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What If You Don’t Get Into Any MBA Program This Year?

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Amazing Round 3 Salvation
Easily the most incredible experience shared by respondents to the original post was from someone calling him or herself “Reformed Dingaholic.” Applying to five schools in the 2014-15 season yielded not even a single interview. “That was quite a punch to the gut for sure,” RD wrote. So the next year RD went all in, including taking the GMAT four more times and the GRE three more times and spending approximately $6,000 to work with consultants. The results? Again, not even a single interview invite, even despite the assurance of an ex-adcom admissions consultant that he or she would certainly get at least one interview.

“I got ZERO. I was crushed. ‘Three years waisted in the process,’ I thought. So much investment of time and energy, all down the drain? Just like that? After six GMATs and four GREs (not practice tests—the real thing), after nine applications and hundreds of essay drafts, after traveling across the country multiple times to visit schools firsthand before applying, and after spending every waking moment reading these forums, studying for tests, and researching business schools and the admissions process, did I really just waste all of that effort/time/energy/money on nothing?”

But then RD had another thought: “These are really just paper losses until you sell your position.” So after licking his or her wounds and coming very close to giving up, RD decided the only choice was to keep going. “I knew I couldn’t just quit and realize my losses.”

By this time, Round 3 had concluded, but RD didn’t let that serve as a deterrent. “I hustled and got in touch with other top schools to see if they’d accept an application after the last round deadline had passed. Many schools said no, but then, to my surprise, one school said yes … but only if they received my completed app by Friday of that week.” So RD pulled out all the stops and completed and submitted a 10th application.

Soon after, RD finally got an interview invitation—for an on-site interview three days later on the other side of the country. Dropping everything, RD flew out as quickly as possible and interviewed the next day. “To my great surprise, while walking out of the interview room, I was admitted on the spot. I did NOT expect that!” RD wrote. The school asked RD to stay an additional day to attend an admitted students’ weekend. “I went for an interview. I left with an admit and plans to attend an admitted students’ weekend the very next day. Was this real? Or did I take the red pill by accident?” Not only that, RD received an email a few hours later detailing a scholarship award.

“After so many dings in a row over two admissions cycles, I had never felt like more of a failure,” RD wrote, but adds he or she was so glad to have had a little fight left. “Had I given up on business school after my last ding, I would never have had the breakthrough I’d been waiting for all along,” RD wrote. “And it was just around the corner. Be proud of those DINGS. You put yourself out there. And NEVER give up!”

It’s an amazing story of perseverance with a happy ending—but Richmond reminds us that applying to top MBA programs in the late admissions round is always an uphill battle. “It’s one that is worth fighting in many instances though,” he continued. For example, if your candidacy can fit a niche the school needs to fill, your odds might be much better than you expect. “Perhaps you are a female entrepreneur, or an astrophysicist, or a 4.0/780 type,” Richmond suggests.

He also points out that applicants who don’t make the cut with a late-round application could also view the exercise as laying the groundwork for an early application the following year. “It allows you to forge connections, get some feedback and come out strong the second time around.”

“It Could Happen to Any of Us”
Some respondents pointed out that in the capricious world of MBA admissions, finding yourself without a single offer is sadly a very real possibility. One applicant got interviews at three schools but was denied without interview at two others. “I figure with three interviews the odds are pretty good that I get in somewhere, but I know that there’s a non-zero chance that I get rejected everywhere,” he or she wrote. “Mentally I’ve prepared myself for this possibility and have already started thinking about my game plan in case I don’t get in.”

“Yep, it could really happen to any of us,” read another response. “Top MBA admissions are a bit unpredictable and at times seem random. Like you, I’ll just be happy if I get one acceptance.”

“I’m with you,” wrote a third. “Got interviews from two out of three. Have 770 (GMAT) and 3.5 (GPA).”

Another applicant took a slightly different view. “I think the hardest part is seeing all the people who DO get in….and knowing you are just as good if not better. Not saying those people don’t deserve it. Just in an alternate universe, you know that could have been you!”

Word to the Wise: Never Assume Acceptance Somewhere Is a Given
Let the experiences of numerous fellow applicants underscore the very real possibility of finding yourself without a single acceptance and plan accordingly. “Yes, it’s never prudent to assume that acceptance to a top-MBA program is going to be a given,” says Richmond. “In short, don’t shout your MBA plans from the rooftops or quit your job until you are holding an acceptance letter in hand,” he advises. “Given the way that the MBA process works (in terms of speed/timing), in most cases you will have plenty of time to quit your job, travel, pursue a pre-MBA internship and gloat about your acceptance(s) AFTER you have gained admission.”