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ISB Admissions Round 1 vs Round 2 deadlines

ISB Hyderabad and Mohali admissions generate a lot of excitement, stress…and as a result a lot of queries too among the applicant pool. The big question being – ‘I have made up my mind to apply to ISB this year. But I’m not sure when I should apply. Round 1 or Round 2?

If you have been active on various discussions forums, you’d get various answers. Some might say ‘apply early’. Others might say – ‘doesn’t matter, apply when you are ready’. The fairness cream advertisement cleverly squeezed within the forum discussion says ‘apply in the morning and evening…for a more radiant skin’. And that just adds to the confusion.

We did some statistical digging upon the conclusion of the ISB admissions season. We wanted to see if we could get any real data to see what’s happening behind the scenes. Is it only a few vocal and visible applicants on the forums who are getting paranoid about ISB admissions as the ISB deadlines get closer or is that also the general trend? How are the rest of the (invisible and silent) ISB applicants actually behaving?

We used the traffic that we get on our website as an indicator of interest. And digging deeper brought up some interesting results (doesn’t it always!).

Check out the chart below:


If that doesn’t appear very intuitive, let’s break it down.

The blue line represents our daily traffic (unique visitors who are specifically hunting for and reading ISB related content) charted across several months leading to the two ISB admission deadlines – the first was on Sept 15th and the second on Nov 30th.

We aren’t statisticians, but there are two important things to note here. And we are building a story here based on the very limited data that we have.

The build up to the first deadline is gradual and linear. It builds up slowly over the weeks preceding the first deadline and reaches its peak on the day of submissions [trust engineers (I’m one too) to leave things till the last minute!]. The sharp drop you see immediately after that reflects the sense of relief that the hard-working ISB applicants seem to experience after hitting the Submit button. That’s the lull after the storm. The wait-and-watch game begins for them.

Then the other applicants who missed the first deadline for a wide variety of reasons (‘Got the GMAT score late, saar’, ‘My recommenders were travelling, saar’, ‘What do you mean by MBA essays, saar?’) now start kicking their application into motion. But this time there’s a difference. The ramp-up is exponential, not linear. And the peak is more than double this time.

That means there’s suddenly this influx of new applicants that’s coming out of the blue. Maybe these are folks who were focussing on other international bschools in the first round. Or maybe there are those who’ve realised late how the MBA admissions cycle works and are now scared that they’ll lose a whole year if they miss the Round 2 bus.

Either ways, our guess was that there may be a correlation between the traffic spike that we see and the number of applications that ISB gets in each round. If that’s the case, what’s the takeaway for the individual applicant?

Rather than make incorrect assumptions based on a single blue line from a single website, we thought we should reach out to the most credible source – the ISB admissions team – to find out whether we were really getting some useful insights or was it plain crystal ball gazing.

We were asking questions about internal data that most bschools would not want to share. But the folks at ISB were highly accessible and transparent. We got some good insights that might help you if you are seriously considering ISB.

We pitched our queries to Hima Bindu, Associate Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Indian School of Business (ISB).

Sameer (MBA Crystal Ball): Thanks for willing to share your inputs, Hima. When it comes to actual applications, do you see a similar trend (as depicted in the graph) across the two deadlines?

Hima (Indian School of Business): Yes, it is very similar.

MBA Crystal Ball: By what percentage do the second round application numbers go up?

Hima Bindu (ISB): The ratio between Round 1 & Round 2 ranges between 35% – 40% : 65% to 60%

MBA Crystal Ball: How does that impact the selectivity numbers across deadlines?

Hima Bindu (ISB): It is difficult to make more offers in R-1 till we know the quality in R-2. The trend is that the percentage of quality of applications is good in R-1 as compared to R-2. The applicants in R-1 are more focused and selective.

MBA Crystal Ball: Do you wait till the deadline to start reviewing applications or is it an ongoing process?

Hima Bindu (ISB): It is an ongoing process. However, 90% of the applications are received usually within the last week close to the deadline.

MBA Crystal Ball: What do you think are the reasons why applicants aren’t applying earlier?

Hima Bindu (ISB): Applicants are always trying to make a better application and improving various aspects of it. They wait till the last few days before submitting. Also, see the trend in the MBA prospects worldwide and decide. A few would like to improve their GMAT score if feasible and attempt GMAT more number of times between the start of the application till submission. Sometimes it is the letters of recommendation which take time and need follow up with recommenders.

MBA Crystal Ball: Any timing related suggestions for ISB applicants?

