The biggest news of the 2018-2019 MBA application season came early from Harvard Business School when HBS announced that it would do away with its third and final round
With more and more MBA candidates filing their applications in the first and second rounds, respectively in September and January, Harvard admission officials thought an extra round wasn’t really needed, anymore. The school, however, will retain a spring round, however, for applicants to its 2+2 deferred admissions program. Consultants estimate that round three accounts for fewer than 5% of Harvard’s incoming class of roughly 930 MBAs in recent years.
Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business also eliminated a round this year: the school’s ‘early action’ round which typically had a deadline of early October. Instead, Tuck is moving to three rounds starting with a first deadline of September 24, a second on January 7th, and a third on April 1st. More importantly, the school’s admissions team has made a commitment to speed up admit/deny decisions. Tuck found that MBA applicants to the school had to wait 100 days–longer than any other peer school–to get an answer from Tuck on its November round.
“We’re ‘sun setting’ the ‘applicant-unfriendly’ November round,” announced Tuck admissions chief Luke Anthony Peña, “We’ll now offer three admission rounds with more applicant-friendly turnaround times.” The upshot: For its November round, Tuck cut the wait time by more than 25% to 73 days to Dec. 6th. Last year, November candidates had to wait until Feb. 9th for a decision.
Once Harvard tips off the season with its Sept. 5th cutoff, the deadlines fall like dominoes. Yale SOM and Duke follow on the 12th, then Stanford and Wharton cutoffs occur on the 18th, followed by INSEAD and Northwestern Kellogg a day later, with Chicago Booth on the 27th and Dartmouth Tuck on the 24th. As more schools report their dates, expect September and October to be ground zero for round one applicants.
Otherwise, there has been some more slight admissions deadline creep in this year’s deadlines, with Wharton scheduling its round one cutoff a day earlier than a year ago on Sept. 18th, along with several other leading schools. For Columbia Business School’s early decision and January intake round, the deadline was also moved up a day to Oct. 4th this year. Columbia offers two intakes, an August entry and an accelerated January intake. Unlike most of its peer schools, Columbia uses a rolling admissions process for both entry options, evaluating applications and extending interview invitations as they are received.
It’s always wise to follow the links to the web pages of the school’s admissions office. It’s always possible that there could be slight changes in the dates, or greater detail. And there can be significant differences in the number of rounds and deadlines from school to school. While HBS is now down to just two deadline rounds, INSEAD and London Business School both have four rounds for each of their intakes. HEC-Paris has a half dozen for its Sept. 2019 intake and an amazing 11 rounds for its Jan. 2019 intake.
APPLY AS EARLY AS YOU CAN BUT NOT UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE THE BEST JOB POSSIBLE
No matter what you do, there’s some helpful general advice: If you can, apply in the first round when none of the seats in the class are filled. At most schools, early applicants have an advantage over those that complete their applications in later rounds. Typically, the second application round is the largest, and many schools, including Wharton, advise candidates that round three is the most competitive mostly because the vast majority of the class seats are already filled. There are some other reasons why you want to get your app in early:
The ability to receive a scholarship award from the school’s Financial Aid Office prior to the date by which you must respond to your offer of admission.
Ample time to complete recommended quantitative and/or language coursework prior to arrival on campus.
Access to on-campus housing lottery systems at some schools.
Sufficient time to complete the visa application process for international candidates.
Attendance at a school’s Admit Weekends. Sometimes, round three candidates lose out on this opportunity.
All that said, the best time to apply is when you believe you’ve done the best job possible with your application. If you have to rush and cut corners to make round one, don’t. Hold off until another round. At all the highly selective business schools, admissions officials are looking for reasons to cut you from the pool. After all, the odds are substantially against you and as many as 80% of the candidates in any school’s applicant pool are usually fully qualified to attend. So you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward when you do apply.
We’ll update this list continuously as more schools provide info on their new deadlines. If a school has released its essays for the 2018-2019 admissions season, you can access them by clicking on the “Yes” in the table below.
EARLIEST 2018-2019 DEADLINES AT TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS