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MBA Acceptance Rate: Round 1 vs Round 2 vs Round 3

MBA Acceptance Rate: Round 1 vs Round 2 vs Round 3

MBA acceptance rates (check out the top business school selectivity rates) signify the competition you are likely to face in getting admission to an MBA program.

Schools that have managed to build a brand worthy of desire and respect get bombarded with thousands of applications.

The process to sieve through the candidates and find ones that are finally admitted is involved and thorough and depend on a lot of conditions – GMAT score, education and professional background, essays, recommendations, essays and more.

But there is also another factor that often plays a role – the application timeline.

Each school provides multiple application deadlines – Rounds – offering candidates the opportunity to apply at their convenience. Usually spread over three rounds, some schools offer more or even early entry options.

But admission chances are not always the same across rounds for a lot of the top schools making this a major consideration in the success of an MBA application.

Let us first understand the difference between applying in the first vs second vs third rounds and what should be considered while planning your MBA applications.

What is the difference between Round 1 vs Round 2 vs Round 3?

Round 1 applicants universally get the first bite at the MBA apple. But you should not have to compromise with the quality of the application to keep up with time. 

Most applicants apply to more than a few b-schools and to understand, prepare, and complete each unique application takes time.

For that very reason, it is better to plan and spread your applications across various rounds.

Round 1 advantages and disadvantages

The bulk of the most confident applications arrive in the first round.

These are the candidates who have the desired GMAT scores, ample work experience and a good education background, and enough meat in the application package that most admission committees want.

That is also why the top priority schools are targeted in the first round and the acceptance rates of top schools are also usually the highest given that most schools lap up this opportunity to nab the best candidates.

So, should you always apply in Round 1?

The answer is no. Not always.

Being the early bird doesn’t do much without preparation.

If your GMAT score is lower than you expected, you feel a little bit more time can be spent building a better work profile, or you have rushed through your application essays and feel that a bit more time can help you frame a better story, you should definitely consider later rounds.

You may miss out on the opportunity to compete with the best fresh candidates of the year, but without a strong application you would not have a good leg to stand on anyway.

Round 2 & Round 3 advantages and disadvantages

With round 2 you get the extra time for a better candidature. As is evident from the acceptance rates tabulated below, the chances of a round 2 admission are usually as good as round 1 for most schools.

You can use the time to take on a work project to reflect your leadership or you can attempt your GMAT again for a better score. The time advantage can be useful.

However, MBA classes are finite and if the top schools get the required seats filled with enough good applications, you might miss out. With top schools, students rarely turn admission offers down and that creates more competition for fewer seats in later rounds.

Plus, there is the disadvantage of having to compete with waitlisted candidates from previous rounds. Plus, chances of scholarships are also reduced since those are limited as well.

With round 3, there are even fewer seats and schools like HBS have in fact done away with round 3 completely.

International students too face the added disadvantage of very little time left to complete visa and other immigration formalities.

However, it does give you the option of analysing your attempts from previous rounds for a more successful attempt later. 

And there are success stories that we have encountered in the third round as well. We have shared those in the end of this article.

Do the acceptance rates differ between the rounds: R1, R2 and R3?

We have collated acceptance rates for some of the top b-schools from GMAT Club which inherently depends on members reporting their application information. Hence, the actual rates may differ. These numbers can be used as a reference for a more thorough drill down.

There are three sets of rates spanning three separate years – 2022, 2020 and 2018.

Some of the numbers may look skewed as they depend on individual reporting on the website, however, they do show that schools like Yale, Kellogg, Stanford, Tepper, Michigan Ross, Columbia, Harvard, and a few others, have been known to significantly reduce their R3 intake.

Whereas, INSEAD seems to be consistently similar across the three rounds. However, a drill down on INSEAD shows that in the Class of 2022 of the 77 admits among 186 applicants:

Admission statistics for INSEAD in Rounds 1, 2 and 3

  • 59 were accepted in R1. These were the successful 59 among 73 interviewed. 11 were waitlisted for consideration in later rounds.
  • 2 were accepted in R2. These were among the 3 interviewed. 2 were waitlisted.
  • 10 were accepted among 12 interviewed in R3. 3 were accepted from waitlisted candidates and 1 was waitlisted for later rounds.

So, the number of applications and successful admits are much reduced beyond R1.

A similar break up of Yale shows that of the 276 applicants that reported their result on GMAT Club, 65 were admitted. 36 of them were admitted in R1, 27 in R2, and only 2 in R3.

Read this: Are MBA admission chances in Round 2 lesser than Round 1?

