MBA Admission Decisions Lead To Joy, Confusion, Even Torture

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

The past couple of weeks have seen many of the top business schools issue their round one MBA admission decisions and this year there’s been an unprecedented amount of public sharing. It’s a sign of the times perhaps that young people immediately take to social media to share their results and their feelings. The upshot: an outpouring of emotion by candidates in a variety of communities from Reddit to GMAT Club.

Some candidates express unbridled joy with an acceptance to a highly selective school that they have been working hard to get into. Others seem nearly paralyzed, weighing admit offers and scholarships from two or more MBA programs and not knowing which one should get a ‘yes.’ Still more candidates are nursing their wounds from rejections they never anticipated and don’t quite understand. The posts are also indicative of the large amounts of scholarship aid currently being handed out to some MBA applicants.

After being rejected by all five schools he applied to last year, his one candidate got great news last week. He was accepted to both Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “I am in complete shock right now,” confessed the successful applicant, who has spent his entire career in public sector consulting on the east coast. What’s making his decision difficult is that Berekely has dangled a full-tuition scholarship in front of him while Stanford has offered him no money at all. “I am extremely grateful for the outcome, and now I have to make a really difficult choice.


Another young candidate, with a 730 GMAT and a 3.89 GPA from a top public university, is wondering which of two offers to accept: a full ride from New York University’s Stern School of Business or an $80,000 scholarship from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. He has five years of experience at a public accounting firm in Chicago. “I am struggling with this decision so I need some help from the internet,” he says. He’s looking to go into entertainment/media technology in strategic finance at a large company like Spotify, Hulu, or HBO. “From what I can tell, both schools are similarly ranked, but who knows which poll is telling the “truth.'”

A similarly difficult decision awaits another applicant who reports getting a full-tuition scholarship from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and a full-ride that includes roughly a fifth of their pre-MBA salary per year from UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “They are both amazing schools and I’m THRILLED at the prospect of attending either full-time,” reveals the male candidate who works for a nonprofit in Boston after having spent two years at Teach for America. “The issue is that I have not visited Haas having interviewed with an alum on the east coast where I’m from and work, but absolutely loved my visit at Tuck.”

Rejected by both Dartmouth Tuck and Columbia Business School, another candidate is openly wondering how to proceed after what he calls “a pretty awful showing for my Round 1 schools. He’s a consultant at a Big Four firm with a 710 GMAT and a 3.48 GPA from a top 20 private U.S. college. “I’m a little disheartened right now,” concedes the first-generation college student, “and currently worried if I might have to wait to apply again next year given that my R2 schools might be overly ambitious.” His round two targets include Kellogg, Booth, Darden, Cornell, London Business School, and Oxford Said.


Then, there’s the engineer who works for a major oil-and-gas company and just got into Kellogg. But he’s having doubts about pulling the trigger on his acceptance. “I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have been accepted, but at the same time, I am having second thoughts about attending,” says the candidate who currently makes $120,000 a year. “I’m getting cold feet because I have $0 scholarship and the only financially justifiable outcome appears to be management consulting (and) then a path to some upper-level managerial position in another industry. My question is: how do you justify it? I know MBA programs offer invaluable benefits such as network, the degree, education, and an opportunity to make a career switch, but it’s very difficult to ignore the financial cost.”

In every case, candidates are eager for feedback on what to do when faced with difficult decisions. Many applicants even construct elaborate lists of pros and cons hoping to engage others in detailed exchanges to help them make the right decision. After all, going for an MBA degree is an expensive proposition and many candidates don’t get the kind of scholarship aid to make the cost irrelevant.

Consider an MBA applicant who just got into Kellogg and London Business School, without a scholarship from either school. After graduating from a public university with a dual major in finance and political science, he’s been working for a tier two consulting firm for the past four and one-half years in change management and strategy for public and private sector clients. The candidate is hoping to transtion out of consulting and into corporate strategy or development at a tech company.

“I’m struggling to justify the cost of the MBA and suspect I could make the career shifts I want to without it,” he writes. Under the nom de plume ‘QuillsRus,’ the candidate then goes on to describe his dilemma on Reddit:

My “Why MBA” Story:

Education: would like to brush up on finance and other quantitative coursework and take courses in strategy (but I know that I can easily do this through free online courses and other low-cost resources).

Shortcut for career switch: I’d get exposure to a ton of great companies that are looking for internal strategists, which is certainly easier than LinkedIn stalking and applying to hundreds of jobs

Network, and the potential to use this network for future career opportunities

International exposure/possibility of a global career (this is what drove me to apply to LBS)

Explore different career options

Hone and refine leadership skills

Personal fulfillment: it’s a goal of mine to obtain an advanced degree at some point in my life


My Concerns:

A lot of people I’ve spoken with either 1) don’t have a business undergraduate degree and need business fundamentals to move into management roles and/or 2) want to move into management consulting or finance post-MBA. I have a business undergrad degree and am not interested in staying in consulting or pursuing investment banking, private equity, etc.

The price tag. I don’t subscribe to the thought process of “everyone will have loans after this, it’s OK, you’ll pay it off.” I’ve done calculations and I know it will take years if not decades to pay off $200K+ in loans. I currently don’t have any debt from my undergraduate degree and have been very good about my personal finances. I have seen what it’s like to work a job you hate because you need to pay the bills, and I’m afraid of feeling like I need to take a high-paying job I dislike post-MBA because I need to pay off student loans.

My suspicion that I can at least make my short-term leap into corporate strategy/development without an MBA. Some companies do require an MBA for this role, but not all. Are the supposed long-term career benefits of an MBA really worth it?


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