The procrastinator’s guide to applying second round: What to do when

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The procrastinator’s guide to applying second round: What to do when

First round deadlines are rapidly passing. Perhaps your application isn’t quite ready: an essay needs polishing, a recommendation letter is still being written, a GMAT score needs improvement. Whatever the reason, if your application isn’t as good as it could be, you’re making the smart decision to fix these issues before applying.

While admission consultants recommend applying during the first round when admission offices are eager to fill the school’s seats with talented students, a school’s selectivity doesn’t change significantly between the first and second round. Admission officials at many business schools divulge that it is only during the third round, when a majority of a program’s spots have been taken, that your chances of admission shrink.

Though it’s no catastrophe that you weren’t able to apply in the first round, you still need to make sure your application is ready by second round deadlines. If you’re human, which we suspect you are, the urge will be to take your time and leave things till later (2015 feels like a long ways off, doesn’t it?), so to help prevent the disaster that would be trying to complete your application hours before it’s due, we’ve broken the second round deadline into a series of deadlines, one for each piece of your application. These deadlines let you know what you need to do and by when do you need to do it.

The deadline

January 5th, 2015 (under 3 months away)

For most business schools, second round deadlines are the first week of January with a few exceptions. Be sure you know the exact date for the schools you plan to apply to!

For the purpose of this article, we’ll use Jan. 5th as our hypothetical second round deadline to base our timelines off of, but the time estimates for the application processes do not change, so you can apply them to any deadline.

Last day to take the GMAT before second round

December 15th (3 weeks before deadline)

Technically, you could take the GMAT the day before the application deadline. Since you self-report your score on your application, you just need to know your composite score. Schools don’t verify scores till later in the admission process.

However, we strongly discourage you from taking the GMAT the day before deadlines. First off, it takes around 3 weeks for your AWA to be evaluated, so while you will be able to report your composite score, you won’t be able to report your AWA score. Instead, you’ll have to put down “To Be Determined,” which as you can imagine, doesn’t look so good.

Second, and most importantly, taking the GMAT during the same period that you’re finishing up the rest of your application will be incredibly stressful and put you in a terrible mental state in which to take a 4-hour test. How appealing does it sound to spend the morning taking the GMAT and then the afternoon and evening finishing your essays? Not surprisingly, both your test performance and the quality of your application would likely suffer.

Last day to start studying for the GMAT before the second round

November 15th (1 month before the last day to take the GMAT)

If you plan to retake the GMAT before the second round, you’ll need at minimum one month to study. During this month, you should be studying consistently, focusing on improving in your weak areas.

Note that one month is a minimum, but the exact time depends on the gap between your current score and your desired score and the amount of study time your schedule allows. If you wish to increase your score by a wide margin, you’ll likely need more time, whether it’s setting aside more time per week to study or giving yourself an additional month before your retake.

Last day to ask for recommendation letters

November 5th – 20th (1.5 to 2 months before deadline)

When you’re asking for a favor and are at the mercy of other people’s schedules, it’s best to budget in extra time. Plus, it’s inconsiderate to give your references less than two weeks to write a recommendation.

Allow at least a month and a half for your references to write their letters. After you ask them, it may take a bit of time before they’re able to begin composing the letter, and you may also want to meet with your recommenders to discuss where you’re applying, recent projects you’ve completed or personal accomplishments you’ve achieved – material they can draw on when writing the letters.

Check in with your references three weeks after asking them and again a week before deadlines to make sure they’re on track.

Last day to start your essays

December 5th (1 month before deadline)

Writing takes time, especially when you’re writing something that should go through multiple revisions. You’ll want a select number of friends, family or mentors to read over what you’ve written and give you feedback.

Writing a draft and then forgetting about it for a day will help you see it with fresh eyes, making needed revisions more apparent.

Other important considerations


Second round deadlines occur right after the busiest time of the year. Travel, family obligations and the flu are all factors that could set you back a few days or a few weeks. If you know your travel plans, budget in extra time to get your applications finished. Also try to allow time for the unexpected.

Don’t start from scratch

The above deadlines operate from the assumption that you already have a start on your applications. For example, you’ve already taken the GMAT, have started your essays or have references lined up. If you’re starting from zero – no GMAT, no recommenders, no essays, no idea of where you’re applying – then the best strategy is to get an early start on next year’s first round decisions. The fact alone that the average applicant takes the GMAT three times makes it nearly impossible to produce your best application within this time frame.

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