Amidst all the high-fives and congratulations flying around lately, there have also been some very sad Brave Supplicants.
If you haven’t made it into bschool this round, you’re probably feeling pretty darned bad about things.
You’re probably beating yourself up. Feeling plenty of regret. Replaying the sequence of events and kicking yourself over one thing or another. It may even be on repeat, drumming into your head with the cruelty that only you know how to inflict on yourself that you’re a worthless loser.
None of that is true.
The despair that can set in when you’ve had your hopes up that something big and happy was going to happen, and it doesn’t, can really do a number on you. That’s especially true if you got invited to interview at a top school, and it might even be worse for those of you who are now on the waitlist instead of getting a clean straight-in admit. Sometimes, we hear from BSers who are waitlisted that it feels worse than if they’d been rejected.
Being waitlisted is kind of like the phenomenon of the Silver Medal Winner at the Olympics.
There’s this thing when a competitor gets second place where they often become REALLY unhappy about it.
You wouldn’t think that would happen. From the outside, you’d assume, “Dang, they’re good, they made it in second place!!!!” Like, no, they didn’t hit first, but they are the second best in the whole wide world! How awesome is that!
Turns out, it doesn’t feel awesome. Because the second-place winner gets tormented with all of the second-guessing in the world. They don’t get to feel proud of the fact that they are really really really good; they only get to feel the woulda-coulda-shouldas and if-onlys and other forms of regret and self-hatred and cursing of fates. Because if they’d just done THIS or THAT or THIS OTHER THING then it could’ve turned out differently. Instead of being proud of the performance, they have all these crappy thoughts about how they should’ve been able to do more to knock the winner off their perch.
Apparently this doesn’t happen with the Bronze Medal Winner. Apparently if you come in third place, you’re just thrilled to be on the winners’ podium at all. You feel grateful for making it in the top three. You see the reality of the two other competitors who did better than you and you know that you put in all that you could have, and you’re glad you came out with the bronze.
If you’re sitting here with no admits and only one (or more) waitlist offers at the end of Round 2, then please remember what we say all over the place: IT’S NOT OVER YET! You still have many months ahead where this could tip in your favor. The schools are using the waitlist quite liberally these days because there’s significant uncertainty in how their class rosters will be shaping up. (You can read through our Waitlist category to learn more of our analysis and advice for those in your shoes.)
If you’re sitting here with only strikeouts and no chances for any of your Class of 2021 apps at all, then we really do understand how disappointing that can be. If you know in your heart that you put in everything you could in all aspects of each app, from tests through to essays and resume and everything, and you still came up empty-handed, then the very basic assessment is that it was the profile or the pitch. That boils down to either a mismatch in your profile to the school you were targeting, and/or that the positioning of your message in the essays especially wasn’t done effectively. The fix for that in the coming season will be to either adjust your sights so that you’re aiming to an appropriate level of school (our Comprehensive Profile Review can help you determine the right match) and/or starting over with learning the skills of presenting you on the page in the essays you’ll develop (our Complete Essay Package is ideal for taking you through that learning curve).
Alternatively, if you’re sitting here with no options for the fall, and you know in your heart that you cut corners and rushed things and didn’t start early enough or for whatever reason could not prioritize the work needed on your apps, and ran out of time and slammed in some apps in a panic, then you’re likely to be beating yourself up the most.
You may expect us to be telling you now that yeah, that’s the outcome you should’ve seen coming. You may assume we’re going to chide you for being sloppy or doing all that procrastination, and that we’re going to add more reasons for why you should be beating yourself up at this point.
But we’re not going to do that.
Whatever decisions you made that got you to this point, those are over and done. You made the most of what you were operating with at the time.
If you had great intentions of putting together really strong apps last summer, and then work and family or maybe a blown-up relationship or whatever interfered with your ability to focus, and it didn’t happen the way you had planned, then fine. That’s what happened. You made the choices that you could in the moment that you had to make them. Even if you spent all of last summer playing video games instead of writing the essays you knew you had to write, please don’t hate yourself for doing that. For whatever reason, you could not get yourself to do the thing you wanted to do then. Maybe it was an overload of stress and you just didn’t have the energy. Maybe it was feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin, so you didn’t begin until it was really late. Maybe it was overconfidence, or a sense that this would be easy, so you didn’t allocate the time and put in the work. Maybe it was the exact opposite, and you succumbed to the sense that you’re never going to make it in anyway, and who are you to even be trying. So you just didn’t start when you knew that you should have.
No matter what the cause, it was the best you could do at the time.
If you could have done differently, you would have done it!
We’re not trying to give you a pass. If you screwed up, then yes, you need to acknowledge that. This isn’t our attempt to give everyone who tried for bschool a Participation Award. No. It’s just about recognizing that life is for learning, and to try and offer perspective and (hopefully) a dose of reality (the good kind, i.e., the one that really exists).
The person you are today is not the one who made those decisions; the person you are today does not deserve the suffering you are instilling on yourself. The person you are today is the victim of those unfortunate choices made before, but the person who made them does not exist. That person lives only in a past time that is no longer here. So don’t let that person continue to f_ck with you. They already did plenty of that. Don’t let them continue doing it now that their time is over and done.
You live here now.
You are the one who gets to live your life today.
Sometimes it takes a royal screw-up or some overly optimistic assumptions or playing a gambling game that doesn’t pan out in order for us to learn lessons.
If that’s what happened, fine. Now choose to learn them, and move on.
Beating yourself up about it is counterproductive and hurts no one but yourself.
It’s probably way easier for us to sit here telling you not to do it, than it is for you to actually redirect all that negativity, but we’re offering you the possibility of looking at things differently. If you feel bad about yourself, just ask yourself WHY you do. What is the thought that’s running nonstop through your head?
Is it: “I am a failure”?
Take that thought out of your head and look at it.
“I am a failure.”
Is that true? Look at everything in your life. Do the facts add up to support that assertion of failing?
Or maybe you’re thinking, “I am a loser” or maybe it’s “I’m never going to be anybody” or “I’m going to be stuck here and everyone is passing me by.”
Look at what’s underneath these feelings of dread or doom that is weighing on you like a blanket.
Write it down. What is the thought that’s fueling this horrible feeling?
Clearly articulate it — and then examine it.
Is that thought representing reality?
Is what you’re thinking something that’s honestly accurate, when you step back and look at it?
Try this process with the scripts that are running in your head. It often allows for an opening, a crack in the darkness where a beam of light can break in, and help soothe the worry and bring a modicum of peace.
If you haven’t gotten where you are trying to go, that only means it’s not yet your time.
Maybe this coming admissions season will be different, if you choose to make another go at bschools then.
Or maybe Life will take you in a whole new direction, if you let go of the attachment to this MBA thing that hasn’t materialized in your life.
No matter what, one thing is certain: You’re going to be just fine.
Anyone who’s ever in a position to try for a high-end MBA program is by definition a success story.
You’ve already got yourself to this point, through your smarts and determination and willingness to work. You have already achieved something, right where you’re sitting today.
Don’t lose sight of that.
Because of those skills and abilities that we know you already have, we also know you will continue on to a life full of good things. It’s inevitable.
It may not look like you thought it was supposed to.
But everything is taken care of, and you’re going to be okay.