MBA Reapplication - 9 Corrective Measures

MBA Re-application is a painful process. The wounds are not fully healed, and you are back at evaluating profile weakness, re-taking the GMAT, and talking to new recommenders. Although the number of re-applicants accepted to top MBA programs varies, and most schools have not revealed the numbers, close to 10% of all applications are from re-applicants. The volume is so consistent that some schools have begun offering the option to apply as a fresh applicant.

Here are 10 winning strategies for MBA Re-application

1) Class Size

The first metric that should interest the re-applicant is the class size. With Harvard explicitly mentioning that "Of the 900+ students in the Class of 2017, 94 of us were reapplicants.", the class size makes the whole difference. For smaller class size, the percentage of re-applicants decreases as applicants tend to apply where the odds are better. Re-applicants, taking advantage of this trend, should target smaller but reputed MBA programs

Note: In an American context, 200-400 strength is small class size.


In our interaction with clients, the entry criteria are the most painful part of the discussion. Many are from reputed universities with 3.1+ GPA. Almost 90% of the time the trouble is in the GMAT. The applicant falls short of the class median by 20 to 30 points. The quant score is on the weaker side if the percentile score is below 80 while Verbal in the 60 to 70 range springs doubt on whether you can communicate effectively in the class and with international partners. While applying in the previous year, this small variation was compensated with an elaborate narrative on career progression and leadership. What most applicants miss during the exercise is that MBA is a quant-heavy program. If you have to rectify your weakness, it should always start with the GMAT

3) GPA

“My GPA is low, should I target top MBA programs?” is the most consistent question that I get from readers. If you are re-applying, the answer should be obvious. The school was scared to pick you over a similar perhaps weaker profile with above average GPA. Now, if you ask us what the magic number is, it is close to 3.2. For many, the translation from percentage to US GPA system might not work out. Among the numerous GPA calculators available online, Columbia College provides the opportunity to enter the number of credits for the category of grades (A+ to D) with a value multiplied to each category that on summation captures the overall GPA. If your transcript does not have a credit format, a 75%+ in undergraduate degree is a competent score for international applicants.

With the proliferation of online courses and Harvard’s entry into Online education, MBA applicants have found a new avenue to rectify their otherwise permanent record – take quant-heavy courses to highlight their capability to score in the 80 to 100% range in courses conducted by top Business Schools.

The focus area for the GPA should be narrowed down to two broader themes – Statistics and Calculus if you are an Engineer/Marketer/Business Development person, and Statistics, Calculus, Accounting and Financial Analysis for Finance background. Choose the subject only if your performance in the subject was below B+/70% in your undergraduate degree.

Another strategy that career switchers with sub-par GPA (below 3.2/70%) adopt is to demonstrate competent score (above 85%) in their target domain. Technologists, Marketers and Operations professionals taking Wharton’s Finance courses have now become a familiar but effective tool in negotiating attention with the reviewer and showcasing pro-activeness in addressing weaknesses.

4) Change Narratives

Narratives on your job, extracurricular, conflict, growth as a person and promotion influence the readability of your essays. Excessive use of platitudes is never received well in MBA admission where authenticity is valued over pure storytelling. That is why it becomes tougher for re-applicants to look at their old essays objectively or go back to the consultant that helped them in the previous year. Both of them have invested heavily in the writing process and would have developed shared assumptions about the ‘life story’.

For Fresh Perspective on your life story, subscribe to F1GMAT’s Essay Review Service.

Narratives that you use in the essays should reflect the current responsibility. Most re-applicants who have crossed the first hurdle and entered the interview stage would cling onto narratives of the past even though the new year would have brought them new roles and responsibilities, and perhaps a change in function.

Since most schools keep the file of the applicant for 2 years, re-wording the essays and choosing a safer option is not the best strategy. If you have cleared the essay round but got dinged in interviews, iteratively constructing a narrative similar to last year with the updates on current roles, responsibilities and goals would be sufficient to repeat last year’s success.

While adding narratives to previous year’s version, applicants tend to bring additional assumptions to the reasons for rejection.

