6 Ways to Play the MBA Waiting Game

Business school applicants should avoid discussion boards and use this time to relax.

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MBA hopefuls should explore their potential new home while they await an admissions decision.
MBA hopefuls should explore their potential new home while they await an admissions decision.

After months of planning, studying for the admissions exam, writing essays, and wrangling recommenders, you have just hit the submit button for your business school applications and are now wondering what's next as the MBA waiting game begins. Here are six tips to make the most of this period.

1. Be happy: What did you enjoy before essays and GMAT scores became the focal point of your life? Take this opportunity to relax a bit, read a book, or go for a run.

It's likely your social life has languished on the back burner for the past few months, so spend some time reconnecting with your family and friends before every waking minute is spent job hunting and networking with your fellow MBA classmates. While accomplishing a huge goal such as gaining admission to an MBA program will feel good, friends, exercise, and relationships are the path to longer-lasting happiness.

[See why these MBA students chose their programs.]

2. Fantasize about your plan B: It's tempting to start planning out your first few weeks on campus—the clubs you plan to join and the apartment you will hunt for—but reminding yourself that you have alternatives is healthy. You're young, intelligent, and accomplished. If you didn't go to business school in the fall, what career shift or huge dream might you fulfill?

Maybe you would flee to Paris and take art lessons, learn Mandarin (in China), or hike the Appalachian Trail. Fantasizing about plan B is more practical than you think; when you start receiving those acceptance letters, you'll have a head start on your summer plans!

3. Avoid discussion boards: While commiserating with strangers over the Internet may seem like an attractive outlet for your anxiety, focusing on an outcome you can no longer control will only add to stress in your life. While it's certainly positive to network with your potential future classmates, make sure you approach any rumors or myths with a balanced perspective.

In fact, Internet rumors are so rampant in the MBA admissions process, schools like the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business have posts orwebpages dedicated to dispelling some of the most common offenders.

It is natural to search for certainty in an uncertain process. With admission rates hovering at 10 percent for the most competitive programs, many candidates feel anxiety about the final decisions. However, if you have put together the strongest possible application you can and worked to impact every factor under your control, it's time to relax and wait for the results.

[Learn more about the competitive MBA applicant pool.]

4. Prepare for interviews: If you absolutely must remain focused on your MBA plans, starting your interview prep is a good outlet for your energy. Working on your communication and presentation skills can be an ongoing challenge.

Practicing common interview questions with friends and family will both make you more prepared when the interview invitation arrives and minimize your anxiety.

5. Become a local, even if only for a few days: Kurt Ahlm, associate dean of student recruitment and admissions at Booth, says MBA candidates should remember that they will be choosing not just a school but a city or town as well. Therefore, now is an ideal time to plan that campus visit, and to explore the region you may soon call home for the next two years.

"Investigating average rent prices, transportation, cost of living, entertainment and overall appeal will give you even more information with which to make a final decision," Ahlm says.

6. Stay connected: Demonstrating continued and genuine interest in your MBA program of choice is one of the best ways to show the admissions committee that you are strongly committed to attending their program. How to do this? Reach out to alumni for an insider view of the program, and perhaps some interview pointers as well.

If the school plans to hold an information session online or in a city nearby, sign up or show up. You can never have too much information about your target school. The more opportunities you create to connect with the program, the better you'll be able to judge its culture and community to determine if it's the right fit for you.