MBA Admissions: Waitlist Advice

Being waitlisted by your target business school can feel a lot like flipping a coin and seeing it end up on its edge; this lack of a final answer after months of anticipation can almost feel more frustrating than receiving a firm “yes” or “no.” But take heart in the fact that you’re still in the MBA admissions game, and there may be more that you can do to ultimately get accepted.

First of all, know that a waitlist decision is much more similar to an acceptance than a rejection. The admissions office clearly saw something in your application that it liked, but for some reason — perhaps you have a weaker undergrad transcript than they’d like to see, or there are simply too many other applicants who look just like you — just couldn’t pull the trigger and offer you a seat. While this can be very frustrating, in many cases (depending on the school) you have at least one more chance to show that you have what your target school looks for in its candidates.

Before you do anything, you will need to determine your school’s policy for handling waitlisted candidates. Some schools readily welcome updates and additional correspondence, while others will allow only certain kinds of contact, such as messages sent to a specific email address. Some business schools, however, explicitly forbid you from contacting the admissions office under any circumstances. If this describes your target school, do yourself a favor and obey this policy — not doing so makes admissions officers’ jobs easy (i.e., it’s easy for them to remove you from further consideration). It’s frustrating, we know, but you won’t help your cause by ignoring the rules.

Assuming that your target MBA program does allow you to contact the admissions office, then think about what potential weaknesses in your candidacy you may be able to bolster. Ask yourself:

  • Did I clearly define my career goals?
  • Was it clear how earning an MBA will help me achieve these goals?
  • In what ways did I demonstrate fit with my target school?
  • How did I showcase my leadership, intellect, maturity, and teamwork abilities?
  • Did my GMAT score, undergraduate transcript, and professional experience prove my ability to succeed in the business school classroom?
  • What about my application made me stand out vs. applicants with a similar profile?
  • Did I do enough to demonstrate my enthusiasm for the school, including visiting the school and speaking with current students?

Once you have identified some potential weaknesses, draft a letter (paper is better, although email may be required) highlighting new information that offsets these weaknesses. Outside of these weaknesses, any big news in your life — such as a job promotion, a significant achievement at work, or a notable new contribution to your community — also makes for a good reason to contact the admissions office.

Once you do this, your job is not done. Assuming the MBA admissions office welcomes this contact, plan on making contact with a short and professional note every few weeks to remind them that you still exist and to reiterate your interest. If you can manage a trip to campus, great, but don’t expect an admissions officer to officially meet with you. Still, short and relevant notes like these can be the difference between getting lost in the waitlist and getting into your target business school.

Visit Veritas Prep for more information on navigating the waitlist and for help in crafting your own waitlist letter.

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