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For top full-time M.B.A. programs, the norm in admissions has become three cycles. People can apply in September, January or April. Applicants are notified in each round shortly before the next round's deadline, so those who aren't admitted to their top choices have a window to expand their searches for a good match. This is the practice at such leading business schools as those of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania.

Until now, Harvard University was also in this group, but its business school announced last week that it was ending its third round of admissions.

"Getting a decision earlier will give admitted students better access to on-campus housing, more cohort options...  and more time for visa processing. For students admitted in Round 3 in the past, the timing has always been tight. We know it takes a lot to finish up a job and move to a new city (!) and we hope the additional time will be helpful to admits on a number of fronts," said Chad Losee, director of M.B.A. admissions at Harvard, in a blog post.

Losee wrote that fewer applicants have been using the third round in recent years. This may well be because Harvard's M.B.A. is so popular that it attracts many top applicants for its first two rounds. Experts on M.B.A. admissions quoted by Poets & Quants said that third round applications to Harvard were something of a "Hail Mary," and that the interesting question to watch will be the impact on other top business schools as they consider whether to save more spots for third round applications or whether they will follow Harvard's lead.

Harvard's announcement also signaled a greater emphasis on the business school's 2+2 Program, as the business school said it would use the time from eliminating the third round of admissions to focus on this program. Historically, Harvard has not had a path to go directly from undergraduate education to an M.B.A., as school officials have wanted to M.B.A. students to have work experience. But under 2+2, college seniors can be admitted, but they then defer enrollment for two years of work experience.

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