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So, as you can see from my profile, I have applied to 4 schools (HBS, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg). I originally was 99% sure I would return to school if I were admitted to any of these.
HBS has always been number 1, but I felt it was more realistic of getting into (at least) one of the other three. When looking at the other three, I felt much stronger about Chicago and Wharton because of my plans to study finance. I held this view to such an extent that I pondered the hypothetical of what I might do if only admitted to Kellogg (do I go or roll the dice again on the other schools next year, i.e. why did I even apply to Kellogg?).
Now, it's gotten even worse, because of my invitiation to interview with HBS. Although I know admission is still far from a sure thing, it has begun to feel like a very real possibility (something I didn't particularly feel before), but it's started to give me tunnel vision. I sense an immense disappointment will ensue if I'm dinged, regardless of whether or not I am admitted to Chicago and/or Wharton. And I fear I'll go through the same cycle again, i.e. I could go to Chicago, but maybe if I wait and re-apply at Harvard again next year...
Has anyone else ever gone through this?
Has anyone ever actually passed on a great school to re-apply to a better one the following year?
My advice: Don't worry about hypothetical scenarios until they become a reality. You can play this game all day long, but really, you're not accomplishing anything. It will just contribute to higher stress levels than you need or want at this point in the process.
Wait and see what happens, and take it from there. Also, see what happens outside of the app process (i.e. how is work going? personal life going?).
I'd say keep final choices out of your mind, and treat each school as your only option, at least until you get through the interviews. The decision as to which school you pick will be influenced by your experience with the school, not just its brand or stereotypes. Your interviews are your open window to that, and the last opportunity to mess things up with the one option, that may end up your final favorite. Keep an open mind. You have only a couple of weeks till the application process is out of your hands completely and 4 months to pick a final school. _________________
at this point you'll have to decide for yourself what it is you want out of your MBA. do you want a degree? do you want the skills to advance your career? to switch industries? or do you just want a name on a paper ?
i think it's perfectly normal to be blindsided by the 'allure' of attending a top program like HBS, but it will come down to how the next 12 months of your life would play out if you decided to reject chicago or W, only to reapply to HBS next year. will you progress at your job? will your supervisor question your motives for staying an extra year? what if you get laid off? how will that affect your candidacy for next year? when looking at all these questions, you should start to get a better feel for whether it's worth passing on great schools like W/K for a great school like HBS (not to mention what would happen if you waited an extra year to reapply to HBS, and then you didn't get in again? )
but, as was said, just take it one day at a time. life is really random most times, but you'd be surprised at how often you'll end up exactly where you need to be. _________________