Getting waitlisted for business school might be the most nerve-wracking admissions decision you can get. Just when you thought you were finally going to get a “yes” or a “no,” you get a “maybe…we’ll see what happens.”
Despite the name, being on the “waitlist” doesn’t mean you should just wait around crossing your fingers for something good to happen. Rather, getting waitlisted opens up a new phase in your application, and you can be proactive about forming a plan of what to do next.
The first thing to do when you find out you’ve been waitlisted is absorb this information. It’s not the outcome you’d envisioned, and you have to let that sink in.
But it’s not game over either. Once you’ve adjusted, it’s time to start getting into a new mindset to tackle the next stage of the process. Applying to business school is a marathon, and it’s up to you to get all the way to the finish line.
Before you can start moving toward that finish line, though, you have to accept your position on the waitlist. MBA Programs will include information in the decision letter on how to get in touch and confirm your continued interest.
You want to make it clear to your school that you’re still very interested in attending, and you also want to tell them that you’re prepared to stay on the waitlist as long as possible. Some schools will keep a short list of candidates on the waitlist through the summer, so make sure they know you’re ready to go until the very end.
The other important thing to do is take stock of possible reasons you weren’t accepted outright. Be objective with yourself about what shortcomings your application had, then see if there’s anything you can do to help bring your application more in line with the average profile of admitted students.
Sometimes your weaknesses as an applicant are things you don’t have control over. For example, maybe you’re coming from an overrepresented applicant pool and it was just a very competitive year.
Other times, your weaknesses are things you can address.
If you have a low GMAT, you can see whether the school would be willing to accept new GMAT scores. If your leadership experience is thin, it might be a good time to step up involvement in extracurricular activities you care about or take on an additional project at work. It’s never too late.
This is also the time to use any connections you might have to the school. Having a student or alum who knows you well write a concise email on your behalf can help your case. A generic letter won’t do much, but something that really speaks to who you are can add a dimension to your application.
Along the same lines, look for any updates you can provide on recent accomplishments that might get the attention of the adcom – a promotion, greater international exposure, a new project you’re working on, etc. It’s a good idea to keep in touch with the adcom waitlist manager every few weeks.
If you didn’t go visit the school before, definitely go visit now. It shows commitment and might give you a chance to talk to an adcom member.
Of course, you don’t want to be overbearing by going and camping outside admissions. But if you connect informally with an adcom at an info session, it can’t hurt if they end up going and giving your folder a second look. The key is to do whatever you can because you never know what will work.
With all that in mind, you also want to have a plan B for the scenario where you don’t move off the waitlist. In order to come up with this plan, you’ll need to assess possible reasons you weren’t accepted.
If there are significant gaps between your profile and that of the average admitted student, it might make sense for you to reapply in Round 1 or Round 2 next year and use the intervening time to work on the parts of your application that hurt you.
At the same time, you’ll want to cast a wider net if you end up applying next year. After all, your goal is to actually go to business school, so you’ll want to avoid the possibility of a repeat.
Getting waitlisted can be a psychological test because it means you have to play the long game and deal with a lot of uncertainty. But with the right plan you can maximize your chances of getting in and make sure you’re prepared for whatever comes next.
At EXPARTUS, we have a waitlist strategy based on years of admissions experience that does exactly that – find out more here!