Lose to Win

You can slay the GMAT, have the Harvard or Goldman, or even read every post, and still have nothing to show for it. In such instances, what’s your recourse? Hopefully, you’ve invested significant amounts of time towards putting together the strongest showcase of your candidacy. And by now you’re exhausted from the essay reviews, $250 application fees, and the anxiety of awaiting a decision to find out you were rejected.

Usually, I try to keep the writing to a thematic couplet of aspiration and motivation. Therefore, what usually connects those two pieces is pragmatism. And, practically, it’s possible you won’t get into your first choice school. The more we accept this possibility, the better armed we’ll be to proceed.

Obviously, you can elect to attend another school. But I do believe everyone should matriculate to a school where they truly want to go. When applying to undergrad, you’re advised to divide schools by the likelihood of your admission. We have reach schools, target schools, and back-up schools. However, when we bring the past forward into our lives, it’s hard to progress because it’s too heavy—it’s way too much baggage. So leave the past in the past and that approach behind with it.

It is very important to remember that we shouldn’t apply to schools we really don’t want to attend. I repeat, do not apply to a graduate school you do not want to go to. Instead of reach, target and back up, we should adopt a categorization system by preference or state of happiness if admitted. So maybe CBS is our ecstatic choice, Sloan is our “happy” choice, and Fuqua is our “content” choice, but you are more than willing to attend any of the aforementioned schools. Also, do notice that in my example “state of happiness” allocation is not informed by rankings. Right? Because we’re not in the business of selecting schools solely based on rankings!

But what if we don’t receive admission? Do we quickly assemble round two/three applications to other schools? Well round-three admits are extremely hard to ascertain and more importantly, is it worth doing that to receive admission to a business school just to enroll according to a preconceived timeline you set for yourself? Then you’re going to a “regular” school instead of your dream school. Is it worth the financial investment, the salary forgone, and the experience that doesn’t fit right with you?

I’m certainly not trying to insinuate everyone will get into their dream school, because they won’t, but the chances are higher if you reapply. I think too often, we fail to embrace the re-applicant culture. And don’t worry, I have a great definition of “re-applicant culture”. It’s the culture of reapplying. Brilliant right? The majority of the candidates don’t voluntarily join the culture because it’s often forced on them by being rejected from all the schools that they applied to. But we can and should opt ourselves into it if we didn’t get into a school we like. If we’ve done all our diligence and worked hard on our applications, we’ve already invested the time, so we might as well make sure we get our gold prize. Think of yourself as Usain Bolt. Imagine Usain winning the silver medal this year and not competing next year because he won silver? Like what? If anything that’s more incentive to get back to basics, regroup, and get ready to bring that gold medal home. In life sometimes we got to lose to win the game.

So am I advocating to reapply if you don’t get into the dream school? Nah, stop reading on the surface. I’m advocating to be smart and, more importantly, to not be mediocre. And I’m not calling the school mediocre because these are top-MBA programs. I’m referring to mediocrity as settling for an institution. You’ve employed pragmatism, I hope, when you determined where you would be applying, so you know you have a shot. But don’t be afraid to go back, have a team of friends perform an autopsy on your candidacy, identify those weak points or points that could have been stronger, and find tangible ways to strengthen them.

When, and if we reapply, it’s important that we transform our candidacy. Don’t put too much stock in a promotion you may have gained, because that doesn’t significantly alter the perception of our candidacy. You should work to take your GMAT score into the next category of excellence. Most schools ask candidates to identify themselves as a reapplicant and allow them opportunity, in writing, to explain how his/her candidacy has changed. This is your chance to tangibly demonstrate your growth and preparedness for business school.

IF YOU REALLY BOUT THAT LIFE, know that sometimes you got to lose to win again. The re-applicant culture is more common than not and often not publicized because we’re naturally averse to sharing our shortcomings. Understand that most rejections are not symbolic of us being not qualified, but rather of us not being ready. Don’t be discouraged because there is never a testimony without a test. If you can’t find comfort in preparing for your own testimony, then I’ll let Fantasia take you to church.


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