How to Navigate the MBA Admissions Waitlist

Earlier this month, Forbes reporter Tara Weiss wrote an article about how applicants can navigate the business school waitlist. For advice she turned to Veritas Prep executive and Your MBA Game Plan co-author Scott Shrum for advice on how applicants can maximize their chances of success.

As the article states, being on the waitlist is not a comfortable experience.
But your time on the waitlist also gives you an opportunity to address an weaknesses in your application. Writes Weiss:

There are several reasons candidates get relegated to the wait list. If you can find out which reason applies to you, you can try to address the problem. Among the most common: a low score on the Graduate Management Admission Test; insufficient community service or leadership experience; low grades in college math classes; unclear career goals. However, “They won’t wait list anybody unless they’re willing to admit them,” says Scott Shrum, director of M.B.A. admissions research at Veritas Prep, an M.B.A. application consulting firm in Los Angeles.

Shrum suggests that you show your application to someone who knows about the process and together figure out what your weaknesses are. At some schools, including Northwestern, they say it’s acceptable to reach out to the admissions office and ask if there’s anything about your candidacy they found wanting.

The article also makes an important point about demonstrating enthusiasm for the program in question: It helps your chances, but only so much. If the school that has waitlisted you is your #1 choice, then you’re missing an opportunity to improve your chances if you don’t let the school know. After all, what school wants to admit a waitlisted candidate who only might attend? However, a “pester early and often” policy will NOT get you in! Communicating with the school per its guidelines, and showing both enthusiasm and restraint, will help you the most.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that you have some control over how attractive you are appear to admissions officers as a waitlisted candidate. What you can’t control, unfortunately, if how many applicants the school will take from the waitlist. You might do everything right, but if the school doesn’t need anyone from the waitlist (or, doesn’t need your type), then you simply won’t get in this year. Being smart about how to approach the waitlist and maximize your candidacy is all you can do, which can be frustrating, but that one last shot is better than being rejected!

For more help on getting off of an MBA program’s waitlist, take a look at Veritas Prep’s Waitlist Assistance package. And, follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

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