When to Apply
The best time to apply is in round 1 or 2. Some MBA programs say that their acceptance rate is slightly higher in round 1. It's more important though to apply when you feel you can present your best application. So if that means you'll miss the round 1 deadline then go ahead and aim for round 2. Keep in mind that applying early gives you a better chance at being unique. For example, in round 1 you might only be the 10th accountant that has applied so far. If you apply in round 3 you might only provoke a yawn because there were 100 accountants with the same background who applied before you. Also, there are obviously more spots open in rounds 1 and 2 (always avoid round 3). In some years there are only very few spots open in round 3, making it more difficult to snatch one. Business schools often use round 3 to shape the class and to ensure diversity.
The situation of the economy also plays a role when you apply. The general rule is: The better the economy, the better your chances and vice versa. When the economy tanks, people are laid off or get scared, hence more people apply. Check these stats below looking at the correlation of real GPD growth (US) and Harvard's historic acceptance rates with its class size remaining about the same since 2000 (Note: The year is the time you would start applying (e.g. in fall 2006 for the class of 2009 - which had an acceptance rate of 14%)):
A quick tip: Apply to your top choice the last if possible. Usually, your last application will be your strongest, since you will have gained experience from your previously completed applications. If the deadline of your top choice is the first, it might even make sense to postpone that application to round 2 (that is if you will complete all other applications in round 1).
Continue to how many MBA programs to apply.