A very frequent question we receive at this time of year goes something like this: “I applied to five business schools, and only got into one. I am not super excited about that program, and I feel confident that I can get into one of my preferred schools if I apply again next year. What should I do?” Today we’ll explore the “Matriculate now or apply later?” question.
This is a tough spot to be in. If you applied in Round 1, by now you figured you would know your fate. You had hoped you would get into one of your dream schools, and you also knew there was a chance you wouldn’t get in anywhere. But maybe you didn’t spend much time considering the outcome of having one potential date to the prom, but not one about which you are not terribly excited.
This question ultimately comes down to two main things. First, how confident are you that something about your application will be significantly better next year? Think you can significantly boost your GMAT score? Is a big job promotion looming? Then maybe try again next year. If not, be realistic about your chances of getting in with basically the same profile next fall.
Yes, you will likely go into the application process with more experience and savvy eight months from now. Your essays may be better, you might be better prepared for your admissions interviews, and you might give your recommendation writers better preparation the next time around. But, if you are working with the same raw materials as you did this past admissions season, then do not be surprised if you get similar results.
Second, how much experience do you have? Are you already kind of “old” for an applicant? If you already have five or more years of full-time work experience, then you run the risk of looking “old” in admissions officers’ eyes. This is less about your actual age and more about where you are in your career. While some schools go to great lengths to say they do not discriminate against older applicants, and they certainly don’t want to scare off anyone, applying with much more than a typical amount of experience invariably invites questions about why you are applying now, rather than several years ago.
If you aren’t still rising quickly in your current career, then with every passing month the stench of “career stagnation” grows stronger. If this describes you, then we would be more likely to advise you to go with the bird in hand and matriculate now.
Don’t ever give up on your dreams, but remember how competitive the MBA admissions game is. If that “safety school” was attractive enough to invest all of that time and money into applying six months ago, then it should still be appealing enough to attend today. If not, then ask yourself, “Why not?” and take a step back before deciding where to go from here.