How do you get off the MBA waitlist and into the b-school of your dreams?
We’ve arrived at a tough time of year for many MBA applicants.
Some are revaluating their options after their top-choice MBA programs didn’t work out. Others are happy with their results.
And still others are in limbo – on the MBA waitlist – but unsure of their final outcome.
If you’re in this position, this blog post will help you map out your next steps in the MBA application process.
First, congratulate yourself on the position you are in.
While it might not be your ideal, earning a spot on the waitlist at a top MBA program is a significant accomplishment that sets you apart from many of your peers.
And, it’s a very common predicament to find yourself in. Many waitlisted applicants are admitted to b-school each year and go on to tremendous success.
So, take a breath, keep a positive outlook, and focus on the elements of your application that you can control.
Step 1: Find Out What The Adcom Wants
Each school has slightly different waitlist requirements, so make sure you understand what you have to do to remain on the waitlist and how you can help your status.
Some schools ask applicants to opt into the waitlist, while others place you on it automatically. Double check the email or letter informing you of your waitlist status. If it requires an opt-in, make sure that you do so quickly.
Even if you’re not entirely sure that you want to attend the school, you should opt in to the waitlist to give yourself time to make a decision. If you’re unsure about opt-in procedures, contact the admissions committee.
Know your go-to contact
Some schools provide applicants with a waitlist manager as a point of contact throughout the waitlist process.
If you’re not assigned a waitlist manager, you should rely on a member of the admissions committee that you’ve worked with before, or, if you haven’t worked closely with a particular person, with the admissions director.
Provide supplemental materials
Most b-schools will either encourage you to provide supplemental materials or expressly forbid it. Pay attention to the guidelines in your letter to identify any additional information that you need to gather.
Step 2: Identify Your Application Gaps
Waitlisting typically indicates that your application was strong overall with one or two significant gaps. The admissions committee saw plenty to like about your application – but they were worried about a few things.
Your job now is to figure out what those things are and address them quickly.
To do that, you need to ask for feedback from:
Admissions board members
Most admissions board members will provide feedback to waitlisted applicants.
Unless your waitlist letter expressly forbids it, you should contact the admissions board to ask for a review of your application.
This’ll help you understand how the admissions committee perceived your strengths and weaknesses.
A trusted colleague
You should also have a trusted colleague or mentor review your application for gaps.
This could be one of your recommenders, your supervisor at work, or another trusted mentor. Ask them to help you identify weaknesses and areas for improvement.
Armed with this information, review your application one more time and determine the gaps that you need to address.
The most common gaps include:
- Low GMAT score
- Lower GPA or weaker transcript
- Lack of demonstrable leadership experience
- Mediocre recommendation letter
- Fewer extracurricular experiences or activities
Step 3: Address Your Application Gaps
Most schools will accept update letters from waitlisted applicants if they have new information to share about their candidacy.
To maximize your chances of getting off the MBA waitlist, you need to provide new information that will address the weaknesses you have identified.
For a low GMAT score
Retake the GMAT so that you can provide an updated score to the school. If you have time, invest in some GMAT tutoring before retaking the test (Check out our Resources page for GMAT test prep options).
For a lower GPA or weaker transcript
Immediately enroll in financial accounting or other quantitative classes in your area. Acing these classes will help you prove to the MBA admissions board that you can handle the quantitative demands of MBA-level classes.
Lack of demonstrable leadership experience
Seek out new assignments at work, talk to your boss about how you might be able to lead a team, or take on a new leadership role in a community organization that you are involved with.
Mediocre recommendation letter
Provide a supplementary letter from a trusted advisor with significant business experience (More about this in a minute).
Fewer extracurricular experiences or activities
Look for ways to become more involved in community-focused efforts in your workplace or your local community.
You’ll need to be intentional and persistent in seeking out these experiences, as you don’t have a lot of time before waitlists begin to expire.
You should also remain genuine and true to your personal brand. It’s tempting to start seeking out anything and everything that might build up your resume, but this will come across as unfocused and insincere.
Instead, look for ways to add substance and nuance to the personal brand themes that got you this far.
Step 4: Send Your MBA Waitlist Letters
Once you’ve addressed weaknesses in your application, you should send a letter to the admissions board with any supplemental materials.
Your letter should be concise and to the point and will include the following information:
- Any significant updates in your profile (resume, work experience, etc) since you submitted your b-school application
- Specific information about new GMAT scores or class grades (if applicable)
- Reiteration of your interest in the school and
- A few specific reasons why you feel it’s the best fit for you.
In addition to this supplemental letter, you can also solicit a letter of support from a professional reference.
This should be someone other than your original recommenders, and should preferably be an alumnus of the school.
Ask your supporter to write a letter on your behalf explaining their perceptions of your work and why you would be a good fit for the school.
Step 5: Follow Up With The Adcom
After you’ve sent your letters to the MBA admissions board, consider following-up with a phone call a week or two later, or, if possible, a visit to campus.
In-person visits can be an important advantage for waitlisted MBA candidates. It will give you a chance to determine if you could truly see yourself thriving at the school, and to make a more personalized connection with the admissions board.
Many admissions boards will invite waitlisted candidates to visit.
If your school does not specifically invite waitlisted candidates, you can stop by the admissions office briefly while you are in town to introduce yourself.
In this blog post, you learned about the five steps that will help you get off the MBA waitlist.
If you follow each of these steps, you’ll maximize your chances for MBA admissions.
And, no matter how the decision turns out, you can rest assured that you did your very best.
If you have additional questions or want more waitlist tips, make sure to stay tuned to our blog and follow us on Facebook.