I decided to write this brief post after a number of my clients asked me which round they should apply in. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, but here are a few points you may keep in mind while coming up with your strategy.
If you are applying to 5 schools, spread them out between R1 and R2. In general, there is little difference between the two rounds, and by spacing your applications out, you will more likely approach your essays with objectivity, and answer the question asked. You will be less pressed for time, and with more time in hand, you are likely to be more creative. One strategy is to apply to 3 schools in R1 and 2 in R2.
Apply to your top choice school, and one safety school in R1. If you get into your top choice, enjoy the rest of the season, without having the pressure to apply in future rounds. If you get into ‘a’ school, approach the rest of your interviews with confidence, and with the security of an offer in hand! If you have an offer early on, you will be able to perform better in certain questions in your future interviews. Think of the question ‘What are you planning to do if you don’t get in?!’ By getting an admit, you are more likely to be viewed as somebody in demand, and that is likely to make you more attractive.
These admissions statistics posted are estimates, and the numbers on this blog are for you to get an idea of the respective school’s admissions trends. The round-wise admissions statistics posted are not from the previous year, and you should avoid taking them on face value. They are ballpark figures only.
Given these trends, it is possible that at some of the top schools, namely Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Wharton, applying in R1 will be a better bet. On the other hand, at Tuck, Yale, Berkeley, Duke, Darden, Michigan and UCLA, R2 acceptance rates seem to be at par with or slightly better than their R1 rates. In no way am I recommending that you should postpone applying to these schools till R2. All I am saying is that these schools will give you the same odds when it comes to both these rounds.
The key takeaways come from R3 – For Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley, Yale and UCLA, your odds of getting an admit in R3 are significantly lower than the previous two rounds. Hence, if you are applying to these schools, you might as well put in your application in R1 or R2. Do keep in mind that R3 applicants tend to be re-applicants from previous rounds, and the acceptance rate across the board is, in general, lower. But there are a few top schools where you have a fair shot of getting in – they are Tuck, Duke, Michigan, Cornell, UNC Kenan Flagler, Texas, Tepper, NYU and Emory. Some of these schools also have lower GMAT averages, and they are likely to be more flexible on the undergraduate backgrounds and CGPAs of Indian applicants. Duke is an example of a top rated program that has an average GMAT less than 700.
There are some schools that have 4 deadlines. These schools have an ‘early action’ round in which you have to commit to the school in case you are admitted. I have reason to believe that acceptance rates for this round are higher. Consider Tuck, Duke and UNC for early action. Do take a look at the respective schools’ websites for more details. Please also note that Cornell has 4 rounds with no early action, and Columbia has 3 rounds with early action.
I’m closing this post by saying that you should prepare yourself to apply early – especially if you are targeting the top schools, you should have most of your application elements in place way before before R1. R3 should not be your target, unless you don’t have a choice. And if you do have to go to R3, look at Emory, Tepper, UNC, Cornell and Michigan.
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