Round 1 MBA acceptance decisions have been shared and unfortunately, you are not officially "in" at the MBA program of your dreams. While that can be incredibly disappointing, not to mention frustrating, the good news is that you were NOT officially denied and still stand a chance of being accepted. Rather than sitting around stressing over things you can't control, here are six tips for what you can do while you are on an MBA program wait list.
1. Breathe, Relax
Do some deep breathing, take a walk outside, have a cup or glass of your beverage of choice, and see the situation for what it is—your application is still in play, and you still have a chance of securing a spot in the MBA program of your choice. You have not failed, this is not the end of the world, and life as you know it is not over. When you are placed on a waitlist, that means there is SOMETHING about your application the Admissions Committee liked enough to keep you in the running for a position in the incoming class. Go ahead and accept your spot on the waitlist before the given deadline and know that this is merely one more step in a long, exhausting, and complicated process.
2. Look at the Numbers
While your GMAT score and GPA are not the only numbers the Admissions Committee will look at, these numbers are clearly important since they drive MBA program rankings. Although there is nothing you can do to improve your GPA at this point, consider whether retaking the GMAT might be a good next step. Perhaps it would be a wise idea to invest both time and money into scheduling some private tutoring sessions to help you brush up on any areas of the exam that were challenging for you the first time you took it. Particularly if your GMAT score is below the average score for the program you wish to attend, give some serious thought to retaking the test in an attempt to perform better and score higher, demonstrating to the Admissions Committee how seriously you take being admitted into their program.
3. Connect with the School
Make it clear to the Admissions Committee that you want a seat in their program more than anything and will take it IMMEDIATELY if it is offered to you. If you have not already done so, arrange a visit to the school. Engage with students there. Prior to visiting, check to see if it is possible to meet with particular instructors or even to sit in on a class. Identify areas of the program you believe you could easily and enthusiastically contribute to, and learn more about the specific goals of the program, as well as what administrators, staff, and faculty value and would like to see more of in the coming years. Stop by the Admissions Office and introduce yourself as a wait-listed candidate and speak to your enthusiasm for being admitted, as well as how you are continuing to improve your professional and/or academic experiences as you await a final decision.
4. Ask for Support
Is one of your colleagues an alumnus of the MBA program you are currently waitlisted for? Is your former college roommate a student in the program? Does your mother have a friend who graduated from the MBA program that waitlisted you? Do you, your family members, or friends know people connected with the MBA program? Consider reaching out to them and asking if they will write a letter of support to the program, highlighting why they believe you would be a good fit and noting the experiences and accomplishments you possess that make you an ideal student for this program. Be courteous and appreciative of any efforts alumni make on your behalf, and remember that asking politely for assistance is much more likely to be well-received than demanding someone take action to help you or coming from a position of entitlement. Make use of the connections you have while being kind and professional and making it easy for an alumnus to say good things about you to the Admissions Committee.
5. Prepare for the Program
Ask yourself if you are truly ready to take on the quantitative rigor of an MBA program. The Admissions Committee does not want to admit candidates who are likely to struggle with the core curriculum. If there are academic or professional areas you are not as strong in compared to others, seek out ways to strengthen your experiences and skills. If you lack knowledge or experience in certain business processes, consider enrolling in a course or class that will supplement your existing skill base and demonstrate how seriously you take being admitted into the MBA program. Consider securing a formal or informal mentorship or internship, as well, ideally with an alumnus who might write you a letter of support or make a call or send an email on your behalf. Taking active steps to improve yourself right now can set you apart from other waitlisted candidates and demonstrate that you are ready for the challenges of graduate-level work.
6. Submit an Update
Many programs welcome updates as you wait for a final decision, and if your MBA program offers this option, be sure to take advantage of it. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss how you have been improving your business experience or knowledge, perhaps through working with someone as part of a training mentorship or gaining first-hand skills in an associated class or course. As a waitlisted candidate, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the program, as well as your readiness to commit your deposit as soon as the Admissions Committee gives you the nod. Continue to be enthusiastic and upbeat about the possibility of attending the program and avoid any traces of bitterness or complaining in the update you provide. Use this as another opportunity to highlight how hard you are willing to work and what an even stronger fit you will be for the program.
While completing some or all of these steps is no guarantee of eventually securing your spot in an MBA program, it is incredibly important to be proactive and to do what you can as you wait to hear a final decision. Be professional, courteous, and respectful in all your communication with the MBA program and put your best foot forward as you await notification of a change in your waitlisted position.