Boosting Your Admissions Chances on the MBA Waitlist

Every year many waitlisted business school applicants proclaim, “I wish they would have just dinged me, rather than sticking me in the admissions Purgatory that is the waitlist!” While this isn’t entirely rational — Wouldn’t you want some chance of being admitted, rather than none? — it is somewhat understandable. In this case, while your fate may not entirely be in your hands, there are definitely things you can do to improve the chances that you will be one of the applicants that your dream business school admits from the waitlist.

Except for instances where schools explicitly say, “Don’t contact us, no matter what” (and even in some of those cases), erring on the side of thoughtful, succinct outreach can only help your chances. What frustrates many applicants is that it may not do anything to improve their chances, but proactive outreach will almost always leave you better off than will doing nothing.

How to go about it? Here are four things to do (or not do):

Addressing weaknesses is good, but also emphasize strengths!
When you’re on the waitlist, it’s only natural to say “I didn’t get the outcome I wanted, so I must fix whatever is wrong,” but being waitlisted — as opposed to being denied admission altogether — means you did something right. Find out what made you so attractive through admissions officers (if possible), or other admissions experts, and play to those strengths in your waitlist outreach.

Don’t bother having current students go to bat for you.
Normally, letters from current students do nothing more than communicate enthusiasm (“He’s a great guy and he really wants to come here”), which the admissions office probably already knows. While you should certainly emphasize your enthusiasm when reaching out to the admissions office, avoid submitting new letters of support unless they a) bolster key themes in your application, b) shore up any perceived weaknesses and c) come from a new source, preferably a manager or direct supervisor who can speak to progress since you crafted your original application.

If the school is your #1 choice, let them know!
Top business schools are notoriously concerned with managing their yield — the number of admitted students that matriculate. Assuming you really, truly want to attend the school, and have a deposit ready should they be accepted, be sure to communicate that intent in their waitlist outreach. Now that’s doubling down!

If possible, do all of the above in person.
If you can, visit the school, go to the admissions office, ask to meet with an admissions representative and make your care. Explain your strengths and addressing weaknesses, introduce new letters of support, and communicate excitement and intent to enroll if accepted — face-to-face.

For more help in getting admitted from the waitlist, pick up a copy of Your MBA Game Plan, one of the world’s most popular books about MBA admissions. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice on the business school application process.

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