Taming Grad School Application Jitters: What If I Don’t Get In?

Moving from the known to the unknown is nerve-wracking for all but the hardiest souls, and the blogger at 2012 MBA Applicant recently shared his fears about the unknowns involved in applying to grad school. He wrote: I can say that I am pretty scared sometimes when thinking about everything that is ahead of me. The fear of rejection is first and foremost . . . What if no schools accept me, or the ones I really want to go to don’t?

This is a very common and understandable fear. Top grad school programs naturally draw the most highly qualified applicants, and you must prepare yourself psychologically that only a minority of applicants will get the fat envelope. If you haven’t begun your application process yet, maximize your chances for acceptance by doing your homework and making sure you are competitive for the schools of your choice. This means more than checking that your test scores, GPA and work experience fall within the averages of students accepted for that school — it also means seeing if you are a good fit for the program’s learning style, specialty areas of study, and personality. You will also maximize your chances of acceptance by working with an experienced grad school admissions consultant who can guide you in your application process, helping you highlight the strongest aspects of your experiences and helping you clarify your career goals in your essays.

But let’s say you’ve done everything right: you’re a top contender based on numbers and experience, your application package is stellar, and you still don’t get in. What then? First, do not take it as a personal rejection. Adcom members must view their incoming classes as a whole. Not making the cut may have nothing to do with your qualifications. It may have to do with maintaining a certain diversity in the class among various types of industry experience, U.S.-versus-international applicants, ratio of men-women, and other factors.

Next, assess your other options. Could you be happy attending the “safety” school where you have been accepted? Don’t get hung up on a “star” name — if the school offers the kind of program you are looking for and you are a good fit in other ways, you should seriously consider attending.

But if you still have your heart set on a dream school and know that your qualifications make you competitive, look at the big picture and the bright side: Working in your field for another year will make you a stronger candidate with more experience to draw upon. Reapplying the following year will show the school that your focus and determination to earn your graduate school degree are stronger than ever, and will almost certainly increase your chances of success.

By Judy Gruen, award winning author and experienced admissions editor.