When you’re working on business school applications, it’s only human to want to compare your qualifications to others you know who’ve already graduated from—or are currently attending—a top program. You might think that their undergraduate schools, GPAs, GMAT scores and career paths may provide insight into what AdComs are looking for, and to some extent that’s true. Alumni of or current students at prestigious business schools do represent what those programs were looking for… in the year they applied.
The problem with comparing yourself to those who applied before you is that it’s truly like comparing apples to oranges. No two years are the same. The candidate pool last year is going to be different from this year’s. And you’ll only be directly competing for a spot against a slice of that pool anyway. What will ultimately determine whether or not you get acceptance letters or dings is how the AdCom views your qualifications versus those of candidates who are in similar demographic and industry/role categories. This year. Right now. Which is something no one has any insight into but the AdComs at each school.
Another problem with comparing yourself to MBA students or fellow MBA hopefuls is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Meaning, there is much more to a person than what school they went to, their past grades, their test scores and the company they work for. You might not even be aware of their extensive community service involvement over the past several years or the volunteer hours they’ve dedicated to a cause that was deeply personal. They may have never shared the private stories they wrote about in their essays. You’ll also never have any idea what their recommenders said about them.
We know that it would be nice to get a better sense of your “odds of admission” by comparing yourself to others. But unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way, because no two people are exactly the same. On the bright side, you shouldn’t let yourself get discouraged if someone with the same “on-paper” qualifications as you didn’t get into their dream school in the past. You’re not them, so their outcome truly has no bearing on what will happen to you!
So when you feel the urge to start lining up your stats against someone else, remember this:
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