Scenario: You get accepted to an excellent MBA program. You’re happy…but…you can’t help thinking that maybe you could’ve done “better.” Should you turn down your acceptance (whether it’s an early decision acceptance or regular) on the chance that the school that waitlisted you ends up accepting you, or in the hope that a school that rejected you this year accepts you next year?
When to Accept an Offer of Admission
Here are two reasons why I think you should probably count your lucky stars and say “yes” (enthusiastically) to the program that accepted you:
1. The alternatives may not really be better. As I’m sure you noticed, I put “better” in quote marks above. You need to think about whether your alternate options are truly better for you than the amazing school that accepted you. Maybe HBS is a better school than, say, Yale SOM, according to most ranking reports, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best program for you. And in fact, if you’re thinking about heading into non-profit management, it may not be better than Yale. If the school where you have an offer supports your goals and provides an educational environment that suits you (and you shouldn’t have applied if it didn’t), then a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Don’t look for greener pastures when you’re already in the pasture that’s best for your individual growth.
2. Acceptance at one elite school does not at all imply that you’ll get accepted at another elite school. Acceptance decisions are independent events – Wharton doesn’t consult with Booth, which in turn couldn’t care less that you were accepted to Stanford. Be happy about the outstanding school that accepted you, and attend!
Legitimate Reasons for Deferring or Rejecting an Admissions Offer
There are some situations in which I’d recommend deferring or rejecting an admissions offer and reapplying next year:
1. Now may not be the best time for personal reasons. Personal circumstances unrelated to education, like an illness in the family, may compel you to defer or reject an offer.
2. You may not be into long-distance relationships. A geographical/relationship issue, like your significant other got into a one-year program across the country from the program that accepted you, and you don’t want to be apart for a year, could be a good reason to reject an acceptance. (You should try to defer for a year in this case, obviously, and not reject the acceptance, if you plan on then pursuing your educational goals next year.)
3. Your post-MBA goals have changed since you applied. If your goals have changed, and the school that accepted you is no longer the best school for you, you might consider rejecting the offer. (This doesn’t happen very often.)
Should You Ask for a Deferral?
Schools are reluctant to give a deferral. It binds them, and doesn’t bind the applicants. Furthermore many applicants requesting the deferral use the additional year to reapply to other, “better” programs. This bit of shopping around and gamesmanship has given deferrals a bad name in admissions offices. And they frequently don’t want to play the game.
There is no harm in respectfully requesting a deferral when a temporary situation beyond your control is preventing your attendance and you want to attend. However if the request isn’t granted, be appreciative of the consideration and just apply again when the time is right.