Now that Round 1 applicants have heard from the programs they applied to, and Round 2 applicants will receive decisions back from schools within the next month, it’s time to talk about what it means if you get waitlisted.
If you end up waitlisted, your first question might be, “Well, now what?” While few candidates celebrate landing on the waitlist, don’t give up hope. First of all, waitlist status by your target school is a good sign. You’re someone they would like to have in the class, but something is holding up a final decision.
Perhaps your profile is near-identical to someone who they did admit. In this case, the admissions team wants to balance the class carefully and needs to see other candidates in subsequent rounds. Or, your application might have a weakness that’s giving the admissions committee pause. If the latter is correct, there may be steps you can take to increase your chances of admission.
Should I Stay on the Waitlist?
Ultimately, the decision to stay on the waitlist depends on your interest level in that particular MBA program. If it’s your top choice, you may want to remain on the list until school begins. That could mean moving quickly and giving up a deposit on a school that has offered you firm admission.
If the program is not your first choice, or you would like to settle your MBA plans before school starts, you may choose to remove your name from the list. If that’s the case, do so promptly and give someone else a chance at their MBA dream.
Take Note of Each School’s Waitlist Policy
It is essential to follow the rules, so make sure you understand your school’s waitlist policy. Some schools ask that you refrain from submitting additional materials. But most schools allow and even encourage meaningful updates.
“Be patient, and send thoughtful updates of something truly important (e.g., move internationally or major award/achievement),” shared a former HBS Admissions Officer on the SBC team.
Find out if your schools publish webinars with advice for waitlisted applicants or offer application feedback.
Improve Your Odds While Waitlisted
The top three reasons candidates get waitlisted: unclear post-MBA goals, low test scores or GPA, and lack of quantitative preparation. Esther Magna, a principal here at SBC, offers this waitlist advice.
She counsels applicants to do some self-reflection to discover any weakness in their application, such as a low GMAT score or ineffective essays, that could make the admissions team hesitant to offer them a place.
The key is to identify and take action on them, she says. When deciding what improvements merit an update to the admissions team, Magna says, “A promotion, raise, or an award is almost always a useful piece of information to share.”
She also notes that sometimes, demonstrating a firm commitment to the school can help your odds. One SBC client applying to Duke’s Fuqua School of Business turned a waitlist decision into an admit by sending the admissions team a picture of his child wearing a Fuqua shirt. “Some programs are ‘suckers’ for kids,” Magna says.
What Not to Do When On the Waitlist
No matter which school’s waitlist you may land on, make sure every interaction you have with the admissions department adds value to your file.
Don’t overwhelm the adcom’s inbox!
Exercise restraint in communications. But also convey your enthusiasm whenever possible, as they want to be sure you’ll say yes if admitted. An information overload will negatively impact your candidacy, so use your good judgment here.
In episode #38 of our B-Schooled podcast, host Erika and former Admissions Director Lisa (also on the SBC staff) go in-depth on tactics that do and don’t work for waitlisted candidates. Here, you’ll learn why candidates get waitlisted and what information adcoms are looking for if updates are allowed.
Finally, to all those waitlisted candidates out there, take heart. If you were not someone they thought could be a great addition to the class, you wouldn’t be on the waitlist. Hang on and stay strong—and positive—as you wait out this last leg of the MBA admissions process.
A number of waitlisted candidates are ultimately accepted into top programs each year, so there’s reason to remain positive!
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