Earlier this week, we talked about what it means to be on the waitlist. Today, we’ll go into more detail on what you can do if you’re on the waitlist. Despite the name “waitlist,” there are several things you can do besides simply wait for your dream school to call. From a strategic standpoint, sitting in a state of limbo gives you the opportunity to improve your profile or status as a candidate, and such improvements can and should be communicated to the admissions committees.
The way you do this is straightforward and usually as simple as sending a short email with the update (e.g. you were promoted at work, received some kind of community award or position, or got an A in that accounting class you were taking at the local community college). It is important to note that you should never revise your application with any information which could have been included in the original application (so don’t submit things that you “forgot” to include—this would be considered poor judgment), but rather only new information or changes in your profile which are potentially interesting or important to your candidacy.
Most schools will also accept new GMAT or GRE scores from an applicant who has elected to remain active on the waitlist. Of course deciding to retake the GMAT or GRE may or may not be the right thing for you, but certainly if you feel that you did not perform on the GMAT at your highest potential, it might make sense to retake the test and subsequently submit the higher score.
When deciding to retest or not, sometimes it helps to view your performance on the test in light of your target schools’ 80% range (instead of its average score). For example, a top tier school may post a 720 average GMAT, but the 80% range is 650-750. If your score was in the lower range of the 80th percentile, it could indeed help boost your chances, certainly vs. someone else on the waitlist who is not re-testing. If you elect to take the GMAT or GRE again, make sure you tell your target school’s admission office so they can be on the lookout for your new score. Obviously when you take the test, you will need to request the score be officially submitted to your school. It typically takes one to three weeks for the score to be received once requested.
One thing many candidates want to know is whether or not the waitlist is ranked and if so what their number is. In most cases, schools claim their waitlist is not ranked, but even if you do not update the committee on any changes in your profile or GMAT scores, it is important at the very least that you inform the committee of your intention to remain active on the waitlist, since only those applicants who have elected to remain active on the waitlist will be considered for admission. Each school has a different process, so make sure you reach out and touch base with them individually.
Schools generally reassess the waitlist with each subsequent new round of applications, but after the third round, there is clearly a long period of time until August when orientation starts. Don’t lose heart, and remember to remain in contact with the adcom (in a thoughtful way, for example one touchpoint per month to reiterate your interest). Who knows? Perhaps that call will come.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.