By the Amerasia Consulting Group
This time of year, we get a huge number of inquiries from students gearing up for the reapplication process. This makes sense, as this subset of students is often driven to succeed, still hurting from the sting of getting rejection letters, and aware that going at it alone all over again might not make much sense. And truth be told, hiring a vetted admissions consultant is rarely a better investment than when you are reapplying to business school. However, there are a few techniques and things we have discovered that can help all reapplicants, not just those who become our clients:
1. Nearly every school can be "reapplicant friendly" so don't be afraid to reapply anywhere and everywhere. The biggest mistake we see people make on the second go-round is they avoid all the schools they just got dinged at. This is not a good strategy. Can you fold in some new ideas? Of course. But to try to have a fresh start is a big mistake. For starters, you might lose the bonus points that many reapplicants receive for tenacity and demonstrated interest. Second, you might be compromising your list of schools for something that won't ever hurt you. Even a school that is not known to be reapplicant friendly, like HBS, usually has a larger reason. For Harvard, they tend to favor younger students and rock stars, so getting dinged can hurt your case on the latter point (even if it is subconscious for the reader) and simply make you a year older on the former. Not only that, but schools shift and evolve, often rapidly, so use great caution trying to label schools as either be "for" or "against" reapplicants. Two years ago, reapplicants seemed to enjoy amazing results at Columbia, while last year it appeared to be tougher sledding. We watched as Wharton went from "reapplicant friendly!" to "hates reapplicants!" and back again - twice - in the span of about five years. Trying to make decisions based on perception and consensus (forums) is always pretty much the worst way to go about things, but that is never more true than in trying to figure out which schools will be receptive to you reapplying. Just go for it and let the schools sort that out.
2. Don't read into application format. Columbia and UCLA Anderson feature reapplicant essays only, where you provide "new" information, but not a fresh application. So ... are they "harder" on reapplicants? Not at all. As mentioned above, we have seen Columbia respond very favorably to reapplicants in certain years - especially those who apply very early for Early Decision (we're talking July here). So don't read into the fact that Kellogg lets you submit a whole new application and a reapplicant essay, while UCLA doesn't. They require different approaches, but one's not more likely to admit you than the other on those grounds alone. Further, the different formats don't necessarily imply a different review process. Columbia isn't any more likely to do a "side by side" comparison of last year and this year than Kellogg is - just because they ask for an update (rather than a new application) does not mean they will analyze you differently. In fact, applicants should always imagine that the current application will be the only thing reviewed - if it's not on the page, it doesn't exist. Don't fall into the trap of *only* providing updates when you engage in that type of reapplication exercise - be sure to state (well, restate) your goals, transferable skills, passion for the school, and other key elements that are simply musts when trying to gain admission to an elite business school.
3. There are many forms of "updates." Speaking of updates, so many reapplicants get hung up on not having enough to "update" the school on - especially when they were dinged in Round 2 of one year and then apply Round 1 of the next year. Don't sweat this. In addition to new test scores, work promotions, new experiences (life and work), and even classes taken on the side, you also can have an updated perspective. Better formed career goals, a better insight into the specific school, better stated themes ... it's all updated and improved. And if they can tell you spent more time, did more research, and maybe got some assistance in improving those areas? They will be happy, because you understand your own candidacy better and are more prepared for b school.
4. Don't fear the overhaul. Another weird myth that seems to persist among reapplicants is that you can't dramatically change your narrative in the new application. The idea goes something like this: they will see my application from last year and know that I changed everything. For starters, no, they probably won't (see Point #2). Admissions officers have thousands of files to read - rarely are they going to double down for one person. But even if they did ... so what? People can't grow? Evolve? Better themselves? Improvement is not a bad thing, whether in understanding of self, writing style, or even the packaging of your story. You do every single person a favor when you get better. Never, ever run from improvement because you think it will somehow reflect poorly. It's pretty much impossible.
5. Don't panic. The most common type of reapplicant we work with is someone who got oh-so-close and barely missed. (Full disclosure: this is partly because of our philosophy of only working with candidates we believe we can help reach their goals, so it is self-selecting.) The hardest thing about working with this type of student is keeping them calm. They all want to retake the GMAT, no matter their score. They want to take four new extension classes and join five new organizations and generally transform themselves. Going back to #3 on this list, the best updates are usually in perspective and presentation. In all likelihood, if you got close (getting waitlisted, interviews without an admit, etc.), it means you don't need to transform, you just need to tweak. In almost every case, essay structure needs to be fixed (business school applicants are the worst at structure, no offense), career goals need to be better articulated (our best guess is that 95 of every 100 MBA candidates do not correctly lay out career goals and articulate the appropriateness of the degree in question) and school fit better demonstrated (more like 99 out of 100 candidates miss critical DNA elements of the schools to which they are applying, instead hitting only the shallow, basic, and easily-researched aspects). THAT is usually the way to a new result ... NOT trying to become a new person.
We hope that everyone who reapplies this year reads this post and is helped by these rules of thumb.
If you are interested in a free initial consultation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our boutique approach pairs you with the exact expert you would be working, meaning you will be talking to someone capable of walking you through the above steps and perfecting your application.