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The Dreaded Ding

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A few weeks ago, Harvard Business School sent out its Round 1 interview invitations, along with “release” notices to the majority of applicants (and Round 2 deferral messages to some others). That means thousands of MBA hopefuls around the world recently received their first ding.

Some people can easily shrug off this unfortunate news. But others have a tough time dealing with what they see as rejection. Are you one of the applicants who didn’t receive good news from HBS? If so, we want to remind you why you should keep your chin up.

First off, all the top MBA programs are notorious for being extremely selective. It may be that out of every 100 people who submit materials, only 7 to 12 are accepted. In other words, it’s very much a numbers game when you’re applying to such competitive programs. There are only so many spots for an overwhelming number of thoroughly talented candidates.

As such, former HBS dean Nitin Nohria would kick off his speech to new first-year students by saying that the school could’ve easily added an additional 900 candidates to the graduating class who were equally qualified. While admitted students were certainly accomplished and deserving, he believed a bit of luck played into their outcomes as well.

That may be hard to accept for people who have always reached every single goal they’ve ever gone after. But it’s the truth. Once you’ve pulled together a strong application and hit “submit,” the process is out of your hands. You will never be able to do anything about who (or how many people) you were truly competing against. Or about who read your application and how they felt about it.

The good news is that your results for a certain school are only the results for that school. They have absolutely no bearing on what you’ll hear from other programs. So, there’s no need to panic or to question your approach after a single ding. You should remain hopeful that positive news from another school may be right around the corner.



Stacy Blackman’s B-Schooled podcast recently dedicated an entire episode to what to do after a ding. If you’re in that boat, don’t miss host Erika’s comprehensive advice for how to move forward. 

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