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Master's Application Timing: Round 1 vs. Round 2 vs. Round 3

Akansha Pandey

Akansha Pandey

Nov 25, 2022

9 mins read

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Understanding the application process for universities abroad can often put the applicant in a dilemma. It can be confusing as many different procedures are to be followed. Many international universities offer two intakes around September and January. Some universities also accept the third intake during the month of April-May.

The process of applying for a master’s program is no cakewalk. Often students apply to several universities to maximize their chances of getting selected. Applying in the right round helps maximize the chances of getting accepted to your preferred college. 

However, it is advisable to consult and discuss your case with international education experts who can guide you through the process in the best manner. 

Rolling Admissions vs Round Admissions

While certain universities operate on a rolling admissions schedule, others use rounds. Universities that employ round admission expect your application to be complete and submitted by the posted deadline. All of the applications that are submitted by that deadline are reviewed concurrently.

On the contrary, schools that employ a rolling admission style typically send out their admission decisions within 4-6 weeks, selecting students until all open slots are filled. Schools with rolling admission open their application cycles around September 1, and the applications are open well into the spring term.

Identifying the Types of Admission Rounds

Application Round 1

This round is best suited for applicants who are well-prepared with their applications. Students who are satisfied with their exam scores have been working on their essays for a considerable time. Their resumes accentuate the academic and extracurricular activities and leadership positions they have held.


Applying in round 1 improves the chances of admission in the following ways:

  • It showcases the serious intent of the applicant as well as their planning to the admission committees.
  • It conveys that the applied university is your first preference.
  • Your applications are compared with applicants from round 1.
  • Applying in Round 1 offers you a chance to apply to other programs in Round 2 or 3 if your application is not shortlisted in Round 1.

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  • This round always has strong applications. Hence the chances are even higher of getting your application wait-listed in round 1.
  • If you think that your application requires edits or improvement, it is better to apply in Round 2.

Application Round 2

This round is appropriate for students who do not have compelling applications till the round 1 deadline. The applicant should put in effort for the coming 3-4 months to enhance their exam scores or work on strengthening their resume by seeking leadership positions at work, volunteer work, or extracurricular activities.

Suggested: Study Abroad Application


  • This round is favorable for candidates with less-than-perfect applications, as strong applicants often submit their applications in round 1.
  • If the applicant gets admission in round 2, it provides enough time to put in their notice periods at their jobs.
  • If the application is rejected, the applicant has ample time to strategize and work on their application for next year.


  • The highest number of applications were received in round 2, making the competition fierce.
  • The chance of getting wait-listed in round 2 is comparatively low.

Application Round 3

Round 3 is considered the most competitive round. The remaining few seats by all the Universities are made open for applications which invites many applications from across the globe resulting in fierce competition to make the cut-off list. In this round, universities also expect the applicant to send in an additional essay on why they chose to wait until round 3 to send in their applications. Universities also review the wait-listed applications in this round. Round 3 is reserved for wait-listed as well as exceptional applications. Hence, unless under unforeseen circumstances, it is in the best interest not to wait till this round.

Suggested: study Abroad Consultant


  • Many universities have a higher acceptance rate in Round 3 or 4. 
  • If the applicant does not wish to wait for one more year, applying to such universities will work to the applicant’s advantage. 


  • Your application is compared with accepted and wait-listed applicants from Rounds 1 & 2.
  • The applications belonging to the generic pool of applicants might not be appealing to the universities at this point.

When to Apply – A Suggested Timeline

To stay on top of your admission process, start the application process at least 16 months before the start of your program. A late or incomplete application holds the chance of putting you on the waiting list, or it could remove your application from admission consideration entirely. But how to figure out when to apply for it?

One of the most critical factors to take into consideration is when to take the GRE, GMAT, IELTS, or TOEFL. The application deadlines for programs differ from university to university and semester to semester. Aspirants planning to start their study abroad journey in the Fall can opt for their GRE in March-October of the previous year. April and May are considered the most appropriate for taking GRE and TOEFL if the applicant is applying for a spring semester. At the same time, the right time to take the GMAT is 12 – 18 months before the date of your target business school program. If you are applying to a program that starts in Fall, the ideal time to have your GMAT score ready is before August of the previous year.

Early applications are considered best as they help you narrow down a precise timeline that will work best for you.

May to June: Research, Exam, and Letter Prep

If you want to get into your desired university for the fall semester, starting your research in the spring of the previous year is a good idea. Suppose you want to be admitted into a program starting in September 2023. In that case, it is ideal to start application research in the summer of 2022, especially if you are still figuring out which university you want to get into. During this time, you can start researching the programs.

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July to August: Obtain LOR (Letters of Recommendation) and Supplementary Program Details

The summer months are considered a good time to understand more about the programs and schools that you want to apply to. Take this time to finalize the universities that interest you the most and find out more about the faculty members whose research fits your interests.

September: Start marking the Application Deadlines and Revise your Personal Statements

It’s time to mark your application deadlines in your academic calendar, so you do not miss out on anything important. Fall is a good time to gather the required documents, including your transcripts.

October to December: Start Sending Your Applications

By the winter of the following year, you will be on your way to completing your application process. An excellent way to make all the forms look cleaner is to scan them and fill them out using software such as a word processor or Adobe Fill & Sign. Don’t forget to re-read the filled-in answers in your application, double-check all the personal statements, and verify the requirements. 

January to February: Acceptance and Rejection Responses

By spring, you will receive responses and notifications from universities about your application status. Don’t feel discouraged if you receive a rejection application, especially as many graduate studies programs can be highly competitive.

CountryEarly actionRegular deadline
CanadaSeptember/ October
GermanyJuly (Winter Semester)January (Summer Semester)
AustraliaDecember (Semester 1)May (Semester 2)

Suggested: IELTS Guide

Key Takeaways

  • Decide your application round based on the readiness of your application and target university rankings. 
  • If you have been working on your application for a few months, and have an envious exam score, a compelling essay/SOP, and an impressive resume, then it is advisable to apply in Round 1.
  • If you feel you need to work on and improve some aspects of the application, apply in Round 2.
  • Don’t wait for the last or round 3 to apply unless you have a non-generic profile and exceptional circumstances that are preventing you from applying in Rounds 1 and 2.

The idea of studying abroad is equally exciting and overwhelming. From choosing the right university and program to arranging documents, you have to juggle a lot as an international student. Having a study abroad timeline in place for your school applications can help put your mind at ease. It can be arduous to keep track of the deadlines of various universities. Get in touch with MastersBuddy for end-to-end guidance and assistance in achieving your study abroad dream.

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Akansha Pandey
Akansha Pandey

Akansha Pandey is a journalism graduate who is passionate about helping students achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals. She handles digital marketing and supports the process of guiding students to get admitted into their dream universities.

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