It’s that time of year. Many top-ranked business schools have just (or about to) release their Round 1 admissions results, and many applicants will face this unfortunate situation: “I didn’t get in anywhere. I need a Round 2 strategy pronto!” If you’re reading this, hopefully you got some good news this past week. If you didn’t, then hopefully you have been ahead of the game, and have done at least some planning and some work in the event that you didn’t get good news from the Harvards and Stanford of the world.
By “some planning and some work” we mean that you, at a bare minimum, thought through which schools you will apply to in case you didn’t get into any programs in Round 1. Perhaps you applied to all of your top-choice MBA programs in the first round, and now you’re prepared to fire off applications to a few more schools that also appeal to you. Note the last part of that sentence — never, EVER bother applying to a safety school which you have no interest in attending. Assuming you have identified one or more business schools that are perhaps not your first choice, but you would still be excited to attend, there’s no better time to start working on those applications. After all, most Round 2 deadlines at top U.S.-based business schools come in the first 10 days of January.
But what if you’re not even that far along? What if, either through unbridled optimism or a lack of enough time to do more research, you never even thought ahead to the possibility that you might need too apply to more business schools in Round 2? Really, your strategy shouldn’t change very much. Your post-MBA career goals, ideal learning style, geographic preference, and preferred culture — these are the types of things on which you should base this decision — probably haven’t radically changed in the past few months. So, go back and apply those same criteria and figure out which other schools may fit your needs.
It’s at this point that many honest applicants admit, “Well, I really just applied to the top-ranked schools. I really don’t want to go too much lower in the rankings.” That’s not a great way to select schools, BUT if that’s really what matters to you, then don’t stray now and pull together Round 2 applications lower-ranked MBA programs which you don’t really want to attend.
We’ll put it this way: If you liked a school back in Round 1, but decided to hold off and maybe apply in Round 2 after hearing from other schools that you simply like more, then full steam ahead! Or, if you never really paid attention to a certain school, and now (after a kick in the pants from some Round 1 rejections) you’re digging deeper and like what you see, then go ahead and apply. If, however, a given school didn’t get you excited three months ago, and now you’re trying to make yourself fall in love quickly because Round 2 deadlines are just around the corner, STOP! Take some time to really evaluate what you want, and whether maybe applying to those first-choice schools next year is a smarter approach. It often is.
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