We’ve frequently applauded HBS for improving the process for Brave Supplicants, and for being more transparent, such as with GRE and GMAT scores in applicants and students done in 2014. The changes that HBS made to admissions over the years, particularly with the “mid-cycle release”, really revolutionized how the process works for all of you, and several other schools followed their lead and implemented similar changes. This is super-applicant-friendly. Round 1 candidates benefit tremendously. You get to find out really early in the season if you’re moving to the next stage with them.
Before this innovation with the mid-cycle release, you had to wait till December if you were going to be rejected — or actually, January, since at the time, that’s when Round 1 decisions came in. Yup, you had to submit Round 2 apps at other schools without even knowing if your Round 1 apps were successful or not. Don’t have to tell you how much THAT sucked. Can’t recall which school was the one that started pulling decision releases into December but we’re thinking that was Harvard too.
Harvard has also been the school to move Round 1 app deadlines into September; they did so tentatively at first, moving it from the beginning of October which had been everyone’s standard, up to September 24 in 2012, and then to September 16 in 2013, and then in 2014 a full month earlier than many other schools’ deadlines. (In 2017 the Round 1 deadline was September 6.) This we also feel is to the benefit of EVERYONE in MBA admissions, because it lights a fire under the BSers’ butts much much earlier than ever before. Several other schools now have apparently felt empowered by Harvard’s bravery to also place their Round 1 deadlines in September, which provides further benefit since it means more of those deadlines are spread out over a longer timeframe – which in our experience, results in better apps to every school, since all the workeffort isn’t all lumped together in one two-week period for all of your apps. We noticed this specifically this year with the increase in quality we saw in BSers’ Rd 1 apps. So again, “Thank you, Harvard Business School.”
But the biggest innovation came in 2010 with this mid-cycle release thing. Before Harvard implemented that, you’d just submit the app in October and wonder. And wonder. And wonder. You’d finally get the “no” in December confirming what you would by-then know was inevitable – you’d basically resign yourself to being rejected if you didn’t get an interview invite by the end of November, but that’s a very long sequence of grueling undefined and doubt-filled days to go through before you get the actual word “No” on your app. This is still how a few schools do it, which is pretty lousy, as many of you will be experiencing in the weeks to come. For Harvard and several others, the process is now different.
We are of course referring to the vast majority of Harvard applicants here – not the ones who are getting the interview invitations this week, but the ones who did not, and will not. For that second group, the mid-cycle “release” seems very kind. You’re hearing really really early in the cycle that you’re a no-go for Harvard. Blat. OK well, shoot, that hurts. But at least you can regroup and move on. You can start your Round 2 planning early enough to actually fix the issues and create a competitive application.
So why is the title of this post referring to some “major problem” with how HBS does it?
It is this:
The “major problem” is, a very large percentage of those people are actually TOTALLY QUALIFIED and will UNDOUBTEDLY (if they play their cards right) MAKE IT IN TO ANOTHER REALLY GOOD SCHOOL. One without the word “Harvard” in its name, but a good school nonetheless.
Yet on the “release” day, all these well-qualified and capable Brave Supplicants turn into the most self-doubting and dejected group of people on the planet.
In fact, if you got all of them together in one room on that release day, you’d probably see the world tilt off its axis due to the weight of the depression and despair.
Despite all of our warnings and cautions and the work we do in trying to help set expectations among the lot of you, we know it doesn’t help. You get rejected – when you thought you’d be The One – and it is downright awful. (This is particularly sharp given that those who are rejected from Harvard, despite being so qualified, have typically been success stories in life, so this is sometimes an unusual set of circumstances, and emotions, to be dealing with.)
Those more-reasonable schools have barely begun releasing any interview invitations, though. It’s very possible that hot on the heels of a Harvard rejection, you are going to get news that a different adcom is interested and wants to meet you. And yeah, that can help. However, it’s unlikely that that happen news has hit your inbox quite yet.
So this week, on the second day of HBS interview invites, things are often quite awful for many applicants. We appreciate how early HBS gives this news, but we do sort of wish that it happened a tiny bit later in the cycle, so that people would already have a few invites from other schools racked up, and they wouldn’t go off the emotional deep end quite so much.
All we want to do is remind you that all decisions are independent events, and most people are rejected from Harvard, and lots and lots of that group make it into Very. Good. Schools after that rejection.
If Harvard doesn’t happen, there will still be lots of opportunities out there!