Are MBA admission chances in Round 2 deadlines lesser than in Round 1?

MBA Admissions Round 1 vs Round 2

If you are planning to put in an international MBA application, you would be aware that schools have multiple deadlines. These are typically known as R1 (short for Round 1) and R2.

But that’s only part of the story. A lot of schools have R3, some have something that’s known as ‘Early Action’ while some others go up to Round 6!

At first, this may appear just a matter of convenience and you may assume that you should apply as it seems fit given your other commitments.

However, the story goes deeper and that’s what we investigate in this post.

Official Word on MBA Round 1 vs Round 2

Several of the admissions teams insist vehemently that both the application rounds are equal in their eyes. Some even go to the extent of giving out stats to prove their point in terms of intake across rounds.

Even so, almost universally, all schools would ‘encourage’ you to apply sooner rather than later. There is never an ‘official’ word on whether things vary between rounds barring a few exceptions such as INSEAD. The school has categorically mentioned on their website that there is no difference between the different rounds.

Confusing? So what do you take out from all this? Let’s peel the onion some more and see what lies beneath. From our experience, observation and information, we know that the difference exists. Why you may ask? That brings us to the next section then.

Why the admission chances vary across rounds

That you should apply in R1 if you can may not be a new thing for most. The “why” of it however has multiple reasons. Let’s find out

1. Round 1 vs Round 2 Intake split

Though there is hardly any official data around this, but across several Adcom interviews we’ve seen over the years, a general trend emerges. The split of seats between R1 and R2 could be in the range of 60:40 (higher in some schools, lower in others of course). Keep in mind that this is mainly anecdotal rather than statistical.

This means that more seats tend to get allocated early on in the MBA admissions process, as admission committees who are equally under pressure to fill up the class lap up good candidates. They are also more likely to dangle scholarships in front of strong candidates to lock them in, before they go scouting into the woods again.

Basic supply demand dictates that the probability of making it in for R2 is in general lower. The demand scenario is further skewed however as explained in the next point.

2. More demand in Round 2

No, it’s not just that more people suddenly wake up in November/December timeframe (read about MBA timeline planning) creating more demand for the limited MBA seats in R2.

One of the reasons the demand situation is aggravated is because the unsuccessful candidates from R1 also gets added to the pool. Several folks adopt the strategy of being aggressive in R1 and may end up facing rejection. They can then end up being too much of the safe side, hence making life difficult even at lower ranked schools for fresh R2 applicants.

The logic also works other way round. Meaning, those who’ve made it already in R1, may be trying out their luck in the more ambitious schools. Hence, the entire demand curve shifts upwards. This when combined with the lesser (or even similar) supply of seats, doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you find so many scurrying to put in their applications in the R1 window.

We investigated the online activity for ISB in R1 vs R2 and the demand theory holds.

3. Clones vs Diversity

Another factor bearing down on the life of R2 applicants comes from legacy. Let me explain.

Suppose you have a kick-ass GMAT score, have been working with a top firm in a fairly good leadership profile and have an excellent existing network. In essence, you have all guns blazing. Why then should you care when you apply?

Well, the reason is because there may have been a clone (figuratively speaking, of course) who may have been smarter only in terms of having applied in the earlier round.

Most business schools have a huge bias towards maintaining diversity of all kinds – gender, industry, race, culture and so on. Read why differentiation is a big challenge for Indian MBA applicants.

Given this metric, the admissions committee is likely to pass you even if you were ‘deserving’ enough given their past history.

Our Verdict: MBA Round 1 or Round 2 – Does it matter?

Yes, it does matter.

The official verdict from us is to get into the game as soon as you can but never at the cost of a sub-optimal application.

Don’t assume rushing in an application badly put together in last few days just to meet Round 1 deadlines is going to get you special treatment from the Adcoms. On the contrary, these are precisely the type of half-baked applications with poorly written essays and ambiguously articulated career goals that get weeded out the quickest.

We see so many of these each year, and surprisingly many are from good applicants who took the application timeline too lightly.

It’s nice to arrive at a party early to impress the hosts, but not when you are shabbily dressed.

The benefit of getting your application early does not outweigh a below par application – GMAT, essays, research – anything that matters really. But, it pays to plan well!

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MBA Crystal Ball provides professional Admissions Consulting services. Hire us to improve your chances of getting into the top international universities. Email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

MG (Manish Gupta) //
MG (Manish Gupta)
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com


  1. Mou says:

    Hi Manish

    I am around 12 years experience in IT.I have worked in companies like TCS,IBM,CTS, ACi Worldwide,Barclays.I am planning to write GMAT now in next couple of month.I had entrepreneur exp in complete diff area like Food and beverage while working parallel.But the venture is closed now.I have international exp as well.Could you let me know what GMAT score min I should target for ? Also let me know what are the school in India or APAC I should target for considering my exp is more than avg students.

    • Mou, there isn’t really a magical GMAT target score. In general, you should aim for 10-20 point higher than your target program’s average GMAT score.

      Purely basis your years of experience, the IIM 1 year program are your best bet.

  2. dev says:

    sir, i m reading book by sameer recently.
    B.E in Mech(2011), working in PSU in Fuel Cell Tech(designing with help of AutoCAD) from 2012,would like for 2yr mba. earlier i thought to do emba but after reading ur replies i think its not gud for me. wat r things required to get into isb? gmat score, amount n ways financing bcos once i leave this job ,i hv to arrange the ways of financing. im 29

  3. Mayuri says:

    Hi MG,
    I’m 2015 MMS (MBA) in Human Resources from Mumbai pass out student and currently working in a HR consultancy since 1 year. I’m searching for any suitable course or 2nd MBA to study in abroad. Can you help me out what are the suitable courses I can go for in abroad ?and which countries are preferable?

  4. Roopshree Dasgupta says:

    Hi Mr. Gupta,

    I am very pleased to see you answer all queries with so much of patience. I hope you would help me too. I am an MBA graduate passed out in 2009. I have 6 years of work experience. I want to pursue my further studies abroad in the field of HR, although I don’t want to do PhD. Could you please suggest which countries I should go for? I am looking for specialization courses which will also help me in getting a good job abroad. I am not happy with the way my career is moving.I would be grateful if you could help me with this.

    • Roopshree,

      HR is a pretty localized area in general. That means, breaking into it in a non-native country is tough. There are rarely good courses that can make it happen for you. Best bet is to make it happen internally as part of an MNC.

  5. Kokila Upadhyay says:

    Dear Manish,

    I have been preparing for GMAT from Jan 2016 and will be taking it by August 2017. I am looking for applying for some schools in Round 1 (ISB, Stanford) and for some in Round 2 (IIMA, IIMB, INSEAD), The only thing I am worried about is scholarship. My question is simple, though I am confident of getting good score and my profile is also decent for these schools, would the chances of getting scholarship is more in R1 than R2? As I am looking for 100% scholarship so I can compromise on B-School Rankings too, I know there is a term called school-fit and it does matter a lot and it depends on a lot of factors. But I think that if i apply in R2 as I will be well prepared by September with all scores and give time to my essays so what do you suggest about the same. Would I have similar chances of getting scholarships when i apply to same set of schools which I am thinking for R1?

    Look forward for your kind reply.

    • Kokila,

      Like admit, the chances are in general better for scholarships too in R1. That said, there is no reason for cutting corners – a better/strong application is much likely to get a scholarship/admit than a half-baked one even if put in R1.

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