MBA Waitlist Strategies for Business School Applicants

How to improve your candidacy

Businesswoman checking wristwatch in office
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When people apply to business school, they expect an acceptance letter or a rejection. What they don't expect is to be put on an MBA waitlist. But it happens. Being put on the waitlist is not a yes or a no. It's a maybe.

What to Do If You're Put on the Waitlist

If you've been put on a waitlist, the first thing you should do is congratulate yourself. The fact that you did not get a rejection means that the school thinks you are a candidate for their MBA program.

In other words, they like you.

The second thing you should do is reflect on why you did not get accepted. In most cases, there is a particular reason why. It is often related to lack of work experience, a poor or lower than average GMAT score, or another weakness in your application.

Once you know why you're waitlisted, you need to do something about it other than wait around. If you're serious about getting into business school, it's important to take action to increase your chances of getting accepted. In this article, we'll explore a few key strategies that might get you off the MBA waitlist. Keep in mind that not every strategy presented here will be right for every applicant. The appropriate response will depend on your individual situation.

Follow Instructions

You will be notified if you are put on an MBA waitlist. This notification usually includes instructions on how you can respond to being waitlisted.

For example, some schools will specifically state that you should NOT contact them to find out why you have been waitlisted. If you are told not to contact the school, do NOT contact the school. Doing so will only hurt your chances. If you are allowed to contact the school for feedback, it is important to do so.

The admissions rep may be able to tell you exactly what you can do to get off the waitlist or strengthen your application.

Some business schools will allow you to submit additional materials to supplement your application. For example, you may be able to submit an update letter on your work experience, a new recommendation letter, or a revised personal statement. However, other schools may ask you to avoid sending in anything extra. Again, it is important to follow instructions. Do not do anything that the school specifically asked you not to do.   

Retake the GMAT

The accepted applicants at many business schools commonly have GMAT scores that fall within a particular range. Check the school's website to see the average range for the most recently accepted class. If you fall beneath that range, you should retake the GMAT and submit your new score to the admissions office.

Retake the TOEFL

If you’re an applicant who speaks English as a second language, it is important that you demonstrate your ability to read, write, and speak English at the graduate level. If necessary, you may need to retake the TOEFL to improve your score. Be sure to submit your new score to the admissions office.

Update the Admissions Committee

If there is anything that you can tell the admissions committee that will add value to your candidacy, you should do it through an update letter or personal statement.

For example, if you recently changed jobs, received a promotion, won an important award, enrolled or completed additional classes in math or business, or accomplished an important goal, you should let the admissions office know.

Submit Another Recommendation Letter

A well-written recommendation letter may help you to address a weakness in your application. For example, your application may not make it obvious that you have leadership potential or experience. A letter that addresses this perceived shortcoming could help the admissions committee learn more about you.

Schedule an Interview

Although most applicants are waitlisted because of a weakness in their application, there are other reasons why it can happen. For example, the admissions committee might feel like they just don't know you or they aren’t sure what you can bring to the program.

This problem could be remedied with a face-to-face interview. If you are allowed to schedule an interview with alumni or someone on the admissions committee, you should do so as soon as possible. Prepare for the interview, ask smart questions about the school, and do what you can to explain weaknesses in your application and communicate what you can bring to the program.