Crazy week for a lot of folks receiving application responses and scholarship/fellowship notifications from schools. Congrats to all that got into their dream school and as I told a fellow MBA candidate, “If you get/were rejected it’ll sting, but don’t let it bite.” Live to fight another day. The application process in itself was Step One for all of us out there who are trying to become better managers and leaders. Too many real-world learning lessons to count on one hand but three stick out to me.
Telling the Right Story
Raise your hand if you’ve gone back and read your essays a dozen times (raises hand). Raise your hand if you’ve doubted or questioned the story you’re trying to convey about yourself (everyone raises hand). Business School 101, it comes down to communication, right? Sharing your story,more importantly, sharing it effectively and emotionally is the golden key that unlocks the terrace doors to a Top tier MBA program. How many applicants with GMAT scores of 700 or higher and seemingly great stats get turned down? Thousands. Why? I believe more times than not, many applicants have a hard time grasping their story or have difficulty communicating it. Think about it for a moment… worldwide trends are driven by statements that are less than 140 characters (twitter reference). If you don’t know who you are in a sentence or two you’ve collectively lost the attention span of the world in less than 7 seconds.
Managing Expectations & Emotions
We’ve been like puppets on a string line for the past six months. Bopping up and down with every e-mail, phone call, status update message, Beatthegmat web chats and gmatclub.com admit/ding/WL announcements. For a while there, my productivity at work tracked my application decisions with near perfect inverse correlation. I don’t think my productivity has fully recovered. Whoops… Point being B-School Lesson 102 has really helped ground me in terms of leveling expectations and smoothing out the dips during the cycle. The first ding/WL hurt, but not as much as I thought it would. Before I applied to Standford, I expected that I would not get in – and I maintained this stance throughout. Some of you may say, “Well that’s taking a defeatist attitude.” I disagree. I applied to Stanford because I had a shot, but by no means did I feel like there was this cosmic connection between myself and Palo Alto. For many of the schools I applied to I did feel that connection and it certainly dictated my affinity and emotional ebbs and flows towards those programs. By managing my expectations and choosing a few ‘stars’ of the group I didn’t allow myself to swing from positive to negative like a free wheeling pendulum.
Before you read further, you can take the following with a grain of salt considering that you are about to read said advice from a guy who is engaging in a bit of light self promotion by blogging about his MBA application experience. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s something that ALL of us need to internalize because it’s not just a B-school lesson. Many of us were triumphant in our quest to get into school. And some of us were also successful in getting scholarships and fellowships to help pay for that dream. But for those who have experienced this triumph many many more have not. Something that rubs me the wrong way, and I’m guilty myself is when people rub it in like that extra mashing in of the pie to the face. Life Lesson 103: Be happy and excited you got in, you deserve it. But we don’t need posts on only forums that say, “GOT INTO FUQUA AND I GOT PAID B*TCHES, YES I SAID PAID – and now I’M GONNA GO BRAG TO EVERYONE AND POP BOTTLES, AND STUNT ON FACEBOOK & TWITTER.” The former was a gross exaggeration, however after reading some recent posts that exhibiting similarities I thought to myself, “How salty would I feel if I weren’t in that position?”
The application process can leave many of us feeling defeated and dejected. You poured your heart, soul and life story into a few pages and now, not only do you have to endure judgement from an admissions committee but also the proverbial pie getting shoved (not tossed) in your face. If you feel like that, redemption will soon be yours.
And if you are the pie thrower on the other end, promise yourself today that you’ve thrown your last tin. Appreciate your accomplishments and share the news with the world – we are here to cheer you on – you made it. Be proud and take advantage of the opportunities you’ve earned. But keep in the back of your head, as I continue to remind myself, once you waltz onto campus you (and I) may be on the receiving end of humble pie.