If you tried last season and didn’t make it into a school like Tuck, you may have had a sad takeaway after seeing our recent list of rankings of the top MBA programs. It may have left you feeling bummed. “Like, what am I, chopped liver? I couldn’t even make it into the school near the bottom of this list?”
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There was a time maybe 20 years ago or so when Columbia was considered in the top 5 schools in the world. That’s just not where Columbia sits today, no matter who you’re asking to rank them.
These rankings are fickle, and so are the schools. What matters most to them in who they accept is based on the factor that they are optimizing for, as they construct their class and try to predict who will be “winners” based on some metrics that seem mysterious for those vying for chances to get in. The scarcity factor makes this a grueling experience because so many well-qualified candidates really do deserve one of the spots. Yet those spots are so small in number, that inevitable many many well-qualified and deserving people will be turned aside.
If you were turned away by one of those schools last season — or if you end up being turned away this year — it’s near-impossible not to take it personally.
But honest truth, it is a reflection on the system of meritocracy that we’re operating in, with competition for these scarce resources, making it feel exceptionally unfair to so many who are rejected for truly no good reason at all.
The main takeaway we can offer if that’s happened to you in a past cycle is that this year, many schools will be looking carefully at reapplicants, to see if there’s a way they can admit you this time (provided your reapplication gives them good reason to do so!) and each schools’ decision is an independent event. What happens with the outcome for you in one place does not necessarily predict how it will go everywhere else.
We wanted to offer a bit more context and commentary, in case that previous post on the rankings left some of you feeling upset.
What our experience shows us, over and over again, season after season, is that most everyone who works for it ends up in a program that turns out to be just perfect for them. It’s a weird phenomenon that proves itself to be accurate as we watch the cycle over time. If you were turned down by a school you really really wanted to attend, sometimes it’s worth waiting a year and reapplying, and sometimes there are other options that turn up which end up being amazing opportunities that carry us off in some other alternate path that becomes exactly and unexpectedly right.