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Understanding how each school's application cycle operates can help you determine the best time to submit your application.
Some schools use"rolling admissions," which means they review applications on an ongoing basis and commit to responding within a given time period after receiving your completed application. Other schools set specific deadlines so that everyone applying by a certain date will get responses at a scheduled time, generally 4-6 weeks after the deadline.
When Do You Apply?
There are potential risks and rewards regardless of when you apply. However, the general rule of thumb is that it's better to apply early rather than late. This holds true because as the deadline approaches, candidates are competing for fewer spaces. Also, by applying early, you are showing a strong interest and commitment to earning your MBA.
Can You Apply Too Early?
Yes. Applying in the earliest stages of the process can work against you.
At the start of the admissions season, committees need time to "calibrate" the yardstick by which they'll measure candidates that year. They may still be trying to get a feel for the strength of the applicant pool as it does vary from year to year. As a result, admissions committees may be less consistent in their judgments and also less likely to give you - or anyone - the benefit of the doubt. And because the application season is just starting, they are under little or no pressure to fill class slots.
Because there are fewer applications in the early stages, you may be scrutinized more closely. And typically the first period contains very strong applicants. So, keep in mind, you may also find yourself up against stiffer competition.
The Bottom Line
The middle admissions periods may be the "safest" times to apply. By then, the admissions board has a good sense of what the applicant pool is like and has hit its stride in making consistent evaluations. Plus, there are still many spots available.
Before you apply, objectively consider your likely position within a school's applicant pool. Plan to send in your applications accordingly. All timing strategies aside, when you do apply, devote the necessary time to prepare the best application package you can.
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