Unsettling – Being Happy At Your Second Choice Business School

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Applicants to MBA programs tend to be a… competitive bunch. After all, you didn’t get to where you are professionally or academically without showing a little hustle.

By now you’ve already received offers of admission from one or more business schools, including, we hope, your top choice school. But… what if you didn’t? With more applicants than seats, most business schools will end up disappointing more than a few hopeful applicants.

So how do you get excited about your second choice? Let’s focus on the positives first: you were accepted into an MBA program that you did spend time and energy applying to, and that business school saw the value you’ll bring to the its upcoming cohort. Let us help you feel the love.

 

1. Admission isn’t chemistry, it’s alchemy

B-school admission isn’t an exact science; it’s a combination of some empirical indicators, such as GPAs and test scores, coupled with subjective criteria like leadership, initiative, and potential. While you may feel slighted by a rejection from your dream school, remember that the admissions committee isn’t using a precise formula, and more than that, there isn’t one.

The admission committee’s evaluations will fluctuate from year to year, depending on their applicant pool. In any given year, a successful applicant might have ended in the declined or wait-listed pile, and a rejected applicant may have gotten in. Don’t waste your time speculating on whether you weren’t good enough or smart enough. The committee is looking for a well-rounded student body and that can take on different interpretations with every entering cohort.

 

2. No what-ifs or buts about it

Just like it’s perfectly normal to nurse a bruised ego after a rejection, it’s equally tempting to wallow in the what-ifs of MBA admissions. What if you’d been accepted to your dream program? What if that was the one and only true path to happiness, a lucrative career in finance, and your own seat on Shark Tank next to Mark Cuban?

First, it’s impossible to speculate on these things and if you’ll allow us to get a little metaphysical, life just doesn’t work that way. There isn’t only one sure path to success and happiness. More than that, you’re in charge of your own destiny, so pave your own path. If you start down the what-if rabbit hole, you won’t be satisfied with any outcome. Focus on the present, and better yet, embrace it.

 

3. Remember why you applied in the first place

Presumably, you didn’t apply to all these MBA programs on a whim. Think back to the time you spent filling out your applications, reaching out to recommenders, and writing application essays. What made you apply to all of these schools? It might be having experienced faculty in the field, an engaged alumni network, or an entrepreneurship incubator to foster your business ideas. Gather up all those positives and get excited.

Each and every MBA program will have opportunities to help you grow academically and professionally post-MBA. And like we said before, you can always create your own. If you’re interested in tech entrepreneurship and your program doesn’t have a student club for it, start one. If you’re interested in foreign financial markets, look at taking additional coursework through the school’s international relations or language departments.

Getting accepted to your first-choice school doesn’t guarantee the business school experience you desire: it’s about fit and what you choose to make of your experience. If you’re lamenting not getting accepted to an M7 or similar highly-competitive b-school, remember that those schools admit a very small number of the overall MBA applicant population, and that happy, successful MBAs come from everywhere. If you’re committed to creating a great business school experience for yourself, you’ll thrive anywhere.