One thing that I always felt was daunting about applying to B-schools was the selectivity of the programs. I would read the stats on Poets & Quants and feel overwhelmed–selection rates of 7%, 11% and 13% were common and slightly disheartening. I didn’t want myself to get bogged down in self-assessing and questioning, so I decided to change the way that I thought about the admissions. The simple change was to think in terms of raw numbers rather than percentages.
For example, let’s look at the top 10 business school programs, as ranked by StartClass.
- Harvard Business School
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- University of Chicago Booth School of Business
- MIT Sloan Business School
- UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
- Columbia Business School
- Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
- University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School
- Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business
- Yale School of Management
It’s a solid list. More likely than not, there are a few schools on the list that are on your list, as well. However, the list is also a little intimidating. Even looking at it is enough to make your palms start to sweat. This is only furthered when you add in the admission rates of each school.
- Harvard Business School – 11%
- Stanford Graduate School of Business – 7%
- University of Chicago Booth School of Business – 24%
- MIT Sloan Business School – 14%
- UC Berkeley Haas School of Business – 13%
- Columbia Business School – 18%
- Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management – 23%
- University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School –21%
- Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business – 22%
- Yale School of Management – 24%
Yikes. At any given school in the top 10, there’s less than a 1/4 chance that any given applicant will be admitted. Now, I know every applicant is not created equal, and some people have much better odds than others, but still. This looks pretty darn tough.
This is where a re-frame helped me, and hopefully can help you, too. The thing about some of these schools is that they have massive class sizes, so even an admittance rate of 11% equates to nearly 1,000 people. So, instead of thinking about admissions in terms of percentages, I opted to think about it in terms of raw numbers. Let’s look at the top ten again, but by raw admits this time.
- Harvard Business School – 935
- Stanford Graduate School of Business – 410
- University of Chicago Booth School of Business – 583
- MIT Sloan Business School – 406
- UC Berkeley Haas School of Business – 241
- Columbia Business School – 743
- Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management – 691
- University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School – 859
- Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business – 281
- Yale School of Management – 323
For me at least, this started to put things into perspective. So, instead of thinking, I have an 11% chance of getting into HBS, I would think 935 people are going to get into HBS, and I’m going to do my best to be one of them. There was just something about picturing a roomful of 935 people that felt better to me than thinking of the percentage that get in, especially given that it was so low.
I took this a step further and rationalized to myself that, Hey, these numbers all have to be mutually exclusive. It’s not like someone can occupy a seat in two different programs. So, I added the admits from all of the top schools together.
935 + 410 + 583 + 406 + 241 + 743 + 691 + 859 + 281 + 323 = 5,472
Now, this number made me feel a ton better. There were going to be 5,472 people who got a spot at a top 10 business school each year. I asked myself if I thought I was in the top 5,472 applicants, and I felt I was. That’s the kind of thinking that you need to approach the application process with. It’ll keep you motivated and hopeful rather than nervous and pessimistic.