Hima Bindu (ISB): A good application takes two to three months to submit. So starting early is important. My suggestions would be:

a. Start early and shortlist schools you would like to apply to based on the fit.

b. Prepare a check list and rough deadlines to finish parts of the application

c. Review your essays and application several times, as clarity and self reflection are important for your essays this comes when you go through them time and again.

MBA Crystal Ball: Thanks for the tips, Hima.

Hima Bindu (ISB): Let me know if you have further queries Sameer.
Right, folks. So it’s official. The real ISB admissions data swings pretty much the same way as you see in the website traffic graph above. You now also know the reasons why it’s happening and what are the implications for you.

In summary, here’s the key takeaway from this post. If you are targetting ISB admissions in the upcoming season, start early and get the benefits of being perceived as a focused, selective and serious applicant. Share this with friends and colleagues who have set their eyes on the ISB admissions process.

Update: Three years after this post was published, we went back to check if our theory holds any water. Here’s what we found.

ISB admission statistics

Our analytics data shows that the pattern repeats almost exactly year-on-year. More power to data, and to your decisions.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

14 thoughts on “ISB Admissions Round 1 vs Round 2 deadlines”

  1. Wow ! What CID work sameer! You uncovered some hidden facts that no one could even imagine. Most people submit in the last week? OMG that’s unbelievable. I submit the day the online app opens. Keep up the good naah great work.

  2. Nikhil,

    It indeed is an interesting trend to see so many applicants delaying the submission till the last minute.

    Though we haven’t done a similar analysis for other MBA programs, I’m guessing this is the way it works for many other international bschool applications too.

    Hats off to the ISB team for addressing the questions we raised. I’m not sure how many other bschools would have shared this data to validate our theory.

    The sudden spike in the volumes also creates technical issues – for instance, the load on the server goes up and the website goes down. Which is why many folks complain on forums that they had trouble submitting their applications on the last day.

    Whether it is Round 1 or Round 2, always a good idea to submit much before the deadline.

  3. I am an ISB alum and an R1 admit.
    “Disclaimer : I don’t have inside data access to ISB admissions. My comment is based on my interaction with batch mates and my own experience mainly.”
    I would encourage a “good applicant” to apply in R1 than R2. If one is serious about ISB, R1 is a better bet to showcase that focus than R2.
    A R2 good applicant will always be seen with the suspicious lens of “wait n watch” kind of candidate. To the best of my knowledge the intake in both rounds is very close. However, R2 gets more applications.
    Do the Maths ;).
    All the best folks.

  4. Hi Sameerji, its indeed an interesting post and an Important one actually.. Thanks for the dissection of some really important stuff of MBA admissions.. I will definitely make use of this info and start early…

  5. hmmm….so now my question is…..Is it better to submit in the last week of round 1 or first few weeks of round 2?? (Why am I asking this qs?: I want to delay the reccomendation part as much as possible… soon as my team knows I am vying for ‘better opportunities” the environment would go hostile…)

  6. Hi I have a query that whether should i go for GMAT or not as I have a the GPA in range of 1-2 through out but have exceptionally well experience in Networking Sector IT with lots of achievements. Kindly suggest and also let me know whether i should prefer CAT over GMAT?

  7. @oopsii: The cut-offs for R1 and R2 remain the same, irrespective of the first week / last week approach.

    @Rohan: That GPA seems pretty low, buddy. Not sure why you have the GMAT vs CAT dilemma on this page. ISB accepts only GMAT scores.

  8. My 2 cents with a disclaimer — > i am not an MBA, was an aspiring ISB applicant a few years back.

    To have a successful career its very important to understand your preferences and chalk out what you want to do with your work life — nature of work, kinds of companies, broad location preference and your own aptitude. If you have all this clear chances are this will reflect in your application essays. Ofcourse focus on grads and GMAT is important as well(simply because there are alot of good people out there and certain parameters are needed for comarison), but there are several cases of “My GMAT and acads were better than his but he got an admit and i didnt”..and frankly the difference is the maturity and clarity in application essays that can be a clincher. Its a bit of a mirage and never a complete perfect answer but the more thought and experience you put into your planning the better its reflection will be. A strong application will sail through irrespective of R1 or R2.


  9. This is great sameer! I was wondering if you could help me understand one thing? As the R1 deadlines were oct 15th, will interview calls come after that or if we have applied much earlier like in september, they could come before the deadline too?

  10. @Nik: The admissions team reviews all applications received before the submission deadline and then sends out interview invites a few weeks later.

    So, to answer your query unless a school follows a rolling admissions process (i.e. no specific deadlines) then you can expect the invites to come in only after the submission date.


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