Most schools look more favorably on reapplicants as long as there is a compelling reason to reapply. Recognizing you are likely scarred, but smarter, there are still a few things you should know before diving in.
With a nod to your resiliency, you hopefully have first spent some time formulating a plan B for this go-round. It’s fine to re-apply to your dream schools, but you if you happen to get rejected again, you need to have a fallback this time—a program you’d be satisfied attending even if it’s not your top choice. Life is too short to spend three years trying to get into grad school, and if you haven’t been able to impress the committee for two years in a row, it may simply not be in the cards for you to go there. Often we see clients becoming enamored with a particular school, when in reality, they could receive the same or very similar education and tools (and networks and contacts and jobs) from another school. We are all for dogged determination, but at the end of the day, we want to see you get your MBA and not spend half your career applying to school.
With that, let’s talk about a reapplication strategy.
One of the most valuable things you can use in this situation is feedback on why you didn’t make the cut last time. Some schools will actually provide this information if you ask for it, so don’t be shy about reaching back to them. If you are applying to a school in the top 10, you may not be able to get specifics from the admissions teams on why you didn’t get in due simply to the number of applications they receive, but you can still seek this information from outside sources by confiding in a colleague or contact who has their MBA or perhaps some insight into the process. At the very least, you should sit down with your application and try as objectively as possible to see where you may have come up short. If you have trouble finding such shortcomings, it may simply be the case that there were too many applicants similar to you in the pool last year, and the resulting mathematical odds did not go your way.
Assessing your weaknesses is critical to a reapplication, since you may find favor with the same admissions committee that rejected you in the past if you can somehow inoculate the concern. Of course there are the obvious weaknesses such as a sub-par GMAT score or low GPA, or perhaps you went to a low-ranked state college (nothing you can do about that now of course except to maybe take a course or two at a better school). The tricky part comes in the more subtle components of the application. Perhaps your career vision was not clearly connected to what you did in your past, or maybe you failed to convey a passionate, compelling case for why you need the MBA. Often, it comes down to a failure of message. It could be that the overall picture you painted was not articulated in a way that captured the attention of the committee. How was your fit with your target programs? Was there something in your application that communicated a poor match with their culture or curriculum? These are the questions that can truly drive you crazy, since it’s largely guesswork.
Whether or not you can isolate and address a weaknesses in your application, however, is not nearly as important as communicating to the committee what you have done since last year to make you a better candidate this year. This is the number one most important issue to consider when re-applying. In fact, many schools will only require one essay for a re-applicant, which is basically some version of “what has changed to make you a more viable candidate?” This is where you should focus, and hopefully you recognized this task soon enough after your rejection last year so that you have spent the past 12 months making things happen to improve your candidacy. From bettering your GMAT results, to getting a promotion at work, to seeking out new leadership opportunities, there is really no limit to what you can do to improve your profile. If those efforts happen to directly address an identified weakness, even better.
Many schools show favor to re-applicants. Some say your odds go up 30% when you reapply. Maybe schools like the determination they see, or appreciate the demonstration of passion for and commitment to their program. Or perhaps re-applicants simply work harder in the 12 months between seasons to sharpen their attractiveness as a potential MBA candidate. Whether it’s self-fulfilling prophesy or statistical advantage, there are good reasons to try again at your target schools, so long as you give some thoughtful analysis to why you didn’t make it and apply some concerted effort into new achievements to enrich your profile.