The Olympics are inspiring. No matter what country you’re rooting for, the level of competition and amount of preparation and skill on display makes us all want to do better. Leveraging this example during your business school application process can bring results worthy of a medal ceremony. When choosing where you will apply, therefore, don’t be afraid to go for the gold.
It’s not always easy to find the b-school that’s a good fit. When it comes to choosing the right school, however, I always recommend going to the best school you can get into. Often, applicants are put off by aspirational schools, thinking they shouldn’t bother applying because they are worried they can’t get in. In the words of the old publishing clearinghouse commercials, though…”you can’t win if you don’t enter.” While you should definitely manage your expectations when going for the “gold medal,” you should still include a few of your reach schools in the mix, even if it means putting in extra time and expense to prepare the applications.
Business schools are unpredictable in many respects when it comes to guessing which applicants they might choose to enter during any given season.
The same candidate who is accepted one year might have been rejected in another. This is because b-school admissions is a dynamic process and each year’s applicant pool varies widely in traits and demographics. To balance their incoming cohorts, schools are always weighing out applicant profiles according to a myriad of characteristics, the details of which are impossible to guess.
The economy also drives certain types of students back to b-school during times of drought or times of plenty.
For example, when the economy is humming and unemployment is low, applicants from high-paying industries like banking and consulting are in short supply. If you have the courage to abandon a good job during a good economy, you could perhaps get a gold medal from a school where you might otherwise have been out of the medal heats altogether. This is a reason why reapplying to schools where you were formerly rejected can be a winning approach.
It’s never a good idea to only apply to the best schools, since every applicant needs a balance of aspirational and safety schools (and all points in between).
But if you fail to include your reach schools in the mix, you may end up settling for a list of schools that you could have improved upon if only you had been inspired to go for the gold.