Should You “Settle” For Your Second Choice Business School?

Should You “Settle” For Your Second Choice Business School?

This time of year, I talk to lots of people who are thinking about reapplying to business school, even though they have been admitted to great programs. This situation arises when people get into schools that were lower on their list, but not their top choice, and wonder if they should turn down the offers to try again. Here are 5 factors to consider:

  • Are there tangible areas to improve?

The first step is to take an honest, critical look at your candidacy. Are your test scores low? Do you need to take additional classes? Did you blow your interview? Were your goals or reasons for applying to that school underdeveloped? Did you apply in a later round?

If you suspect that the answer to several of these questions is yes, and if you invest the time to fix these issues, you might have better results in the next cycle. Of course, it can be hard to know what went wrong. If your target schools offer feedback calls you can ask them – and admissions consultants often offer honest application reviews, which can be very useful.

  • Are you willing to revise your materials?

Even if the questions don’t change, you still need to re-write your essays. If this feels like too much work, and if you aren’t up for continued networking, more interviews, etc., it might be a sign that your heart isn’t in it.

  • What will your professional growth look like over the next year?

Is this the perfect time to go back to school, from a professional growth standpoint? If you work for another year will you have interesting growth opportunities, or will you stagnate? (Flat professional growth makes you less competitive.)

  • Have your goals shifted?

If so, or if you didn’t really know what you wanted to do when you applied, you might have valid reasons for reapplying to a different set of schools.

  • Are you willing to gamble?

If you turn down an offer of admission, don’t assume that you will get into that school again – many business schools will not look favorably on your reapplication. (I always suggest trying to defer, but there is no guarantee that schools will allow this.) Are you comfortable giving up a definite option?

I have worked with many clients who have taken this gamble and succeeded, but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you do decide to go for it leverage everything that you learned in this cycle, and go for it knowing that you can get into great business schools.


 Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 14.4 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.

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