What does priority application deadline mean?

Priority round deadlineMany business schools have several admissions rounds in each cycle.  The “Priority Deadline” is the first of these and is important for applicants.  Here we discuss the merits of submitting before this deadline and the impact of missing it.  Understand it so you are in a position to make good decisions about your own application process.

Sometimes called “Early round”, the Priority round is the earliest of several application deadlines and comes anywhere from October through January (while additional rounds extend through April or May).  Schools use rounds as a way to batch together all the complete applications and process them as a group.  There are lots of business advantages for the school if they work this way.  There are also benefits to the applicant.  When schools batch applications, there is higher probability that they will send all proper communications on time and with less chance of missing an applicant.  It also reduces confusion among the applicant pool because everyone is largely in the same stage with their applications.  They largely need the same communications and information at the same time.  These benefits are not available when schools process applications on a “rolling” basis.

For you, the applicant, another benefit is far more important than these.  You are among the first students considered for admission and have the luxury of only being considered against your colleagues in the early round.  At this stage in the application process, all the class seats are still empty.  You have to be good enough for admission to earn a seat this early, but not the best of a large number of applicants for a very small number of seats.  The latter scenario is what happens if you apply late, say in the last round or two.

Not only are all of the class seats available, so is all of the financial aid.  Schools that offer financial support in the form of grants or scholarships to incoming students have their entire budget to work with.  Obviously getting considered at this stage is advantageous because the resources have not been limited by awarding them to other students.  It is not true that all money goes to priority round applicants, but they can be considered for financial aid throughout all financial aid rounds because their application is available longer than other students in the admission cycle.

Now perhaps your application isn’t strong enough for a merit scholarship to a top MBA program, that’s ok.  You also benefit from applying in the early round through feedback opportunities.  The admissions committee will review your application and render a decision: admit, waitlist, or deny admission.  If you are admitted, congratulations!  If you are not admitted, you may be wait listed or denied.  In either case, you can consult the admissions office for guidance about strengthening your application for reconsideration in the current admission cycle. Since you applied early, there is likely enough time to revise a personal statement, obtain an additional recommendation, or even retake the GMAT.  Doing one or more of these will show the admissions committee you are serious about earning admission this year and may make all the difference.