in Round 2.

However, one thing to note is that if you are unable to apply in Round 1, it DOES NOT drastically reduce your chances of success. Round 2 is absolutely fine to apply in for most top MBA programs. As we said earlier, the best time to apply is when your application is the strongest!


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