Listing the reasons for the ding would be the best way to start the re-write process. Start Detailed Profile Evaluation here.

Once you know the reasons for the rejection – address only those items in the narrative. Unnecessarily tinkering with a successful narrative without an end goal is a wasteful exercise.

5) Interview and Group Discussions

For re-applicants who got dinged in the interview, understand one number – more than 65% are rejected after an interview or a group discussion in a top MBA program.

Working on communicating succinctly, and persuasively without excessive uh..ums or changing gaze to the surroundings require practice. A lot of practice.

The assumption that after the essay round, a couple of days of preparation is enough to master interviews is an overestimation for applicants who are mostly in desk jobs.

For consultants, business development professionals, and marketers, interviews are their strong point.

If you are not in a client facing role or leading presentations/meetings, prepare for the standard interview questions and seek criticism with mock interview sessions. Spend most of the time on non-verbal communication

6) Volunteering

If you have been travelling (consulting/technologist), the excuse of not getting enough time to spend on the weekends for volunteering or honing the extra-curricular skills might be believable but the majority of applicants who show poor contribution in volunteering is from developing economies where the culture of giving back is not fully ingrained in the psyche of the populous.

American, Canadian and Chinese applicants traditionally are way ahead in volunteering compared to the European and Indian counterparts.

If the reflection on your ding is done immediately after the decision, and you noticed that the lack of volunteering was the biggest weakness, choosing an organization for relevant social contribution should be a task high in your list.

• Short-term volunteering

The quickest way to add on new but diverse experiences is by opting into short-term volunteering (1 to 2 weeks) programs that typically covers aid in disaster-stricken areas, food security and access, healthcare for women, children and the elderly, rural entrepreneurship, teaching (English/Math/Science), and conservation programs. For 25+ year old, which is the typical age group for most MBA applicants, finding short-term volunteering is a task in itself as the majority of volunteering networks, and online platforms are geared towards connecting high school students, teenagers, and travel enthusiasts to volunteering.

• Known non-profit brands

Taking meaningful corrective steps in volunteering is a long process. International organization have schedules on training, onboarding and first project that could take anywhere from 2 to 6 months – a timeframe that could eat into the next application cycle. Some schools don’t like the just-in-time involvement while many are more forgiving provided you offer a coherent and honest explanation. Changing the explanation in the optional essay according to the school has worked for the majority of our clients. Start a conversation here on your volunteering experience and seek our assistance for positioning your profile.

7) Change Post-MBA Goals

If you are guaranteed to find one question type in all top MBA programs or expect to answer even in open-ended questions, it is about post-MBA goals. If GMAT and GPA are above the class median and the recommendation letters impressive, you must go back to the fundamentals.

Is your post-MBA goal too ambitious, irrelevant or meek?

None of the labelling would play into your favor during admissions.

Resolve the feasibility of the goals by attacking the problem in two angles.

Employment Report: Refer to the school’s past three years of employment reports and check if your post-MBA function and industry are both underrepresented. The uniqueness of your post-MBA goal might not always work if the curriculum is not relevant, the school doesn’t have a renowned department in your target industry/function, or there is a reversal in trend triggered by the change in economy or demand in an industry.

Career Growth: Rarely is a professional pigeonholed into one track in the first five years of their career. Most of them get the opportunity to lead the team, cross niches within the function and travel in the 3rd to 4th year with the employer. Re-applicants is at an advantage for such scenarios as they could change the post-MBA goals to match the current responsibility and potential.

Evaluate the school’s offering and what you are currently managing while drafting the new post-MBA goal.

8) Re-evaluating Recommenders

Managing recommenders is the trickiest part of re-application. Your reputation in the organization might have taken a hit with the revelation that your previous attempt at getting into a top MBA program received a setback. The process of restarting the request for recommendation letter is a taxing proposition if the recommenders are the same.

Many don’t have an option to change recommenders as their initial experience with the organization is closely tied to the interactions with the supervisor. What you can do now is to seek professional help with the recommendation letters. The conversation on editing the recommendation letter should be diplomatic without in anyway hinting that the supervisor doesn’t know how to write coherent letters of endorsement.

