The dilemma of whether to apply in last rounds of MBA application cycles, although reasonable, at times discounts some important aspects. I wouldn’t spend much time in obvious things such as visa processing time for international applicants, relatively smaller admit pool left and so on.
If a candidate is planning to apply with a similar school-application combination that she or he got dinged for in previous rounds, it is not going to be any easier to break through in third round or so. Example, candidates apply to a top notch b-school sometimes over-speeding with the application in order to achieve an early deadline and eventually end up compiling a weak application. And then they tend to go ahead with slight modifications for other top programmes in last rounds. And given that the number of seats left in last rounds would typically be lesser, the competition is only tougher.
However, there can be genuine reasons to apply in the third round or beyond. You may choose to work on building a strong and coherent story, which may take time, instead of just completing an application for the sake of it. Sometimes the candidates are busy travelling for work and find time only toward the last rounds. Or the candidate may be waiting for some major project to start giving results so that she or he can talk about the business impact that efforts have brought about. This may also be a reason if the candidate is expecting a recommendation from an important client. Also, some candidates, after getting dinged in previous rounds, do actually work to improve the critical elements of their application such as goals, extra-curricular, missing link, etc.
The main thing to consider is that the admission committee is keen to get the best brass in the class. There are two aspects to it – competition and diversity. The former implies that an application in the last round would compete against the rest of the applications in the round and the waitlists from previous rounds. If a candidate thinks that her or his application is worth consideration, there is no reason to believe that she or he should unnecessary wait for initial rounds of next year. The diversity implies that schools more often than not end up not getting uncommon profiles until the later rounds. So, if a candidate thinks that there are elements of diversity in her or his profile, we’d encourage that candidate to go for it rather than just wait.