If you’ve been following the blahg since the summer, you may recall a post we wrote titled One of the most under-recognized challenges in the entire process of applying to business school.
Well, now is where that under-recognized challenge may be starting to pop into your awareness. Hopefully not!!!! But for some people, yeah, this is a not-great feeling.
If you’ve got that pit in the bottom of your stomach that’s sending Negative Nancy vibes into your life, and you’re thinking that dang, maybe this isn’t going to work out for you after all, you could be facing some tough conversations in the coming weeks.
It’s very possible that many of you will be able to have the jump-up-and-down celebrations of excitement, sharing news of your happy phone calls where the admissions person told you you’d been accepted, telling everyone you know that you got in.
Or, there may be the very sad days of not getting phone calls, and instead, seeing an email coming in that your decision is now available in the app portal, which many times means that the decision is bad news, and you were rejected. 🙁 🙁 🙁
And then what?
Well, unfortunately then that often means going to the people in your office, your colleagues and manager and others who knew about your applications, and telling them you didn’t make it.
And yeah, that absolutely sucks.
Some applicants choose to keep such news close to the vest, but inevitably someone will remember that decisions are coming out now, and will ask.
Or once the news sinks in, and you’ve gone through the stages of mourning around being rejected, and the realization is dawning that the hard work of more apps is going to be part of your near-term future, there’s that sinking feeling that that also means going back to your recommenders and asking them to write more recs for you.
Ugh. Yeah this part is hard.
Going back to someone who you asked to do you a favor six months ago and asking them to do it again — because the thing they were favoring you for didn’t work out — well, that is a tough thing to do. Those conversations are inevitably awkward. It’s going to be hard to shake the feeling that you’re asking for them to help you because somehow you weren’t good enough. You were rejected, so doesn’t that automatically mean that you suck? And now you have to have this conversation with someone where outwardly, you’re pretending that it’s normal to have to ask for something like this again, and on the inside, you’re likely feeling really sh!tty about all that’s going on that caused you to be sitting here requesting help one more time.
What’s true is:
- This is a really competitive process, no matter what year you’re trying. Getting in to a top-notch MBA program is hard.
- This is a really competitive year, once again, especially if you’re an international applicant from a country in the Asian region, where demand seems to have picked up significantly right now
- At the very best schools, seriously qualified applicants are turned down all the time.
- Being rejected isn’t personally about YOU, it’s about the system of high demand for these competitive programs, and how many others are trying for the same opportunities — but dang, it sure feels personal when it’s you personally who are going through it
If your recommender is familiar with all of this based on the industry you’re in (consulting, finance especially) or their own background, then they may be very sympathetic — though some recommenders who are much older, who got their MBAs 20+ years ago, may not actually understand. The situation was competitive then too, sure, but NOTHING like it is today. It’s on a whole other level — or two. The competitiveness is off the charts for HBS and Stanford and Wharton right now.
So. If you’ve managed to get interview invites from Round 1 and you’re waiting hopefully for news of admits coming in the next few weeks (it’s so close! the news will come so soon!!!! the wait is almost over!!) then this post perhaps isn’t one you can relate to.
But for those of you who are now looking at options for a Plan B to your admissions strategy, and are going to have hard conversations with recommenders asking for more favors, we commiserate. Hopefully your recommenders are kind, and they knew what you were attempting when you went into it. If not, then you can share with them that yeah, you’ve heard that it’s been a tough season already for lots of applicants, and perhaps you can talk about why you’re selecting the next batch of schools on your list, based on your own strategic thinking and what those schools offer. You don’t have to make excuses for why you didn’t make it through so far in Round 1. There’s no reason to feel ashamed. You’re still in the game, you haven’t given up! You could even use it as an opportunity to talk about what you can do, from the recommender’s perspective, to further build out your skills and use this for improvement and growth. Get their feedback on what they may see as a chance for change. Turn it into a positive if you can, when you have that conversation about asking for more recommendations for more schools, and see what they say. They’ll likely be impressed with your positive attitude and willingness to change.
And it’s OK if you’re feeling challenged by these emotions. They really truly are hard to go through.
Again, perhaps you’ve only been on the upswing of progress through the steps of the Round 1 cycle, and you’re hoping for news of admits and that this whole thing will be over for you soon. If so, huzzah, and we look forward to issuing formal congratulations to you once the admit is in hand!
But if not: You’re not alone in what you’re going through, and the only way to not get what you’re working for is to quit. The fact that you’re here, dusting yourself off and getting back in the saddle, tells us that you will eventually get what you’re working for.