How do I cope with rejection? What are my options for an MBA in January?

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In case you didn’t make it this season – worry not! The nature of the game will result in many applicants not getting an offer; top schools have low acceptance rates, suggesting that in any given year most people won’t get in. To hedge your bets, you have to be careful about the schools you select, apply to a few schools, and take into consideration your interests, professional goals and cultural fit while doing so. We work with many re-applicants every year, many of whom come to me at low stages, after they have received a reject, if not more.

For the most part, I can easily identify what went wrong with their applications, but sometimes, it is not as straightforward; even great candidates get rejected. This is no way an indication of your abilities, nor is it a failure.

But the brain can trick you into giving up. Because giving up will prevent you from the pain of dealing with rejection. This is the way our DNA has evolved over millennia – to cope with the situation, some may decide to move away from the goal. But the only way to ensure success is to go on, to objectively and unemotionally work on the next steps. I tell all my clients that one has to be in the game to win the game.

I have divided my response in two parts, a) how do you cope with rejection, and b), what are your options.

Firstly, continue doing what you are doing. Do not quit your job in frustration hoping that you will regroup. It will not get better. It is important that you feel you are mastering something, even if it is not your chosen career path. Make sure you go to work and keep busy. Secondly, it is important to try to be ‘in flow.’ In case you are not getting enough punch at work, pick up a hobby and try to master it. Play a sport, join a club, develop a new professional skill, or maybe learn a new language. Thirdly, socialize. The easiest thing to do is to go into a cocoon in defeat. By doing so you will lose energy and feel even worse. In acting, there are two popular methods: without getting into details, one theory suggests that for an internal feeling to manifest, you have to drive it from outside. By enveloping yourself in gloomy environment, you will manifest that. Force yourself to go out and interact. A progressive and happy external environment will lead to the same feelings internally. In no time your mind will wander away from your burdens and you will feel renewed energy. Fourthly, give back. It is not the end of the world and there are people who need you. Tutor children, help the needy – whatever works with you. You will feel better.

Lastly, don’t blame yourself. The more you believe you were responsible for the outcome, the more miserable you will be. Reality is that external factors played a role, just like they play everywhere in life. I have observed the workings of a top school’s admissions office for years. I assure you that the same application read on different days or by different people will lead to different outcomes. Just tell yourself that you did your best, and that circumstances beyond your control were not in your favor, and that you could have done nothing to change the current state.

In case you are looking to start in January, there are a number of great options: Columbia, INSEAD, HEC France, IE Spain, Ivey in Canada, and AGSM in Australia all have January intakes. In Canada, a number of Schools such as Queen’s Smith School and York’s Schulich offer Master’s programs that start in January or throughout the year. As an example, Queen’s runs its Masters of Management Analytics in January and May, and the Masters of Management in Artificial Intelligence in August. Specialized programs are a great alternative to the MBA, and can provide very fulfilling academic experiences and rewarding careers.

We have deep experience with all these schools. If you would like to learn more about them, of if you need help with your applications, please reach out.
Former Sr. Associate Director and Alumnus, Indian School of Business.