How to Handle the HBS Waitlist – Amerasia Consulting Group

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How to Handle the HBS Waitlist

How to Handle the HBS Waitlist by By Adam Hoff, Amerasia Consulting Group

Going quick and nothing fancy here, just looking to get the word out on "HBS Waitlist Day" as it will likely become known in the future.

I stunning number of candidates appear to have been WL'd today, just based on what I'm seeing stream across my inbox.  The biggest group looking for answers are candidates I've never heard of, who are seeking answers and asking what to do.  This is when I know I have to go to the blog.  Let's work through this.


The first thing to do is take a deep breath and either remember or learn what HBS is all about.  I've written about it many times over the years, but this is the confidence school.  This is the program constantly seeing who will flinch.  They changed their essay to something open-ended to force you to make confident choices in content, they brought in a 24-hour post-interview assignment to demand cool under pressure, and, yes, they bring that to the WL as well.  If you read the instructions they give, you will almost always see that the mandate is "do nothing."  Reworded as "stay cool."


Now we have to move on to understand just how HBS is using this version of a waitlist.  If its a "normal" WL, maybe you throw out my advice above and try for a Hail Mary approach, even if it costs you - after all, HBS really has no need to use a normal waitlist.  They yield at such a high rate that they will never really need to use it.  So whether you hold your powder or not, you aren't getting in ... IF it is a normal WL situation.  This does not appear to be a normal WL situation.  This looks and feels more like a deferral.  If you note the language they are using ("has not yet reached a final decision" and "permission to continue to consider") and the way a second person - a WL manager - reached out and clarified some things, it seems pretty clear that they are trying to buy some time to make final decisions.  Why?  Who knows, honestly.  Maybe they were too aggressive in when they thought they could make decisions.  Maybe a bunch of 2+2 candidates showed up and changed their projections.  Maybe it is human error and someone lost a bunch of files.  It doesn't really matter, what matters is that they seem to extending their process out a bit.  If this is true, it means you are still in the game.  


Nothing!  Here is the wording in Chad's initial letter:

"We will be in touch if we need additional information from you as we make a decision on your candidacy."  

Here is the wording on their FAQ site:

"Our decision will be based upon a continued review of the completed application materials you have already submitted. If we need additional information from you as we make a decision on your candidacy, we will contact you."

The wording in the letter from the WL manager is fuzzier, but still says they need more time to decide and directs the candidate to the WL FAQ site.

All told, this is not the time to try to jam the round peg into the square hole.  As hard as this can be to hear, the best plan is to do nothing.  Put your hands in your pockets and whistle as you walk through the mine field.  There is a chance that is exactly what they are sussing out here.  Who has the confidence to hold steady?  Who is secure enough to avoid panicking?  Who is mature enough to handle ambiguity?  Who reads the directions?

Look, the cynical mind would say they are using this as another test - another way to split hairs and see who has what it takes.  I wouldn't go that far, but HBS has been using Round 1 deferrals for a while now and in my experience, the people who eventually get in never flinch.  I've honestly never in my life seen someone panic and get in off the HBS deferral list or WL.  They are being explicit that they have everything they need and they will contact you if they need anything else.  Take heed!  What good can come from going against these instructions?  It's not a game of "who wants it the most."  Have some confidence.  Trust in what got you here and know that the rest is out of your control - just as it was yesterday and the weeks before that.  All that has happened is that HBS has said "we need more time to decide."  Its just that they have to use this mechanism to do it, or they have a circus on their hands.

Good luck ... doing nothing.

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