Round 3

MBA Application Submission: Is There an Optimal Deadline?

When considering the most beneficial timing for your MBA application submission, keep in mind your school preferences, financial need, and the amount of time you can devote to crafting the most compelling application. We’ve examined the pros and cons of the various admission rounds and provided the U.S. News and World Report’s Top 15 ranked schools and their application deadlines below.

Rolling Admissions: Only a few top-tier MBA programs offer rolling admissions, including Columbia University and UCLA. This means they provide admittance decisions to students as the admission committee reviews the application, rather than sending out a batch of decisions on a pre-determined date.

Apply Point Recommendation: Prospective students interested in a school with rolling admissions should submit their application as early as possible. Seats in the incoming class are continuously being filled.  However, it is critical to ensure that you have taken the necessary time to develop the most compelling content possible. Rushing it could result in a lower quality application.

Early Action / Decision: While some programs offer non-binding Early Action application rounds, such as Dartmouth, other schools such as Columbia and Duke offer a binding early application round. The binding programs will ask a prospective student, upon acceptance, to withdraw any outstanding applications, and submit a commitment letter to the school.

If a prospective student is fully committed to attending a particular MBA program, regardless of outside opportunities, financial or otherwise, it can be extremely beneficial to apply in the early decision round.  This is because admissions likelihood is significantly higher. Schools look favorably on commitments to their program, which also help to increase a school’s yield.

It is important to remember that both binding and non-binding early applications are due at the beginning of the admissions cycle. Thus, prospective students will need to plan accordingly to finalize their applications for submission. Additionally, for binding early decision programs, merit-based scholarships are less likely.

Apply Point Recommendation: We generally recommend our prospective students keep their options open by applying in a first or second round rather than taking advantage of the binding early decision programs. But, if the prospective student is 100 percent committed to attending a particular program for personal or professional reasons, and they are comfortable forgoing any scholarship money, the binding early decision may be a good match.  

First Round / Second Round: These two rounds, in general, are created equal. Submission by a prospective student within either of these rounds will allow an applicant to be considered for merit-based financial assistance. Additionally, a good proportion of the incoming class seats are still available.

Apply Point Recommendation: If a prospective student is ready to submit the best version of his/her application prior to the first-round deadline, we would recommend submitting in the first round. If this isn’t the case, we will always counsel applicants to take additional time to submit a stronger application.

Third Round: This is usually the last round prior to the close of the admissions period. It is generally the most competitive round as there are fewer seats available. Depending upon the school, this round may also leave students unavailable for consideration for merit-based financial awards.

Apply Point Recommendation: There are very few cases where we would recommend applying at this point in the admissions cycle. It puts the applicant at a disadvantage. However, if the prospective student is unable to submit in rounds one or two, they have a very compelling application, and they have no need for financial support, they may still be successful.

Every prospective student has a unique situation that should be considered when determining what round to put forth his/her application to an MBA program. Thus, advance planning and an awareness of all the deadline options is crucial when crafting a winning application strategy.