When you’re working with a chemical reaction, there are two ways you can get more product out: increase the percent yield or increase the volume of the reactants.

The former leads to a higher quality reaction. From the same starting point, you get more of the desired output. For example, increasing the temperature at which the reaction occurs.

The latter leads to a bigger reaction. This is the brute force approach. It’s nice and simple and guaranteed. You treat the chemistry as a black box and don’t have to worry so much about technical details.

We can use the same principles for many aspects of our lives. For instance, job or graduate school applications.

Refining our approach to increase yield might be difficult, but it’s often worth the trouble. Doing a bit more research on the organization in question can help tailor the profile we present to be a more attractive, better fit. In our modern world, this approach is often necessary to remain competitive.

Or we can just apply to many places. Instead of trying five and getting one or two, we try 25 or 500 and get proportionally more acceptances. But there’s a problem with this mentality. With such large volume, things become less personal. Quality might decrease. And so it’s entirely possible that none of the 500 (or only the most desparate) say yes.

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