Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions we receive from MBA candidates is “Will I get in?” Of course, this is an important question to consider before applying, and we suggest that you honestly assess and understand your candidacy and risk profile within the context of your target school’s typical student body before completing or submitting an application to that school. However, once you have determined that you will in fact apply to a particular school, you should not let this question haunt you or halt your progress. Many applicants spend too much time worrying and not enough time working. Your admissions decision is ultimately out of your control, so just focus on submitting the best application you possibly can.
The following scenario may be hard for you to imagine when you are still in the midst of applying to business schools, but every year, we at mbaMission see clients get accepted to an MBA program only to realize it is not a place they actually want to attend after all. Alternatively, we occasionally see applicants who are not accepted to any school and realize they must remain in a job they were more than ready to leave.
So, how do some candidates end up in these kinds of situations? In both of these scenarios, the applicants chose and applied to schools without first taking an honest look at their candidacy, goals, and alternatives. We encourage all applicants to very thoroughly consider where their true tipping point lies in terms of attending business school. At what point would not going to school be better than going to X school? Some candidates feel that if they do not go to Harvard Business School, they may as well not go to business school at all. Others believe they must attend a school in the top ten. Still others think, “I really hope to go to a top ten program, but I’ll be happy to attend any top-30 school.” Having a frank discussion with yourself (or perhaps with us) on this topic may help you pinpoint where this cutoff point is for you.
Start by researching all the MBA programs at which you believe you would be competitive, and then organize them into three clusters: dream schools, reasonable schools, and safer schools. Next, further investigate the schools you deemed “reasonable” and “safer,” and as you do so, ask yourself, “Would I rather be at this school next year or not be in school at all?” Essentially, we are suggesting that you imagine your worst-case scenario—not getting into any of your dream schools—and decide what you would do in that situation.
Then, in addition to applying to your dream programs, apply only to those reasonable and safer schools for which you felt going would be preferable to not attending any MBA program at all. This way, you can avoid finding yourself in either of the situations we described at the beginning of this post and instead will be well positioned to embrace the choices you ultimately have.