The Business School Waiting Game

The waiting season has really begun.  When you look at the admission process as an objective observer, you’re bound to see how silly it all is.  We stress and bemoan the waiting time, but in the end, we’re all waiting exactly the same amount of time.  Sure, some of us get invited for interviews earlier than others, but at the end of the day, no one is going to hear until mid December.

The biggest issue right now is the overwhelming amount of informational “pseudo-data” (i.e. candidates saying they were invited).  Great! This tidbit here tells us nothing about where we individually sit in in the process!

So I, like everyone else, need to just hold my horses and subdue the anxiety monsters because we all have to wait ’til December (or January for some schools). At least that’s what I keep telling myself, especially, after today’s email from Yale letting us know that 1/3 of interview requests have been sent out.  Reading that newsletter was the first time it sunk in: all my planning and writing and worrying might be for naught.  For less than naught!

I have not heard a peep from Yale; Stanford’s page has not updated with the ominous “under review” status; and those of us with stakes at Berkeley and Kellogg know that the deadlines are in diapers compared to the others.

Although the anxiety is fierce, the thing that confuses and surprises me most is the  clamoring for increased transparency.  Maybe I just don’t understand the concern, but I have to say that the level of transparency, as I see it, is very high.  In fact, that’s part of the problem.  There is so much transparency that every one of us knows pretty much everything that’s going on, and we spend every waking moment trying to make sense of the randomness.  It is truly an exercise in futility, and yet it’s so horribly all-consuming…

Take the process as Harvard has outlined it:

1) Submit your application

2) Hear about your interview status on one of two dates

3) Get interviewed or get rejected (waitlisted?)

4) Learn your destiny in December.

It’s crystal clear to me how the process works.  Sure, knowing how many candidates were offered interviews might be interesting information, but it still won’t tell any individual applicant whether or not he still has a chance.  It feels unclear only because we want immediate answers.  It’s not the process that’s ambiguous; it’s our own fate.

On the other hand you have schools that process applications on a rolling basis.  They review your app, mull over it for a day or so, then decide whether to interview.  No negative read is the end of the road yet, as you’re given multiple reviews by various readers. Still, though, the process is absolutely clear.  Your application gets read in random order, and they reach out if they like you.  Then you get your news in December. End of story.

The internet is what’s killing us. We find out from Sally Wu in Oklahoma City and Peter Lazarus in Seattle that they were offered interviews. The blogosphere goes aflutter with speculation, desperate to find a pattern in the cluster of pseudo-data.

It’s like playing poker.  We get dealt a hand, say three queens.  I could jump to the conclusion that the deck is mostly queens, that the dealer favors me, or that my pink hat predisposed me to receive these queens.  But these ideas are about as wacky as the one that leads us down the rabbit hole of guesses and worries about our applications.  The only queen is me and sadly, anxiety is my king!

It’s no picnic waiting and rational thought is about as helpful as a pink hat a poker table. But I, like my other eagerly awaiting friends, will have to settle for  “we’ll know when we know” and hope that that sustains us for now.

Sassafras is a 29-year-old MBA applicant who works for a San Francisco-based non-profit organization with a primary focus on youth development and education. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.4 grade point average from a highly ranked liberal arts college, he currently blogs at MBA: My Break Away? His previous posts for Poets&Quants:


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