Round 1 decisions are out, and you are not in. Although you may be disappointed, the good news is that you were not denied! Here are seven tips for what you can do while you are on an MBA waitlist.
1. Breathe. Relax.
Seriously, you are still in play. Celebrate! There is something—actually, probably a lot—about your application and profile that the admissions committee found interesting and, therefore, it decided not to deny you. If your flaw were fatal, the committee would have simply denied you.
2. Read and follow the instructions.
Assuming you would accept a seat in this program over your other options, read the instructions provided and accept your spot on the waitlist before the deadline. Some programs ask waitlisted candidates to submit an additional essay or video by a specified deadline. Make sure you understand what the program welcomes. You don’t want to annoy the admissions committee by sending additional information if it has stated that it does not want any.
3. Look at the numbers.
Although your GMAT or GRE score and your GPA are not the only things the admissions committee looks at, these numbers are important because they drive the school’s rankings. Clearly, there is nothing you can do about your undergrad GPA now. But if your GMAT or GRE score is lower than the program average, you should seriously consider retaking the exam. Assess where you are with respect to the test and how you have prepared to date. If you have studied on your own, consider taking a formal course. If you need targeted support on a particular section of the exam, investigate tutoring options. Some schools will allow you to submit a score for a different standardized test.
If you have plateaued on one exam, you might take a practice test of another exam to see if your score is stronger. Each year, more and more programs are accepting the Executive Assessment (EA). Perhaps that might be an option for you. See GMAT, GRE, or Even EA—Which Test Should I Take?
4. Connect with the school.
Show the admissions committee that you want a seat in the program and will accept it immediately if it is offered. If you haven’t already done so, visit the school. Although formal campus visits may not be available, look for a way to get your feet on the ground. Perhaps you might register for a conference related to your area of interest. Engage with students. Identify areas in which you can (and will) contribute to the program. Remember, specificity = credibility. Don’t just say that you want to join a popular club; learn about what events or activities the club offers and figure out how you might add value or build on an existing initiative. See 21 Questions to Ask Students and Alumni While Researching MBA Programs.
5. Ask for support.
Is one of your colleagues a graduate of the program? Is your college roommate a first-year student? Ask if they will write a letter of support and fit to the school. Many programs welcome input from their current and former students when shaping the class. If you have a manager who might offer insight into your profile that was not included in your initial application, ask if they will write a recommendation. It may be the case that you hadn’t asked your current supervisor to write a recommendation because you had only worked with them for a few months at the time you submitted applications. Now that they have observed your work, contributions, and impact, they may be able to offer another perspective on your candidacy. See Tips for MBA Letters of Support.
6. Prepare for the program.
Are you prepared to take on the quantitative rigor of an MBA program? The admissions committee does not want to admit candidates who might struggle in the core curriculum. If you don’t have sufficient background in the quantitative areas, consider enrolling in a class that will demonstrate your readiness. See Five Tips to Build Your Quantitative Profile.
7. Submit an update.
If the program welcomes it, share an update a few weeks in advance of the next decision deadline. You will likely be re-considered along with the applicants in the next round. As a waitlisted candidate, you have a bonus opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the program and your readiness to commit your deposit as soon as the admissions committee gives you the nod. Show the committee the love.