Now I've heard back from both the MIT Sloan School of Management and the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Both of my applications were outright rejections. I wasn't put on the waitlist, just straight dropped.
That was the unexpected, humbling part. Of course I expected to be accepted -- why else apply? -- but I didn't ever consider missing the waitlist. I hate losing. To anyone. At anytime. At anything.
I think my first indication that I'm not cut out for business was that I played the game in the first place. The chief, measurable difference between me in July (before signing up for the GMAT, before researching schools, before writing applications) and me now is that I have about $2000 less than when I started. That's the cost of registering for the GMAT twice, buying study materials, submitting applications, and traveling to Michigan for an interview. Don't even get me started on the opportunity costs of the time invested.
A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. (I don't believe that, but it makes a suitable lament for a few seconds. And those few seconds are over.)
As an ace writer and interviewee -- immodest? yes. accurate? maybe. -- I don't think my presentation was the problem. My problem was the content presented. Each application required a version of the following essay: tell us about the time you led something at work.
Boom. That's the dealbreaker. After leaving Orbital two years ago, I haven't done much leading of anything -- nothing within the bounds of work, at least. My career goes roughly like this: the more money I make, the less responsibility I have. That works for some people. Not me.
In light of lingering unemployment, perhaps I should be happy with what I've got. But no. That's not a satisfactory justification. "...I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."
I don't know if I'm going to apply again next year. I don't know how I'm going to accomplish something an admissions committee is going to want in the next six months. In my current role, I am more or less locked into the same task for the next twelve months (thanks to Earned Value Management, I know this, precisely, to the day -- hooray for being another cog in the machine). If I'm going to make a second play for business school, some things are going to have to change. I don't know if I'm going to want to perform for the committee again. Regardless, some things are going to have to change. When? Soon. What? I don't know.
Onward and upward? Absolutely. But. What is onward? What is upward?
Does there ever come a point in life when the number of answers is equal to the number of questions?
And with that I end this phase of whining and enter the next phase of doing. Thank you, MIT and Michigan, and goodnight.