Years ago, a favorite essay question among many of the top bschools was to ask you about an ethical dilemma you’ve faced. That type of question still can come up in interviews. What we’ve got today is not so much an ethical dilemma as a relationship dilemma.
It’s about applying to bschool with a partner. We’ve discussed the strategies for applying for an MBA with a partner a few times here on the blahg and we’ve even posted a Success Story of a couple who made it in to bschool together.
That’s of course the ideal outcome. But what happens when you both get in … to different schools? Or even more painfully: What happens if one of you gets in to Harvard?
And here’s another wrinkle: What happens if EssaySnark tells you point-blank – before you submit anywhere – that one of you definitely doesn’t have a chance at Harvard, but that the other one does?
What do you do THEN?!??
If you’re applying as a couple, there are so many things to consider (we go into some of them in that series on applying to grad school with a partner). This post is to encourage you to walk through all the scenarios together before you submit any apps.
How important is it for the two of you to go to the same school? Obviously this answer depends on where you’re at with your relationship. A married couple will have very different answers than a couple who’s been together for only a short time. Are you open to a long-distance relationship for two years? We’ve heard of bschool breaking up relationships. Even if your partner is not applying to bschool this year, these are important (and sometimes scary) factors to think through, separately and together, as you figure out where you’re going to apply.
If one person has a real shot at Harvard, should he pursue it?
We hear much more frequently about the woman being the “trailing spouse” – if you’re the dude in the relationship, how would you feel about “trailing” her while she pursues the MBA?
What about compromises? Maybe one of you can even put off bschool for two years. You both apply to schools that are right for you individually, where you think you each have the best shot – individually, or together if you’re both interested in the school – and then you make the decision based on who is accepted to the “best” school.
If only one of you is accepted to a Really. Good. School then it’s easy: Both of you move together to that city for Partner 1’s MBA. Two years later, the Partner 2 applies, with the knowledge that both of you will move again. There would be some juggling required when Partner 1 goes through recruiting for their post-MBA job in the Fall when Partner 2 is also submitting their MBA apps, but it’s possible to pursue opportunities with multiple location options kept open if you explain the situation to the MBA recruiters.
This may not work in practice because what if during the initial year of applying, one of you gets into Kellogg and the other gets into Columbia… which would you choose? You need to figure out the parameters by which you’d make the decision BEFORE anybody gets accepted anywhere.
Or maybe you decide to apply to multiple schools in the same city – Kellogg and Booth, Columbia and NYU (and Wharton), MIT and Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, UCLA and USC. All of those schools are competitive (some ridiculously so) and this doesn’t guarantee anything, but certainly it could be a good option for the two of you to live together while attending different schools. Though you probably wouldn’t see each other very much!!
A smart first step in all of this is to get an honest assessment of your chances – yours, and your partner’s – so that you can make informed choices around which schools to be applying to. And you’ll need to have these honest conversations about your individual priorities and what level of sacrifice or compromise is appropriate from each side of the equation.
Do a little simulation for yourself. What would you do if you were admitted to Harvard – but your partner was not?
And do the opposite: How would you handle it if you got in to, say, Wharton, but your partner was accepted to Harvard?
Those two cities aren’t that far apart, but be honest with yourself. A long-distance setup can totally work for a lot of couples. Would it work for you?
Figure this stuff out BEFORE you submit.
It can get very sticky to work through these decisions later on if you don’t have a framework for them.
Good luck with it, Brave Supplicant!