Psychology is an important factor and a big one when it comes to distinguishing between successful and not so successful people. At the end of the day, skills can be developed and anyone can tirelessly work towards a goal but what will set the stage for long term success is one’s psychological strength and attitude of how to deal with failures.
When we look at successful people, we wish to be like them, we wish we could get advantages like them. We even think they got things their way, perhaps they were lucky. But do you think they didn’t have to deal with failure? Everyone – every single person – has to deal with failures and its how you deal with it that can make all the difference.
Now, why am I talking about this all of a sudden amidst the application process is simple. You will plan a lot and put your best foot forward while applying to world’s best universities. The fact is you will get few/many rejects. You play to win and you shall apply to succeed. BUT – yes, there is that big but – sometimes, you will face rejections. Those who can accept failures gracefully without giving in to it will be the ones who will make it bigger in the end.
This is why you should apply to a combination of schools – its like diversifying your portfolio which is the first basic rule of investments. You distribute your eggs in different baskets hoping that at least one basket will remain safe. Usually for MS, you shall apply to 8-12 schools spread between ambitious (high rank, erratic ones), moderate and safe schools. Some people do apply to more but it can get cumbersome managing so many online applications, asking recommenders to fill so many LORs etc.
So while you are gearing up to finish your applications, do take a good look at the list of schools you are applying to. Keep a good mix in there – don’t be too aggressive or defensive. This will also be determined by how much dependent are you on studying abroad to achieve your goals (also known as your risk profile). Is this a make or break situation for you or do you have back up options. For graduates – do you have a good job offer in hand that you can go to if you don’t get your dream admit? The more desperate you are to succeed in your applications, more defensive you will have to be. And this is why solid school research is necessary. Being aggressive (applying to more than 4 ambitious schools) is okay if you can afford the risk – after all who wouldn’t want to get an admit to a super awesome high ranked school! But just in case you don’t get into those, what’s your Plan B? If you haven’t thought about it, think about it now.
Your school list should be aligned with your risk profile. Make sure it is.
I have seen some super smart students applying very aggressively but then left distraught with rejections. Don’t get there. Know the risk when you apply aggressively and be prepared if things don’t work out in your favor. If admit is so critical for you, do apply to some safe schools as well and be prepared to go there if needed. Nothing is worse than applying to some school but not feeling comfortable in going there (why would you apply to such a school at all?)
So, this post is not to talk about rejects when you are all pumped up to push that submit button on the application. This is just to make you psychologically stronger and prepared for whatever the outcome be.
As always, Gita said it best – “do what is in your hands, don’t fret about the outcome”. But yes, what you can do is be emotionally mature and plan accordingly. If you are prepared, you would know what lies ahead of admits as well as rejects. Reject is not the end of this world. You can do something meaningful this year and reapply – perhaps get into much better school anyways (called a blessing in disguise and it had happened with me). Its how you look at things that matters.