What It Means to Be on the Waitlist for MBA Admission

This time of year, many applicants find themselves stuck in the waitlist process at one or more schools, which can be a very slow and painful waiting period.   Not only are you competing for fewer and fewer seats, you are doing so against everyone on the waitlist all the way back from round one as well as any fresh, new applicants from the final rounds.

One thing applicants often want to know is how many people are on the waitlist at their particular school. Unfortunately, this is a black box and schools do not generally disclose an exact number of people who are waitlisted. Candidates on the waitlist may be admitted at any time, which makes the wait particularly painful, since unlike regular round admissions where there is a decision date or notification date, the waitlist candidates struggle with every day or week potentially being the day or week the phone will ring with an admission offer or a release from the waitlist.

In addition to being stressful for the waitlisted candidate, this also makes the number on the list fluctuate and difficult to track even for the schools themselves. When the pressure is too great, or when other offers are made from competing schools (or plans change), candidates and sometimes choose to remove their name from the waitlist at any point in the process. Therefore, the actual number of candidates on the waitlist can literally vary from day to day.

Most top schools’ Admissions Committees make a conscious decision to limit the number of applicants who are extended a place on the waitlist, so know that if you are on a waitlist, you are in good company with a relatively small number of fellow applicants, so it’s highly advisable to remain on the list if you are still interested in eventually being offered admission.  Know that this offer can sometimes be extended very close to the start of the academic year.  Because of yield fluctuations and changing plans of admitted students (particularly those who get offers from “better schools” at the last minute), there have been cases of admission being offered to waitlisted candidates as late as the day before classes begin.

Every year there is a last minute shuffle of the deck, as students jump ship for their dream school who comes calling at the 11th hour, which obviously opens up a slot wherever they had already accepted.  Sure, they lose deposit money, but the chance to go where they really want makes it worth it.  In my next post, I will discuss some things you can do while you sit it out on a waitlist.

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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.

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