Seemingly Similar MBA Applicants, Different Outcomes

If Round 2 results from your dream school are in and you didn’t get the news you were hoping for, it can be pretty devastating. After months of hard work on your application and then a few more months of anxiety-ridden waiting, finding out that you weren’t accepted is tough.

When you’re already feeling confused, down or angry, learning that a friend or co-worker did get in is like having salt poured in your proverbial wound. If you believe you’re actually more qualified than the person you know who was accepted, it’s even worse.

Why do scenarios like this come to pass? How can it be that two people who work at the same place or are similar “on paper” meet such different MBA fates? How can someone who’s a stellar candidate receive a ding when a seemingly so-so applicant is accepted?

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There are three main answers to those questions:

The MBA application process is subjective. Admissions committees consider thousands and thousands of qualified applicants each year and have developed a strong sense for who will fit best with their program. While you may think you’d be more of an asset to a certain school than an acquaintance who got in, the admissions committee felt differently.

You don’t know absolutely everything about your friend or co-worker’s candidacy. If you did your homework on the MBA process, you know that AdComs are looking for what makes applicants tick. They want to understand your personality. They are interested in more than just your career experience and “stats.”

Even if you read your friend’s essays, you probably don’t know every single detail that was included in their applications and recommendation letters, nor do you know everything that was discussed in their interview. Chances are your demographics, backgrounds and motivations are not as similar as you might have thought, and the AdCom saw something in your friend that they were looking for.

You may not have even been competing with your friend for a spot in the first place. As alluded to above, we know that each program strives to put together a diverse class of impressive people. However, no one knows the magic formula that any given AdCom uses to fill open spots.

But what we do know is that it’s not as straightforward as most applicants assume—meaning that everything from your gender to your industry to your nationality to your career aspirations, community service and personality comes into play when an AdCom attempts to build a graduating class.

We know how tempting it is to play the comparison game. But unfortunately, doing so won’t change anything or make you feel any better. The best thing you can do is try to be objective about how you could improve your candidacy if you reapply next year—or consider additional programs that might improve your odds.

Think of it this way: Don’t look back and ask why. Look ahead and say ‘why not?!’

If you are looking for guidance on your MBA application, follow the discussion group.
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