In which round is it better to apply to graduate school?

By | August 16, 2020

The time is near! The Top Business Universities have already announced that they will begin their first round of admission in less than 3 months to study your postgraduate degree abroad in the periods that begin in the year 2021. For example, the deadline to apply to the first round MBAs from the most prestigious Business Universities such as Harvard, INSEAD, Michigan (Ross), Stanford and Wharton is the first days of September, while for other equally distinguished schools, such as Columbia, this date is in October. It is possible that the knowledge of these dates generates pressure when you want to apply in the first round thinking, erroneously, that this is, without a doubt, the best option and the one that offers you the greatest probability of being accepted. Therefore, in this article we share points that you should consider to decide in which round it is best to send your application portfolio to the program you selected, as well as specific strategies to prepare the construction of your profile. If you want to delve more into this last point, we recommend the following article on our blog.

In which round is it better to apply to graduate school

First round with the highest acceptance rate

Yes, it is true that the first round is the one where the admissions committees, mostly but not entirely, tend to accept a greater number of candidates. It is also true that you compete against a smaller number of applicants. Analyzing this data in isolation can lead you to make a bad decision waiting for a favorable result. The reason for the acceptance rates does not lie in which round is applied per se, but in the quality with which the prospects count. This means that in the first round the profiles they apply are already strong enough to aspire to be admitted.

Sending your admissions portfolio to the committees in this round will reflect your seriousness as well as your previous planning in your admission process and primary interest in their school, which can influence them not only to accept you, but also to offer you a scholarship. However, applying to competitive graduate programs requires a meticulous development of your differentiators, both professional and personal. Another point in favor of being ready to apply in the first round is the opportunity you have to prepare for the second round of other programs in case of being rejected in which you have already applied for admission.

Commonly, Latin American applicants present an error regarding the time dedicated to their preparation and to carry out their admission process. This is because local or national postgraduate programs do not require as much planning time, only a few months are enough to assemble your entire portfolio and be admitted even a few weeks before the start of the program. However, when applying to competitive postgraduate courses in highly prestigious and globally recognized Universities, it is necessary that your profile be built in a comprehensive and attractive way for admissions committees. Therefore, if you did not take the time necessary for it, it is preferable that you choose to apply in the second round.

Second round with less prepared candidates, more likely to be accepted

Again, having this information without the big picture can create false expectations. Yes, typically stronger candidates apply in the first round, and admissions committees are aware of this. In the second round, the number of applicants is higher, which generates lower acceptance rates. All of them will be compared not only with the candidates of this round, but also among those who passed to the waiting list of the previous round, so believing that by applying in the second round you avoided being compared with the candidates of the first round is incorrect. In addition, the chances of being placed on the waiting list are lower than when applying in the previous round.

The second round is the best option to apply if you still need to work on some aspects to present a solid profile, as it is not as rushed as the previous one. Be careful and do not get carried away by this same thought to choose to apply in third rounds, since it can be somewhat risky as there are fewer places available and also be compared to the waiting list of the previous two rounds. T erceras rounds may involve, too little preparation and that the program to ask admission that was not even your options first.In addition to this, Harvard Business School recently announced the elimination of this third round for some of its programs, thus leaving many applicants with their admissions portfolio in hand. Likewise, you should consider that being an international applicant, the second round gives you the necessary slack of time once you received your acceptance letter, to be able to start visa, insurance, with your bank, home, among some others.

Since you have the elements to evaluate in which round you should apply depending on your degree of progress in the construction of your profile, we provide you with specific tips that will guide you to define if you are or will be ready for your application request.

Are you ready for your application request?

English language preparation

As you are not a graduate of a school where the primary language of instruction was English, the Universities will ask you as part of your admission portfolio to validate your English proficiency through a minimum score. To do this, consider that the official scores can take up to 3 weeks to be sent and that if you do not feel so sure of your level, it is likely that you will need to take the exam more than once.

GRE or GMAT standardized exams

These exams allow universities to determine if you can handle the academic rigor of the program, in addition to measuring your level of critical reasoning, reading comprehension, mastery of mathematics topics, among other aspects. Remember that you will be compared against thousands of applicants who represent your direct competition, so a good score in these exams is not enough, but must be competitive, that is, be within the highest percentiles. Therefore, it is important that you take the relevant preparation time. Also note that not all programs support the unofficial scores that you see at the end of the exam, since some of them require official scores, which take between 14 and 21 days to be delivered and sent to the universities.

Recommendation letters

This point requires the intervention of a third party, and you must be aware that you have no control over their timing. For this reason, we suggest you allocate a period of preparation that includes vacations, occupations and other tasks of your recommenders. Make sure you give them time to prepare their letter, highlighting the deadline by which you want it to be sent.

Transcripts or Kardex

It is issued by the University in which you studied the bachelor’s or undergraduate degree, or if this is the case also the master’s degree, and it is the document where all the subjects you took are reflected along with your grades. The programs to which you are applying will require it in English. For this reason, it is important that, in case the University of your degree does not issue it officially in this language, you consider that you must send the document with a certified translator expert that contains the official translation seal. Also consider the times it takes to grant this document, both the University from which you graduated and the official translation.


This requirement demands a process of reflection and introspection on the part of the applicant, so it is naive to think that in just one day you can complete it. For starters, you should have your long-term goals fairly clear, while relating them to the program to which you are applying. Therefore, these tests do not only fall on personal knowledge, but also on understanding in depth the program to which you apply. Set aside time that includes the creation process but also the review process.

Studying a postgraduate degree abroad, if it was chosen strategically, undoubtedly puts you one step closer to your professional fulfillment, so you should not take the admission process lightly. If at this point in time your profile is already competitive in terms of your standardized test scores, you have the language certification and have built a coherent narrative between your letters of recommendation, essays and CV highlighting your differentiators, do not hesitate to send your application in first round. If not, don’t risk your admission, go for the second round and continue working on your profile. In any of the cases, we also suggest you approach the experts in admissions coaching atCompetitive postgraduate courses who will objectively evaluate your profile and also help you with specific and specific strategies and actions in the construction of a comprehensive admission portfolio that ensures successful applications.