MBA Applications: Deciding between Round 1 and 2 for International Candidates

One of the challenges with the MBA application is choosing which round or deadline to apply.  Generally, US MBA programs have up to four application rounds.  However, these rounds are mostly applicable for US applicants.  For international candidates, a different approach is necessary because there is a visa requirement that they must adhere.  Given this, most international candidates are encouraged to apply to either Round 1 or 2.

Regarding choosing between Round 1 and 2, the best advice is to self-assess one’s own background and application progress; then, select the round in which he feels most comfortable applying.  Since candidates only have one application opportunity per school each year, they should ensure that their application is at its highest potential before submitting.

To distinguish the advantages and disadvantages between these two rounds, use the following descriptions as guidance.

Round 1 Analysis

Benefit:  Since Round 1 applications are early, one of the benefits of applying in this round is that an applicant will get his results early as well.  This will provide him with the flexibility to apply to additional MBA programs in Round 2 if his results are not satisfactory.  As such, those who apply in Round 1 with unfavourable results will be able to reassess their application, strengthen any areas of weakness, and develop a stronger application for Round 2.  In essence, they will be able to pace their applications better.   Another benefit is that generally in Round 1, there are fewer people who apply.  Given this, the opportunity to stand out is stronger.

Challenge:   Conversely, the main challenge with Round 1 is that it is an early deadline.  Therefore, depending on when an candidate started his application, he may have less time to develop his goals and essays, strengthen his test scores, and request letters of recommendation.  Also, since most international MBA information sessions and events happen later in the year, this might present a dilemma for the candidate in terms of researching about a school and figuring out his “fit.”

Suggestion:  An international candidate should only apply for this round if he has strong test scores (GMAT/GRE and TOEFL), a clear sense of his goals and aspirations, and sufficient time to research about a school beforehand.    This round is also recommended for re-applicants as it will show their dedication to the school.

Round 2 Analysis

Benefit:   The main benefit of Round 2 is that an applicant is given more time to strengthen his MBA application.  This entails more time to develop his MBA goals and essays, to improve his test scores, to request letters of recommendation, and to research schools.    This extra time may be critical for many candidates as it helps to develop their competitive advantage.

Challenge:  The primary challenge with this round is that most MBA applicants (both domestic and international) will apply during this time.  Therefore, the competition is intense.  Also, given that most schools do not encourage Round 3 for international candidates, this means that applicants who apply solely in Round 2 may need to apply to more schools to increase their chances of admittance.   As such, the pacing of these various applications may be challenging.

Suggestion:  Besides having a strong application (i.e. test scores, letters of recommendation, etc.), an applicant needs to develop stories that help differentiate him from the rest of the MBA applicant pool.  This requires self-analysis and reflection.  Thus, personal branding becomes a critical part of the application even more so than in Round 1.

Posted by Lee Moua

Author: AGOS Consulting Team

@AgosJapan (formerly Princeton Review of Japan) – 25 years of experience. Best MBA, LL.M, and MPP admissions results in Japan.