It’s that time of the year again: High anxiety time, when MBA applicants begin to learn their fate in the most angst-ridden part of the application process.
Derrick Bolton was on the phone yesterday personally calling applicants to Stanford Graduate School of Business who gained acceptance in the first round. But would-be Stanford MBAs who heard from Stanford’s admissions director were among the lucky few.
Most applicants won’t hear Bolton’s voice due to little more than the daunting odds of getting into the highly selective school. After all, Stanford accepts less than 7% of its applicants, while Harvard accepts fewer than 12%. Stanford hopefuls will receive their decisions online by 5 p.m. PST today (Dec. 11).
At high noon EST today, meantime, Harvard Business School will be sending out emails to let its applicants know where they stand.
As Dee Leopold, managing director of MBA Admissions & Financial Aid, puts it: When candidates access their online applications, one of three letters will appear:
- Sorry, but no
“There’s no reason to jump every time a 617 area code pops up on your phone,” wrote Leopold recently in a blog post. “On Wednesday, you get to choose where you’re going to be – and with whom – when the news comes in. If all goes well operationally (knocking on wood as I write this), emails will be released at noon which will say “your decision is ready.” Subject line in the email will be “HBS Decision Available Online.”
But what happens if you don’t get in?
Sadly, the vast majority of applicants to these two schools will receive their ding notices today and other schools follow later in the month. For some, an acceptance at a top 10 program raises the promise of a brighter future. But for many others, a rejection can put a dent in the holiday season.
The cold reality of the application process is the vast majority of hopeful applicants do not get into the school of their dreams. However, that does not mean they can’t still change lives or shape business around the world. But if you’ve been rejected from your wish list schools, you’ll need to do an immediate post-mortem on your application while it is still fresh in your mind to re-assess your candidacy and understand where it is you went wrong.
Re-evaluate your essays and how you are positioning yourself
If you’re busy working on more applications for Round 2 deadlines, you need to quickly re-think how you are positioning yourself in your essays. Did you present a fluid picture with a logical thought progression in your career or have you seemingly taken a random walk since graduating from college? If it looks as if you’ve taken that random walk, were you able to tie it all together? Were you able to piece together a compelling story as to why you’ve had a few different jobs in a handful of different industries over several years? Is there a tie-in that isn’t obvious? Were you in a period of discovery that lit a passion in you?
Do an honest evaluation of yourself and how you positioned your story. Rethink how that story is told and whether or not there are holes that need to be filled in. There may also be areas you were bashful about highlighting yet can be important to admissions officers, such as you are a first-generation college graduate or your GPA was below accepted averages because you were dealing with a personal tragedy your freshman year.
Improve upon your interview
Next, think about your interview. Did you have a plan? Were you able to work into the interview the major points you wanted to get out? Did you ask relevant questions? Did you come off as being too cocky or arrogant, or too insecure or unsure of yourself? Were you too rehearsed?
Many times candidates come out of their interview thinking they did extremely well when in fact they didn’t do nearly as well as they think. Questions are usually open-ended and the interview style, with the notable exception of Harvard, is rarely confrontational so it can be easy to come out of them impressed with yourself thinking you nailed it.
There is a relatively simple way to determine if your interview skills need refinement – conduct a mock interview, tape it and watch yourself afterwards with an objective, critical eye. This can be an efficient, extremely effective self-help tool to improve your interview aptitude.