Last week, I had a discussion with the resident Venture Capitalist/Expert on all things business school at my job. An HBS grad himself, he has a pretty good handle on how things work.
The conversation went something like this:
Him: “So where are you applying this year?”
Me: “Uh, HBS, Kellogg, and MIT Sloan…”
Him: “And what happens if you don’t get in to any of them???”
I wish I could say I had a good answer for him, but I didn’t. And after a humbling application year last time around, I’m not sure I would want to apply a THIRD time in the event that I didn’t get into any of the schools I wanted. It looks like I need a few more “shots on goal,” to borrow his expression on why I need to expand the list of schools I’m applying to.
The Old Plan:
As of last week, I was only planning on applying to three schools, all round 1:
- MIT Sloan
It’s admittedly a pretty ambitious list. Seeing as HBS accepts 12% of applicants, MIT accepts 13% of applicants, and Kellogg accepts ~20% of applicants, even if I were a STELLAR candidate, the odds are not in my favor. I figure that if I look at the probability of getting into just ONE of the three schools, my odds of getting in are still no better than 50/50 (Yeah, I made a spreadsheet – just like for everything else). I like to think of myself as a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I would also like to be a little more certain that I won’t have to do this again next year.
The New Plan:
I have expanded the list to seven schools, all of which had a location I liked or a known strength in entrepreneurship:
- MIT Sloan
- UC Berkeley
I was planning on applying to HBS/Kellogg/Sloan in round 1 anyway, so all I’m doing is adding the Wharton application. Since the recommendation questions are the same for Wharton as HBS and Kellogg, it’s not really taxing my recommenders that much more.
In round 2, I have added Tuck, UC Berkeley, and UCLA. I hear great things about Tuck’s culture, and after living in the Northeast my whole life, going to LA or Berkeley where it doesn’t snow would be a nice change. I was really looking forward to getting my apps out of the way in round 1, but it just doesn’t make sense with how selective all of these schools are.
I’m hoping that this strategy spreads the risk out over the top-10/top-20 schools a little bit better, and makes the workload easier than last year, when I applied to five schools in round two. I don’t think I could repeat that again – especially if I didn’t get in.
Scott Duncan is a medical device engineer in his late twenties looking to transition from designing medical devices to starting and running the companies that develop them. He is sharing his MBA application journey at a blog under his own name at ScottDuncan.com.