Deadlines are Weeks Away, Acceptance Rates are Low…But Now is Not the Time to Freak-Out!

“If I only had a dollar for every time you pulled me back from the ledge!”

A current client sent me the email above the other night right after a back-and-forth where he was worryin

g about his GPA and GMAT quant score, both of which are fine. I get it – I’ve been there. Although it’s been a few years, I remember the struggle of pulling together my own applications while working 80 hours+ per week and oh yeah, having a life. And now as consultant, I’ve helped more than my fair share of clients through freak-outs over the years. It’s normal – we all have them; and if you’re facing one now, rest assured that you’ll get through it.

So, we wrote this quick post to give you some ways to re-frame this whole thing when you start to go to the dark place of panic as we near the deadlines.

Applications aren’t credit scores; no one can quantify your chances

I work with a ton of incredibly talented quant nerds every year (I say that lovingly because I’m one too), and inevitably several of them will ask me throughout the application process “what their chances are” of getting into their dream schools. I wish the process was as simple as updating a DCF model based on the latest draft of an essay and getting an output. In reality, your chances are going to depend on how you leverage your story and experiences in your final product, but also, in part on factors that you can’t control such as the overall strength of the applicant pool. Instead of becoming fixated on your “chances” at any given point, control what you can and send your consultant an updated draft of your essays. You have control over the biggest part of the process – your ability to write killer essays. So spend your time there and don’t let your mind wander back to where your percentiles are.

Your freshman C isn’t going to be the one thing that blocks you from HBS

Sticking with the ‘”focus on what you can control” mantra, recognize that everyone has underperformed or made mistakes in their lives, and very, VERY few applicants have a blemish-free application. Whether it was a C in first year calculus, that time you got laid off, or a quick departure from that “cool” start-up job that turned out to be way less than “cool”, stuff happens. What is important is that you proactively address any problems or weaknesses in your application. And to help ease your concerns…I knew an applicant a few years ago who stole a car during undergrad (while drunk) and is now doing exceptionally well after applying to and graduating from a top 5 school. That guy puts your “C” to shame – I promise. So, own your weaknesses, address them, and move on to the next drafts of your essays. Thankfully, it’s highly unlikely that your blemish is going to be the landmine that destroys your chances (…unless of course you are on the FBI most wanted list or Interpol is looking for you…yeah, that will be an issue).

Set yourself an application schedule

With full time commitments (work, partners, kickball leagues,catching pokemons etc…) this one is easier said than done. If you want to nail your applications though, you need to find a way to establish a consistent schedule and stick to it. At the beginning of the process, most applicants that I work with typically spend 2-5 hours per week: a nice, leisurely pace of working on their resumes and waiting on the schools to release their essay prompts. By now though, you should be spending 10+ hours per week. Your best bet is to bucket this into two nights during the week, and then a longer block on the weekend. Choose your sports analogy, but at the end of the day you want to make sure that you can say you’ve doneeverythingyou can to get into the school of your dreams.

Get a life

When you are not editing your essays, harassing your recommenders, crushing your online calculus classes, or doing whatever else is left in your application, it’s absolutely crucial to find time for yourself. The easiest way to do this is to build “you time” into your application schedule. If trivia with your buddies on Monday nights is your thing, keep doing it. If there is a killer bar instructor at your gym on Saturday mornings, make the class. Do whatever you need to do to keep your head clear. This will not only keep your sanity in check, but it will make you more productive during your work periods.
Keep some perspective -You have crushed life so far, and nothing can stop you from here on out. You have succeeded in your career, have had amazing experiences, and have the personality and intelligence to succeed no matter what happens over the next few years. Which business school you attend doesn’t define you, the strength of your character and perseverance does. And that is something that no admissions committee can define for you.
If all else fails and you are still freaking out and convinced that the end is near, please consult the following.
If that doesn’t calm you do, we don’t know what will! 🙂 As always, please ping us with any questions, but mainly – get back to work!

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