How to Survive the MBA Waitlist

So you worked hard. You took the GMAT and got a good score. You filled out an impeccable application with the best references you could find and the best essay you could write. And you had an interview that you thought went very well. Unfortunately, in spite of all your hard work, you received the dreaded email or phone call informing you that you’ve been waitlisted. Now what?

Don’t panic. Being placed on the waitlist at your favorite school or program doesn’t mean you have to give up hope. You’re competing against hundreds of qualified candidates for only a few open seats. Getting waitlisted means that you’re qualified, but since it is a competition, there are other more qualified applicants.

Schools generally assess their waitlists after each subsequent new round of applications. However, after the final round, there is typically a long summer waiting period until the final deadline. The key is not to lose heart or put all your eggs in one basket. Ideally, you’ve applied to multiple programs, so if it doesn’t work out for one, you still have a chance with another school. To help you survive the waitlist process, we’ve compiled advice from a few different MBA programs.

At the UCLA Anderson School of Management, Jessica Chung, associate director of admissions, shared a blog with specific that you should and shouldn’t do. The key for waitlisted applicants to understand is that “every interaction we have with you moving forward can be a data point on your file, so make sure they are meaningful and value-added,” Chung writes. That means if you’re waitlisted you definitely don’t want to panic and lash out. Instead, carefully review your application with a new set of eyes and see if there is anything you add or improve upon.

At UCLA, you can add updates to your application while you wait. What you decide to update is up to you. “We ask that you use your personal judgment and discretion in submitting information that is relevant to your application,” Chung writes. “Some examples include (but are not limited to): updated GMAT/GRE/TOEFL scores, promotions at work and recent extracurricular accomplishments.”

In a comment below the blog, a student asked, “Hello! I am currently waitlisted for UCLA. Would it be beneficial now to send, not only additional accomplishments, but a short write-up on why/how much I desire to attend UCLA?” Chung responded, “Yes absolutely! We would love to know more about your interest in UCLA Anderson and how you plan to contribute as a potential student.”

For the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, the waitlist process is a little different. You’re only able to submit new material if the Admissions Committee asks for it. Julia Campbell, McCombs senior admissions officer, recently discussed the waitlist process. “As the Admissions Committee periodically reviews candidates on the waitlist, there may be an opportunity for supplemental information or materials to be submitted for further consideration of your candidacy,” Campbell writes.. “It is not a guarantee that we will ask for an update… [but] we understand that there may be timely information or updates that you consider important. With regards to this type of new information (such as a recent promotion, a new test score or a new job), you may inform the Admissions Committee.”

The key to surviving your MBA program waitlist is to follow the specific instructions provided by your program. Some programs allow additional information and contact while others prefer not to hear from you. If a school doesn’t want to hear from you, don’t violate their request. If they do ask for additional information, be careful and don’t overwhelm them with too much data. Keep it simple and to the point.

Remember, being a waitlisted candidate means that you have a solid application, and if you have a chance to share more information, focus on articulating your story again in a better way than you did the first time. Find a few golden nuggets that you may have forgotten to mention in your original application. Also, figure out how you can differentiate yourself from other candidates that look just like you. Just remember that you should only provide information that adds value to your application. Don’t just restate what you’ve already said in new and exciting ways. Find new responsibilities, extracurricular activities and experiences that will enhance your application.

When you’re waitlisted, take the opportunity to really look at your application with new eyes. Be introspective and figure out if you could have focused more on your leadership and entrepreneurial goals and avoided using so many buzzwords. If you don’t get in, that introspection can really help you refine your application for the next year.


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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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