Acceptance Rates by Round at Top B-Schools


Acceptance Rates by Round in MBA Class of 2022

Business School Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
INSEAD 31.7% 40% 55.6%
London Business School 19.9% 30.6% 35.5%
University of Chicago Booth 27.1% 31.5% 29.6%
IESE Business School Early Action 25.7%


47.4% 27.3%
Yale School of Management 27.5% 21.4% 10.5%
Northwestern University Kellogg 29.1% 30.1% 6.7%
CEIBS 31.4% 55.6% 40%
HEC Paris 32.5% 25% 40%
Duke University Fuqua Early Action 16.2%
19% 27.8%
Dartmouth College Tuck 26.6% 29.8% 30%
Stanford University 9.4% 10.2% 6%
University of Pennsylvania Wharton 19.5% 24.8% 17.4%
Harvard 7.2% 8.7%
MIT Sloan 14% 19.7% 19.4%
Columbia Business School Early Action 20.8%


University of California Berkeley Haas 18.3% 31.3% 40%
University of Michigan Ross 33.9% 26.1% 24%
University of Virginia Darden Early Action 19.6%


31.7% 22.2%
Cornell University Johnson 29.8% 26.4% 24.5%
Carnegie Mellon Tepper 31.6% 33.9% 8%


Acceptance Rates by Round in MBA Class of 2020

Business School Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
INSEAD 28.6% 17% 28%
London Business School 24.8% 33.9% 26.1%
University of Chicago Booth 28.7% 20.3% 20%
IESE Business School 41.9% 58.3% 50%
Yale School of Management 20% 23.8% 0%
Northwestern University Kellogg 26.6% 26% 30%
Duke University Fuqua Early Action 23%


20.2% 21.4%
Dartmouth College Tuck Early Action 32.3%


22.2% 20%
Stanford University 8.7% 12% 8.3%
University of Pennsylvania Wharton 31.4% 20% 22.9%
Harvard 16.4% 22.3% 20%
MIT Sloan 19.5% 9.5% 0%
Columbia Business School Early Action 25.5%

Regular 26.6%

Merit Based 17.1%

University of California Berkeley Haas 19% 20.1% 0%
University of Michigan Ross 33% 33.2% 12.5%
University of Virginia Darden 35.4% 35.8% 0%
Cornell University Johnson 32.8% 36.1% 37.5%
Carnegie Mellon Tepper 23.9% 43.8% 0%


Acceptance Rates by Round in MBA Class of 2018

Business School Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
INSEAD 21% 50% 46%
London Business School 19.5% 25.3% 18.2%
University of Chicago Booth 25.3% 29.2% 22.2%
IESE Business School 36.1% 46% 14.3%
Yale School of Management 21.2% 25% 20%
Northwestern University Kellogg 20.5% 23% 23.1%
Duke University Fuqua Early Action 16.3%


19.1% 0%
Dartmouth College Tuck Early Action 24%


49.5% 0%
Stanford University 5.7% 7.4% 10%
University of Pennsylvania Wharton 16.2% 19.1% 9.1%
Harvard 11.8% 11.2% 10%
MIT Sloan 15.8% 9.4% 0%
Columbia Business School Early Action 24.3%

Regular 14.8%

Merit Based 11.3%

University of California Berkeley Haas 17.2% 8.9% 0%
University of Michigan Ross 21.5% 20.3% 20%
University of Virginia Darden 27.7% 21.8% 0%
Cornell University Johnson 19.8% 37.8% 27.8%
Carnegie Mellon Tepper 18.3% 29% 27.8%

Also read ISB Admission Round 1 vs Round 2


R1 vs R2 vs R3: Business School Perspectives

We caught up with Melissa Rapp (Associate Dean of Graduate Admissions, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School) to gain some on-the-ground insights.

MCB: How do you see the quality and quantity of applications changing across the three rounds? Do the odds change for scholarship decisions in the later rounds?

MBA selectivity rate by round 1 2 3 Melissa: We see well qualified applicants in all three application rounds. Round 2 is generally the biggest round in terms of applications submitted and round 3 is the smallest.

Between rounds 1 and 2, we admit a similar number of students and offer a similar volume of scholarships. By the end of round 2, we like to have most of the class in place.

We always admit candidates from round 3 (and the waitlist), but it’s a smaller volume and scholarship dollars can be limited.

MCB: What advice would you have for applicants who’re applying in the later rounds?

Melissa: It’s important for international students to target Round 1 or 2 so they have time to secure a visa and make plans to move to the US.

For candidates applying in any round, it’s important to get to know the schools you are considering.

Review the school’s website, talk to friends and colleagues, attend virtual and in-person events offered by the school.

For candidates who apply in Round 3, it is important they are mentally prepared for things to happen fast.

From when they receive their decision to when they start onboarding, the days will go by very quickly, so they need to be prepared for all the preparations needed to start an MBA program, especially if that includes a move.


MBA Application success stories Round 2 and beyond

We have also listed here a few of the many success stories of applications made in Round 2, Round 3 and beyond.

– This applicant made it in beyond Round 3 and well into Round 4 for an MS PhD of his interest with only 4 months left for his program to start. Read his story here.
– Are the ISB Round 3 deadline chances really low? This “Indian Male Engineer” shares how he tackled the low chances of Round 3 for an admission at ISB.
– Columbia MBA admit shares how he made it in Round 2 after 4 rejections. Read his story.
– Can a low GMAT be a deterrent in Round 2? Especially in a premier b-school like Wharton? This Indian applicant shares her success story of admission in Round 2 despite a low GMAT.
– Are scholarships impossible after Round 1? Here is an INSEAD MBA admit who secured a 15,000 Euros scholarship in Round 2.

For inspiration, here are more MBA success stories of all rounds and flavors. Take a peek.

Drop us an email, if you’d like to work with our top MBA application consultants to improve your chances: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Good luck!
Source: 1, 2, 3, 4

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