What You Need to Know About MBA Application Deadlines

Types of Deadlines and Best Times to Apply

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An MBA application deadline signifies the last day that a business school is accepting applications for an upcoming MBA program. Most schools will not even look at an application that is submitted after this date, so it is really important to get your application materials in before the deadline. In this article, we're going to take a closer look at MBA applications deadlines to determine what they mean for you as an individual. You'll learn about the types of admissions and discover how your timing can impact your chances of getting accepted business school.

When Is the Deadline for Submitting an MBA Application?

There is no such thing as a uniform MBA application deadline. In other words, every school has a different deadline. MBA deadlines can also vary by program. For example, a business school that has a full-time MBA program, an executive MBA program, and an evening and weekend MBA program may have three different application deadlines - one for every program that they have.

There are lots of different websites that publish MBA application deadlines, but the best way to learn about the deadline for the program you are applying to is to visit the school's website. That way, you can ensure the date is completely accurate. You don't want to miss a deadline because someone made a typo on their website!

Types of Admissions

When you're applying to a business program, there are three basic types of admissions that you might encounter:

Let's explore each of these admissions types in more detail below.

Open Admissions

Although policies can vary by school, some schools with open admissions (also known as open enrollment) admit everyone that meets the admission requirements and has the money to pay the tuition. For example, if the admissions requirements dictate that you have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution (or the equivalent) and the capacity to study at the graduate level, and you meet these requirements, you will most likely be admitted into the program as long as space is available. If space is not available, you may be waitlisted.

Schools with open admissions rarely have application deadlines. In other words, you can apply and get accepted at any time. Open admissions are the most relaxed form of admissions and the one most rarely seen at graduate business schools. Most of the schools that have open admissions are online schools or undergraduate colleges and universities.

Rolling Admissions

Schools that have a rolling admissions policy usually have a large application window - sometimes as long as six or seven months. Rolling admissions are commonly used for freshmen at undergraduate universities and colleges, but this form of admissions is also heavily used by law schools. Certain graduate-level business schools, such as Columbia Business School, also have rolling admissions.

Some business schools that use rolling admissions have what is known as an early decision deadline. This means that you have to submit your application by a certain date to get an early acceptance. For example, if you are applying to a school with rolling admissions, there may be two application deadlines: an early decision deadline and a final deadline. So, if you are hoping to get accepted early on, you have to apply by the early decision deadline. Although policies vary, you may be required to withdraw your application from other business schools if you accept an early decision offer of admission that is extended to you.

Round Admissions

Most business schools, especially selective business schools like Harvard Business School, Yale School of Management, and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, have three application deadlines for full-time MBA programs. Some schools have as many as four. Multiple deadlines are known as "rounds." You could apply to the program in round one, round two, or round three. 

Round admissions deadlines vary by school. The earliest deadlines for round one are typically in September and October. But you shouldn't expect to hear back right away if you do apply in the earliest round. Admissions decisions often take two to three months, so you could submit your application in September or October but not hear back until November or December. Round two deadlines often range from December to January, and round three deadlines are frequently in January, February, and March, though all of these deadlines can vary by school.

The Best Time to Apply to Business School

Whether you're applying to a school with rolling admissions or round admissions, a good rule of thumb is to apply early in the process. Assembling all of the materials for an MBA application can take time. You don't want to underestimate how long it will take you to prepare your application and miss a deadline. Even worse, you don't want to slop something together quickly to make a deadline and then get rejected because your application was not competitive enough. 

Applying early has other advantages as well. For example, some business schools choose the majority of the incoming MBA class from applications received in round one or round two, so if you wait until round three to apply, the competition will be even stiffer, thus decreasing your chances of getting accepted. Furthermore, if you apply in round one or round two and get rejected, you still have an opportunity to improve your application and apply to other schools before their round three deadlines have ended.

A few other considerations that may be important depending on your individual situation:

  • International applicants: As an international student, you often need a student visa (either an F-1 or J-1 visa) to study in the United States. You'll want to apply in round one or round two if possible to give yourself enough time to get this visa before the actual program starts.
  • Dual degree program applicants: If you are applying to an MBA/JD program or another dual or joint degree program, you'll want to pay particularly close attention to the deadlines. Some business schools, even those with three rounds, require applicants to apply for dual degree programs in round one or round two.
  • Submatriculation applicants: If you are an undergraduate who is attending a business school that allows qualified juniors to apply for early entry (Submatriculation) to the school's MBA program, you may want to utilize a different application strategy than the average MBA applicant. Rather than applying early (like most applicants would), you may want to consider waiting until round three so that you have a more complete academic record when you submit your transcripts and other application materials.

Reapplying to Business School

Business school admissions are competitive, and not everyone gets accepted the first year that they apply to an MBA program. Since most schools will not accept a second application in a single year, you typically have to wait until the next academic year to re-apply. This is not as uncommon as many people think it is. The Wharton School at the Universality of Pennsylvania reports on their website that up to 10 percent of their applicant pool consists of reapplications in most years. If you are re-applying to business school, you should make an effort to improve your application and demonstrate growth. You should also apply early in the process in round one or round two (or at the start of a rolling admissions process) to increase your chances of getting accepted.

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Schweitzer, Karen. "What You Need to Know About MBA Application Deadlines." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/mba-application-deadlines-4137754. Schweitzer, Karen. (2020, August 27). What You Need to Know About MBA Application Deadlines. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/mba-application-deadlines-4137754 Schweitzer, Karen. "What You Need to Know About MBA Application Deadlines." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/mba-application-deadlines-4137754 (accessed June 9, 2023).