Backup MBA or Try Again?

Cornell’s early admission decisions for their one-year MBA will be released in a few days, so even if you did not apply to this program, it’s essentially the starting gun for this year’s results.  Since over the next several weeks and months applicants the world over will be getting good and bad news from their target schools, it’s a great time to prepare yourself to receive the responses.  Will you be getting a “yes” from your top choice?

Everyone puts considerable and thoughtful time into the application process and school selection decisions, but you should also put some time into preparing yourself for decision season.  Some make the mistake of pinning their hopes to one school, without ever considering what they will actually do if they get a “no.”  Spending some time working on your plan B and plan C can not only help you handle any potentially disappointing news better if it comes, but can also help you move quickly and decisively towards a new goal.  Perhaps you are just as fine with your backup choices as you would have been with your top choice, but sometimes we find applicants in a dilemma.  If their preferred school denies their admission, should they go with an alternate, or try again next season to get the school of their dreams?

Unpacking this decision can be tricky. 

It’s important to realize that b-school is about more than just one school, and the sooner you get your mind around this, the better off you will be.  There are dozens and dozens of programs which can deliver for you the exact same opportunity for one very important reason:  you are the common denominator.   Business school and post MBA success is much more about you than it is about the school.  No matter how perfect you think your dream school is for you, know that you would be able to thrive just as heartily at any number of other schools.  In short, b-school is what you make of it. If you have become hung up on a particular curriculum or professor, without which you can’t see yourself having a good b-school experience, you must remember that great pains have been undertaken to ensure your b-school education at accredited schools is up to par.  The AACSB provides accreditation to b-schools for the exact same reason law schools standardize the bar—so that students can rely on their academic preparation to provide what they need to succeed in business.  Taken together, the fact that you are the common denominator and the fact your backup schools are certified should help you at least find some courage to consider a plan B. 

But still, if you have unchangeable reasons for going to your dream school, you can always try again next year. 

Schools often find favor with re-applicants, since b-schools will give you points for determination and commitment.  Plus, if you were rejected from your dream school, there are probably some reasons you can discover and remedy, making you a stronger applicant the next time around.  There are any number of reasons why you might want to remain loyal and hopeful for your dream school, and far be it from anyone else to deter your focus.  Frankly, it takes a certain immutable determination to reach lofty goals, and if you are one of those people who digs their heels in and won’t take no for an answer, you may have the resilience to ultimately reach your goal.  But be smart, and make sure whatever you do in the subsequent year truly addresses your profile shortcomings.  Schools will mostly be focused on what happened since the last time you applied in order to determine if there is now a seat available for you. 

To find out more about your options and how we can guide your business school application process, email us at or contact us via