Tips for MBA Waitlisted candidates

F1GMAT: What are some of the best practices that an MBA candidate should follow if they are waitlisted? Some experts advice to follow up regularly and others advice to be cautious with follow ups. What is your advice on follow-up frequency?

Stacy: Business schools are busy assessing files and making decisions.  Yes, it’s that time of year again…some good news, some bad news and some in between.  When you receive a waitlist notification, you are not quite sure how to feel. It is not an acceptance…and yet there is still hope. You are in agony - the waiting continues.

The first thing to do when you are waitlisted is congratulate yourself. While it probably is not the answer that you were hoping for, you should know that far more people are denied admission than placed on the waitlist. If you are waitlisted, you are still in the running, and your application has passed an important hurdle. The waitlist has a lot of unknowns associated with it, even for the admissions committees. Until they know how many applicants will accept their invitations and until they start to understand the makeup of the class, they really do not know how many people will be admitted from the waitlist and who those people will be. In most cases, the waitlist is not technically ranked. Again, the admissions committee is looking at the class composition and trying to make sure that it is a well rounded group. As their class begins to take shape, they can make more waitlist decisions.
While the waitlist may mean additional agony, it is usually an opportunity to further market yourself to the admissions committee. We have covered in detail about building your brand in the E-Book Designing Your Business School Brand. It is important to “follow the rules”, so make sure you understand your school’s waitlist policy. Some schools ask that you refrain from submitting additional materials.  If this is the case, it is important to carefully follow instructions and patiently wait; they are serious about their guidelines.  However, most schools not only allow, but encourage, updates and additional information.

If additional materials are encouraged, what is appropriate? While each case is unique, the following is a list of things to consider:

1) Is your GMAT score below the school’s average? If so, consider retaking the exam, and notifying them of your higher score.
2) Did you make any contacts within the admissions committee? Now is the right time to reach out to these individuals and ask how you can improve your file or fill in any blanks.
3) Reiterate your interest in and commitment to the school through written communication.
4) Do you have someone who could write a recommendation and provide a new perspective on your abilities and personality?  An alum or current student would be a good choice at this point.
5) If you have any changes to report related to personal or professional experiences, write a letter outlining these updates.  Do not write a letter simply reiterating what was said (or should have been said) in your application, such as why you are a good fit for the program.
6) If you have not yet interviewed and an interview is offered, seize the opportunity!
A check in of some sort every 4-6 weeks is appropriate.  Manage this relationship carefully, as too frequent check-ins are annoying and not appropriate.
Stay positive and good luck!

- Stacy Blackman

If you need any help in developing a comprehensive Waitlist Strategy, choose our Hourly Consulting Service. We will guide you through the whole process.

Stacy BlackmanStacy Sukov Blackman has been consulting on the MBA application process since 2001. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy has worked with the admissions committees at both schools, conducting alumni interviews and evaluating applicants. Stacy has published a book, The MBA Application Roadmap,. Stacy has been profiled in several publications, including Fortune Magazine, BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal

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