The majority of recommenders would suggest that the applicant write the letter and later before uploading, their unique perspective be incorporated. This comes from the fear of not knowing how to structure the letter. Our Sample Recommendation letters might help them start, but under no circumstances, you should write it. Reviewers, even with 1-2 years of experience could catch the similarity in tone, transitions and storytelling, for essays and recommendation letters.

Persuade the supervisor to write at least the first draft of the recommendation letter. Iteratively suggest adding experiences to the letter with the final version capturing communication, maturity, leadership, learning capability and the potential of the applicant.

9) Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial experiences have low influence on your admission chances if the target school is not Harvard, Stanford, Babson or Oxford. Additionally, applicants tend to equate ideas with Entrepreneurship. Everyone has ideas. If you have no prototype/website/App to demonstrate that the idea had transitioned into the first stage of product-market testing, mentioning entrepreneurial experience is not the best strategy.

We have seen the other side of the spectrum too where applicants with decent exits ($200k+) hesitate to mention the experience fearing that the school might miscategorize them as less competent. Any exit where you have earned at least half the annual income of a Harvard MBA is a good example.

Statistically, starting business post-MBA is the least feasible path although this is the most commonly cited long-term goal. Schools don’t scrutinize long-term goals with the same intensity as short-term goals. Highlighting entrepreneurial/incubation experience in the resume would improve the believability of your narrative but devote most of your words on the short-term goals.

Now you know what to focus on with the re-application process. We are always here to help you. Start the conversation now or subscribe to our Essay Review Service.

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Only 1 in 900 gains admission to Harvard MBA program. If you write your essay focused only on your achievements, post-MBA goals, and your pre-MBA experience, you will be among the 899 rejected applicants.

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Pages: 707

Winning MBA Essay Guide Includes
+Harvard MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)
   Sample Harvard MBA Essay – Gratitude & Giving Back (318 Words)
   Sample Harvard MBA Essay – Entrepreneurship (Influence of Childhood) (667 Words)

   Sample Harvard MBA Essay - Volunteering (Mental Health Awareness)  (776 Words)
+ Columbia MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)

   Sample Goals Essay 1: Enterprise Technology to Consumer Marketing (496 Words)    
   Sample Goals Essay 2: Healthcare (Finance to Consulting) (499 Words)    
   Sample Goals Essay 3: FinTech (Product Manager to Strategy) (482 Words)    
   Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 1: Value from NYC (237 Words)    
   Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 2: Entrepreneur Mindset (Persistence/Creativity/Opportunity Seeking) (237 Words)    
   Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 3: Teamwork and Learning (242 Words)    
   Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #1 (Elon Musk) (250 Words)    
   Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #2 (Father) (244 Words)    
   Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #3 (Mother) (243 Words)    
   Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #4 (Math Teacher) (242 Words)    
   Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #5 (Co-Founder) (250 Words)    

+ Wharton MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)
   Sample Wharton MBA Essay: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (473 words)  (Consulting to Finance)
   Sample Wharton MBA Essay: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (482 Words) (VC to Consulting   
   Sample Wharton MBA Essay: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (497 Words) (Business Development to
   Finance (Non-Profit in Energy))

   Sample Essay #2: Math Tutoring and Experimental music’s value for the Wharton Community (388 Words)   
   Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Obesity Epidemic and Healthy Lifestyle at Wharton (399 Words)   

   Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Energy Efficient Offices for Start-ups and value of Design Thinking in the Wharton Community (395

+ Stanford MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)

    Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Consulting)(399 words)  
    Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Tech Entrepreneur) (390 words)  

    Sample Why Stanford MBA: Career Switch(Finance to Green Energy Consulting)(394 Words)
    Sample Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (740 Words)
+ Chicago Booth MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample Booth MBA Essay #1: Oil & Gas to Consulting (475 Words)
     Sample Booth MBA Essay #1: Social IMPACT to Marketing (478 Words)   
     Sample Booth MBA Essay #2: Leadership experience (Father’s Restaurant Business)(493 Words)   
     Sample Booth MBA Essay #2: Leadership experience (Teach for America)(640 Words)

+ MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
     Personality Type (Accepted MIT Sloan Students)   
     Cover Letter Checklist   

     Sample Cover Letter – Technology Consulting (286 Words)
     Sample Cover Letter – Healthcare Entrepreneurship (296 Words)
+ Kellogg MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample Essay 1: Demonstrated Leadership (Marketing) (449 Words)
     Sample Essay 2: Demonstrated Leadership (Technology) (449 Words)   
     Sample Essay 3: MBA as a Catalyst for Growth (Technology) (438 Words)
     Sample Essay 4: MBA as a Catalyst for Growth (Non-Profit to Consulting) (442 Words)
+ INSEAD MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
   Sample Essay 1: Candid Description, Strengths & Weaknesses
    Sample Essay 2: Achievements and Failures

    Sample Essay 3: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are
MBA Essay Tips (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample MBA Essay: Non-Profit   
     Sample MBA Essay: Technology   
     Sample MBA Essay: Marketing   
     Sample MBA Essay: Getting Fired   
     Sample MBA Essay: Diverse and Inclusive Culture   
     Sample MBA Essay: Leadership   
     Sample MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goal & How Pre-MBA Experience will help  
+ Yale SOM MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Business Development (Mobile Start-Up)(486 Words)
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Investment Banking (IB)(404 Words)
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Consulting (442 Words)   
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Technology (452 Words)   
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Marketing (492 Words)
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Entrepreneurship (497 Words)
+ Ross MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional who was a former member of a rock band (96 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Marketing Professional with a hidden talent to do Impression (100 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Life Philosophy through the prism of an Entrepreneurial failure (94 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Consulting for a Pharma Giant (Made a Difference) (91 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Three-Level Sanitation Campaign (100 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Water Conservation Kit (99 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Losing client (100 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Misreading Market Conditions (93 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Strategic Planning vs. Tactical Dominance in Chess (97 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Out of my comfort zone(extra-curricular) (93 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Out of my comfort zone (Daily Science Show) (99 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Simplifying Operations for Manufacturing (extra-curricular) (90 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Leadership and Culture) (98 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Technology Project and Last-minute change) (98 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Making Business metrics relevant to a Creative team) (91 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Timidity)(98 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Laziness)(100 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Pessimism) (96 Words)   
   Sample Essay – Short-term Goals and why the goal is the right choice for you (Technology to Marketing)(299 Words)   
+ London Business School MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    London as the Financial Hub   
    London as the Technology Hub   
    London as the Consulting Hub   

    How to Cite the Curriculum (Example)
    Sample LBS MBA Essay (A Career Switcher from Technology to Consulting for FinTech) (489 Words)
    Sample LBS MBA Essay (A Career Switcher from Hospitality to Consulting) (499 Words)
+ Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Framework for Answering the Duke Fuqua Short-Answer Essay Questions   
    Sample Short-term Goals Essay – Technology to Consulting (100 Words)   
    Sample Long-term Goals Essay – Consulting for Government (100 Words)   
    Sample Long-term Goals Essay – Plan B (89 Words)   
    Framework for Answering the Duke Fuqua 25 Random Things   
    Sample Duke Fuqua Essay: The Fuqua community and you (Max 2 Pages)  
+ NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (498 Words) (Finance)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (494 Words) (Consulting)
     Essay 3:  Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six")    
     5 Examples with Images

+ Darden MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself (100 Words) (Near Death Experience)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself (100 Words) (Networking and Job Offer at an Unlikely place)   
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself (100 Words) (Mountaineering)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – Where you want to go with Darden (47 Words)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – Evolving Leadership Style (198 Words)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – Meaningful IMPACT (200 Words)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay: Short-term Post-MBA career goal (149 words)

+ Sample Essays
+ The Art of Storytelling 
+ Leadership Narratives
+ Review Tips
+ Persuasion Strategies
+ The Secret to "unleashing" your unique voice
+ How to write about your Strengths
+ How to write about your Weaknesses

Download Winning MBA Essay Guide (2020 Entering Class)

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