You look around your office and think to yourself: “I wish my coworker were not applying to the same school as I am. They can’t take two people who sit at the same desk. Also, their GPA is 0.15 higher!” On the surface, this reasoning may seem logical, and it can thus cause anxiety for some candidates—especially for those who are in positions for which an MBA is virtually a “must have” to move forward, such as in consulting and banking.
However—not to worry—this thinking has two significant flaws:
You are not the same candidate as the person at the desk beside you.
They may have similar work experience, but you have had different interactions with team members and clients and have worked on different projects. So, you have different perspectives on your experiences and so do your recommenders. Furthermore, your work experience is only one piece of the puzzle that is your application. Even if your coworker does have a slightly higher GPA or GMAT/GRE score, you are still quite different in terms of your personal/life experiences, community/leadership activities, ability to perform during interviews, and more. Instead of worrying that the admissions committee will make an apples-to-apples comparison and cast you out, you must focus on what makes you distinct and present your best self.
The top schools have room for two great candidates.
When we asked Harvard Business School’s (HBS’s) former admissions director whether she would accept two candidates who had worked at the same company, she quipped, “We have room for Larry and Sergei” (referencing the two founders of Google). An mbaMission consultant recalled that when she was at HBS, she had two classmates who worked on the same desk at the same private equity firm. At HBS, they ended up in the same section. Top-ranked MBA programs do not have quotas for certain firms, towns, ethnicities, etc. They just want the best candidates out there.
So, in short, as you eye that individual across the desk, try to avoid simplified comparisons. Focus on that which makes you distinct, and expect that the admissions committees will not fulfill quotas, but rather identify talent.