Should You Apply Early Decision? Columbia MBA, Tuck…

Posted By SWatts on May 29, 2013 | 0 comments

From Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts), President, MBA,

Should You Apply Early Decision?

Each year as the new admissions season approaches, candidates who are thinking ahead begin to ponder early on whether they should apply to some top MBA programs through Early Decision rounds. There are many factors you should bear in mind when assessing whether Early Decision is a good choice for you.

There are some candidates for whom Early Decision is a clear and easy choice. For example, some candidates are simply sold on a particular business school and know it is their first choice, so they want to apply through Early Decision in order to know as soon as possible whether they have admission (and if so, they might choose not to apply elsewhere). Some applicants want to gain admission to a good business school early on so that they can feel “safer” in applying to reach schools, knowing that they have an admission in hand already.

Other candidates for business school have a notable weakness or challenge to overcome in their qualifications or profile. Perhaps a candidate is coming from a small, regional company that is less attractive to some top MBA programs. Some candidates have only a marginally acceptable GMAT score and cannot improve it notably. Some candidates had hiccups in their undergraduate records, resulting in a lower-than-desired GPA. Depending on what the challenge is, such candidates should think through how to time their MBA applications excellently in order to maximize the odds that they might override the challenge(s) in their qualifications or profile. An Early Decision pool can often offer a good alternative for such candidates.

Indeed, sometimes when a candidate with a notable weakness in their profile approaches us in Round 1 or Round 2 for assistance in preparing their MBA applications, we at MBA can see they would have had a better chance of overriding their weakness in an Early Decision round. For those who think ahead, it can pay off wonderfully. We had many candidates who fared well in admissions last year likely because they applied through Early Decision. In one example, a candidate gained admission to Columbia Business School with a 2.3 GPA in a graduate degree. I believe Early Decision made all of the difference for him and that he would not necessarily have fared as well in the regular decision pool.

Consider another scenario: Once you become aware of the nuances of admission for each of your target schools, you may learn that one school does not favor candidates coming from small start-ups. If you are from a small start-up and you want to attend that business school, you may be best off applying early so that hopefully you will be one of the candidates they admit from this sort of background. Thus, Early Decision or Round 1 might be ideal for you. If you wait too late, you may find that you are competing for a tiny number of seats that are still left for candidates applying from small companies. In contrast, if you know that a school tends to favor candidates of your profile and you do not have a notable weakness to override, you might have latitude to wait until Round 2 for that school and you might want to apply in an earlier round to MBA programs where you face more difficult odds.

Assess your candidacy well to determine if Early Decision is an option you should be entertaining. If you have a notable weakness, applying Early Decision to at least one school might be a great strategic move.

Best wishes,
Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts)
President, MBA

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