If Your MBA Application Was Deferred or Denied, Here’s Some Advice

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December is a challenging time for MBA applicants, as well as their friends and families. Business schools are calling right now with good news for candidates who applied in round one. Tensions can arise whether the news is thrilling or disappointing.

Applicants’ nerves may already be on edge because of pressure at work or school to complete tasks before the end of the calendar year. Visits, gifts and family gatherings can create holiday stress and the expectation that everyone should be happy.

But what if you’re not happy? What if you are anxiously awaiting news from the school of your dreams? The holiday season means you’ll be facing a steady stream of relations and acquaintances who often brightly ask questions like, “Did you get in?”

Even worse, they might ask over and over about a specific school they know or guess was your top choice. Friends of your parents may fixate on the business school your parent attended. They may exclaim with certainty, “You will surely get in to Harvard Business School,” as a way of expressing their confidence in your abilities.

If you are applying internationally, well-meaning family and friends may offer their opinions about studying at a prestigious school abroad, or come out in favor of staying close to home.

Try not to let yourself get worked up by other people’s ideas and expectations. Rarely will they know as much about the MBA admissions process—or individual schools—as you do. You’ve just spent months researching business schools to decide which programs can offer you a solid foundation on which to build a life’s work, not just a fancy name to announce at holiday parties.

Chioma Isiodinso, founder of the admissions consultancy Expartus and a current Ph.D. candidate in psychology, sent this advice by email.

“Recognize that the ‘one-school or bust’ mentality is very limiting and doesn’t serve you in the first place,” Isiodinso said. “With admission to universities at an all-time high, applicants need to keep an open mind regarding what their admissions chances are. Schools admitting you or not doesn’t reflect whether you ‘deserve’ a spot in the program of choice. It can reflect the combination of your achievements across multiple domains (academic and otherwise), but also reflects how well you fit the school and program of interest.”

Things get even more complicated if your friends, too, are waiting to hear. “This is the season where friendships can be tested,” says Isiodinso.

Your friends may have applied to some of the same schools as you. “And what if your best friend gets in?” Isiodinso says. “It is important to remain regulated. While a part of you may feel jealous, being genuinely happy for your friend is not only a sign of maturity but also of true friendship.”

It may help to admit to yourself that you feel such conflicting emotions—and that it is alright to do so. You are not a terrible person just because you feel a pang of envy. Your friend may also be experiencing a mixture of joy at having been accepted and concern about how this might affect your friendship. It may help to imagine yourself in the other person’s place.

“Take a moment to celebrate your friend’s accomplishment,” she adds. “Think of the shoe being on the other foot. If the situation were reversed, how would you want your friend to handle your admission? Then try and show up for your friend in the same way.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the news that you—or your friend—has been put on a waitlist. This means you will need to keep an open mind, as well as a possibly very confused mixture of feelings, for some time to come. You may not be able to control your emotions, but you can choose whether and how to act on your feelings.

“It isn’t easy to manage the disappointment of a rejection, deferral or waitlist,” says Isiodinso. “But keeping an open communication with your friends and family about your feelings can help you navigate this tricky situation and help you rise to whatever the outcome.”

As MBA programs make their calls and post their decisions, it may help to think of this challenging time as an opportunity for growth. “How you handle this situation can impact a friendship for a long time,” Isiodinso says. “But equally important, it can help you develop your resilience, enabling you to be better able to handle the good and not-so-good news that life can throw at us.”

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