Waitlisted At Five Schools. Then, Finally, A ‘Yes’

Yansong Pang isn’t just a finance/consulting/strategy/research guy. He’s also an accomplished pianist. After being waitlisted by five top schools, he’ll be taking his skills to Wharton this fall. Courtesy photo


“I didn’t feel that I was missing anything,” Pang says. “Perhaps the competition was especially stiff this year.” In fact, the overrepresented numbers of Chinese candidates in applicant pools probably hurt his chances. It’s a known fact that Chinese and Indian applicants who effectively compete against each other for admission have to meet significantly higher hurdles to gain an admit. One prominent MBA admissions consultant in Beijing urges his Chinese clients to keep taking the GMAT until they are in the 98th or 99th percentile of test takers, or between 750 and 800, the highest score achievable.

Pang’s resume may have helped him overcome that issue because, after all, he had options. Even if he got dinged by all five waitlist schools, Pang had scholarship offers from three more. The University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business had offered him $50,000, and Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management had offered him a partial scholarship, too. MIT’s Asia School of Business, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had offered him a free ride.

If nothing changed, Pang says, he probably would’ve chosen Haas. That would have kept him on the path he set for himself in childhood. “Originally, before I came to the U.S. for college at 18, I knew eventually I was going to get an MBA, because that’s what I and my parents had in mind,” he says. “I went to a liberal arts college to really gain the fundamentals for the business world — I studied psychology and math, so it’s like soft skills and hard skills, people skills and data skills. And after that I wanted to gain exposure to industries, so that’s why I went into strategy consulting, and then I wanted to gain finance, so I switched to finance.

“Eventually I want to become a CEO at a multinational company. That’s my dream since I was a kid and I’ve been working towards that. I knew I was going to get an MBA but I didn’t know how I was going to get there. A liberal arts education equipped me with a lot of skills, but it doesn’t necessarily guide you to a path. So every step I took after college was purposeful.”


Yansong Pang. Courtesy photo

The good news came in early April. Wharton — a school that accepted an estimated 7% of waitlisters in 2016 — said yes. Yansong Pang had been accepted to his “dream school.”

But going to Wharton meant saying no to Haas, which turned out to be tougher decision than he expected.

“Wharton was my dream school when I applied for undergrad, but I didn’t get the chance to apply because I was early-decisioned to Carleton College and didn’t apply to any other school,” Pang says. “So this time I made sure (that) I leave no regret and see where I could get into if I try. Wharton also has a San Francisco campus that’s just near Haas, so I thought if I enroll in Wharton I would get connections both from Haas and from the East Coast. However, it was a very, very difficult decision because everyone I met at Haas is so awesome and helpful, Haas is so much fun, and the location of Haas is hard to turn down, especially considering after graduation I’d like to relocate to the Bay Area.”

In the end, Wharton’s name recognition abroad — Pang is undecided on a return to China after graduation — was the deciding factor.

“On the other side, the internationally recognizable Wharton brand — also the No. 1 ranking, being arguably the best business school; the other matching school for me would be HBS — for me is more important and will probably generate more return on investment in the long run. Honestly, if I decide to stay in the U.S., Wharton and Haas probably makes no difference for me; however, internationally Wharton is slightly better known than Haas.”


After he chose Wharton, Pang heard back from HBS: It was a no. And he heard from Stanford: Another no. Then he heard from Duke: No again. He still hasn’t heard from LBS. But he isn’t waiting anymore.

He’s going traveling, first with his parents around the U.S., and then by himself for a while. “I love to travel,” Pang says. “I want to think about what I want to do after the MBA, because I think once I get started, it will go really fast.”

And his advice to applicants who find themselves in his situation?

“There is Chinese saying that ‘You will walk across the bridge when you walk to it,’ meaning everything will be OK at the end,” Pang says. “I guess just don’t lose hope, because being on the waitlist already means you are competing with a smaller group of people. If you didn’t get in, it’s only their loss.”


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