The Sting Of The Ding: What It’s Like To Get Rejected By Five Schools

Grant, of the Grant Me Admission blog, surfs the Wharton website

Grant, of the Grant Me Admission blog, surfs the Wharton website

It was as if he’d climbed up on a high diving board, shouted down to everyone on the pool deck to watch him perform a triple back flip with four twists, bounced a few times to prepare for launch, bounced a few more times to make sure everyone was looking, propelled himself into the air . . . and missed the pool completely.


Poor Grant. He wasn’t attempting the world’s most difficult dive, but rather its academic equivalent: applying to get into an ultra-elite MBA program. And while he wasn’t wearing a Speedo and bouncing on a high board over a pool, he was even more exposed – Grant was standing in the middle of the internet for all to see.

Possibly, you’ve read his blog, Grant Me Admission, in which he chronicles his quest for a top-tier MBA. He’s received nearly 100,000 views on it. And it’s pretty good: enthusiastic, lively, clearly written, full of tips and ideas and lessons learned. Read it, and you’re right there with Grant as he studies for and takes the GMAT, researches schools, visits campuses, analyzes sample essays, and gets interviews. It’s incredibly detailed and comprehensive.

Which is part of the reason Grant went splat. He wasn’t just applying to top B-schools. He was also working full time, and doing a lot of nonprofit work, plus putting in hours and hours on his blog.


His story holds a valuable lesson for anyone applying to top MBA programs. He failed to focus sufficiently on Goal No. 1, getting admitted to business school, and he paid a painful price.

As he writes on a recent post, below a photo of a bleak Martian landscape:

“Harvard: Dinged without an interview

Wharton: Dinged without an interview

Yale: Dinged without an interview

Kellogg: Dinged

Tuck: Dinged

“I’m not going to lie; it is incredibly hard for me to share these results.”

Of course, as anyone knows who plays this game, rejection is a person’s worst nightmare–but it is also the norm. Last year, the five schools on Grant’s target list received more than 25,400 applications for less than 3,000 available classroom seats. With acceptance rates that range from a low of 12% for Harvard to a high of 24% for Yale, the odds of getting into one of these are against you. Overall, not much more than 18% of the applicants to these five MBA programs was accepted last year.

A 5’11”, 175-pound, 27-year-old man who enjoys Olympic-style weightlifting and superhero movies, not getting into an elite business school represents about his first significant failure yet. He works in corporate finance, and is now in the process of switching homes and jobs – from the East Coast, working for a Fortune 50 aerospace company, to Los Angeles, where he’ll be working for an entertainment company not far outside the Fortune 50.


He had suffered a lesser defeat before receiving the five dings. The year before, he’d applied to Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business alone, but didn’t get in. This was a failure mixed with achievement: he’d at least been wait-listed.

And that’s another reason why Grant went splat.

After applying to Tuck in October 2013, and languishing on the wait list from December until his August rejection, Grant got a little obsessive, worrying over his prospects of getting in, trying to put numbers to his chances. The fact that a friend with a lower GMAT score had gotten into Tuck the year before after being wait listed gave Grant hope, which turned out to be false.

“It was probably borderline unhealthy,” he recalls. “I was like an addict. I was constantly looking on forums, and playing the percentage game.”

So the next time, after he applied to Harvard, Wharton, Yale, Kellogg, and Tuck, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake and drive himself nuts by fixating on his odds of getting in.

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