Today’s post comes from Manhattan Review Switzerland, a well-known provider of test prep and MBA Admissions Consulting in Zurich and Geneva for Top Business Schools.
Getting into an MBA program is definitely a challenge. At Manhattan Review, many applicants ask us: “After being rejected the first time, what are my chances of being accepted?” We believe they are better than you think. There is plenty of solid evidence that re-applicants are frequently admitted at a higher rate for the following reasons: because successful ones have an improved understanding of their goals; they have shown the admission committees that they are seriously dedicated to the school; that they have learned more about the negative aspects of their first applications and therefore made some changes; and generally have an easier time of presenting themselves in terms of establishing their strengths and abilities the second time around.
Without a doubt, recovering from business school rejection is difficult. How often have you asked yourself “what are they looking for?” We’re here to share the knowledge we’ve gained directly from talks with several admission committee members. Here’s what was stated: academic track record, leadership capability, professional experience, and what the candidate can contribute to the school’s program. Not rocket science, but the good news is that you have another chance to apply. That said, you’ll want to have a look at these helpful steps before preparing your second application.
Take time off.
There’s a certain sadness associated with any rejection, so the best advice we can give is to get some distance from the event to afford a clearer perspective. Take a breather to process all the thoughts swirling around in your head. Starting over without taking time off is sure to set you up for failure. Do what you enjoy doing. Spend time with close friends and family. Focus on your hobbies and interests outside of school. After all, you’re more than a business school applicant! A fair amount of re-applicants spend as much as 4-6 months just considering one aspect of their application, for example, whether their dream school is a good fit for them. Moving slowly and with a steady focus will guarantee that you won’t end up with a mediocre second application.
Have another look at your dream school.
What did I feel was so perfect about the school? Are my goals and background a good match with the school? Would another business school be more suitable for me than my dream school? It’s a good idea to put your answers to these questions to paper. That way you’ll see them in a form more concrete than just free-floating thoughts. Invest some time analyzing all the things that attracted you to your school of choice. Engage with the school’s students and faculty if you didn’t accomplish this the first time around. This will, undoubtedly, give you more helpful information way beyond what’s written in a brochure or on the school website. Try to attend school functions or sit in on classes wherever possible.
A counselor at one of the top tier schools advises his business school applicants to zero in on more than one dream school, “… we need to depart from the idea that there is only one dream school, rather I tell the applicants from the onset it’s best to put together a balanced list of schools so that they’d be happy to attend any one of these.”
After consideration and much research on other MBA programs, if you still feel that there is only one dream school for you, consider writing a letter of appeal. In it you could list attributes that were omitted from your original application. You could reiterate your continuing desire to gain admission; emphasize your reasons for appealing; and of course, describe all that has transpired professionally since the initial application.
Take a critical look at the first time.
A good list of several questions you’ll want to address.
- Did I exhibit confidence during the first interview?
- Were my leadership examples compelling?
- Did I make a strong case that I would make a good fit?
- Did I stress my community involvement?
- Were my letters of recommendation glowing?
Several school administrators we spoke to say letters of recommendation are the most critical area of an application, since they always give a third party’s evaluation of you. We discovered that two of the most essential items rarely mentioned, even in some of the best letters, are adequate examples of work style and leadership skills. Make sure you ask individuals who really want to write a letter and who you feel will devote the time needed to offer an insightful and stunning recommendation. You can manage the endeavor in your favor by presenting the recommenders with a list of examples of your positive attributes that they might refer to in their letters.
Talk to friends and colleagues.
Have a trusted friend who has attended business school review your second application. Ask for honesty and show that you can handle that honesty when it’s given. Create a dialog; ask specific questions about what you think might be weak, what could sound arrogant, etc. Talk to more than one friend, colleague, or counselor. Get as many opinions as possible, and then decide which suggestions you’ll incorporate into the second application. What’s more, seek out people in your field of business to get first-hand information and don’t forget to include this effort in your second application. It shows you’ve gone above and beyond what’s expected to set yourself apart.
In closing, our final advice on the second time around is to have a) a well-researched decision about the business school or schools you’re going to target; b) a strategic plan for yourself after completing the MBA program; c) a strong case for why you are such a good fit. Remember to showcase the best part of you during the interview, whether it’s your humor, your listening skills, or your confidence.
For more insights into the MBA application process we recommend that you attend our free interactive MBA Admissions Webinars where you gain lots of useful insight into the MBA Admissions process from Manhattan Review’s director of Admissions Consulting, a former member of Wharton’s admissions board.