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Business School Admissions: Short answers for the road to your MBA Application

Business School Admissions: Twenty two answers for the road to your MBA application

I wrote these answers 10 years ago. I had just started at business school and the pain of the business school admissions process to a top ten MBA program was fresh in my mind. Other business school applicants were now asking the same questions, I had asked myself a few months earlier.

A decade and change later I can still look back to the days leading to the decision to apply to business school, the application process, the dreaded GMAT CAT, the unending editing application essays cycle, the last three days that stretched into hours of stress, tension and last minute crisis before the applications were Fedexed to New York, Boston and Philly. I also remember the letters of rejection, the waitlist decision from Columbia, the US embassy’s denial of my F-1 visa application in London, our first day on campus in New York, day one of orientation and the exhilaration of taking my first MBA elective course at Columbia Business School.

Admittedly the world around us has changed. Ten years later I now teach at business school, mentor prospective students and business school applicants, interview candidates on their way to a top ten MBA program, hire graduates coming out of the MBA program and run businesses into the ground for a living. While the relevance and sanity of all of these answers is not guaranteed, some of these answers are still worth looking into. I don’t think they will ever be dated.

Still you are a grown up kid now. You should know when to trust complete strangers who name themselves after disgusting insects and when to listen to the voice inside your head.   If you do hear a voice inside your head there are some excellent self help books available for people with self contained AM/FM stations within their cranium. 

Here are the last two answers from my list of twenty two questions, business school applicants ask me on a regular basis. For the entire collection, please see my post on Business School Admissions on the Corporate Finance Training blog.

21. I have been waitlisted by the admissions committee?

Only a few possibilities here. The school is thinking, in order of importance.

  • You are good but you may be too good for us. We are not sure if we make you an offer you will come to us.
  • Everything else is okay but we are not sure about a few things. We need more information from you.
  • We are not sure that you will be able to pay for your education or that you have thought this out completely.
  • We are not sure if you really need an MBA or what are you going to do with it.
  • The first thing you now need to do is get more proactive. There is some confusion about what proactive means. There is only one definition: being visible in a nice sort of a way. You want them to know that you are around but in you are not exactly in their way. First of all ask the reason why you have been wait listed and what you can do to change your status. In order to change your status you need to be sincere about going to this specific school.  Admissions officers can smell a fake from a distance.  So if you are really serious about this school make sure you tell them. Not just that the school is important but the things that you have done so far that indicate that this specific school is on the top of your list.

    Once you have done this stay in touch. Use every additional stay-in-touch mail/email/phone call to further strengthen your case. Writing or mailing is preferable over phone calls because these are high visibility/long life/low disturbance mediums. Getting an admission’s officer on phone in March/April may be a bit difficult.

    If you ask what are your chances you may get a vague answer in the beginning. You need to work on this. If you ask how many people are there on the wait list, you won’t get an answer. If you ask where exactly you are on the wait list, very few schools will tell you. This is going to be a very frustrating period but you need to keep at it and you need to maintain an extremely positive outlook. 

    22. I have been rejected by the admissions committee?

    Rejection is normally very difficult to handle. It is tougher if you miss out on all the schools that you applied to. It also depends on how desperate you were to go to school in the first place. Under any circumstances, after putting a good part of the last four months on the admission cycle its really very tough to get the ‘We won’t be able to offer you a place in next year’s class’.

    You now need to look forward. Did you get into any school at all? Is that school worth going to? Was that one of your key choices? How will going to this school change your long term plans?

    But what if you didn’t make it. Four months and a few hundred dollars down (a few thousand if you paid for GMAT prep) you have been left standing by the side of the road while everybody else has simply packed up and left. It’s not over as yet. Did you really need that MBA to make it big in life? I mean, it is a terrific opportunity and your family would have been floored by your acceptance at HBS but is it really the end of the world?

    No, it is not. You can still start your own show, you can still change the world, you can still live in Boston, you can still make your first million. You have just saved yourself quarter of a million dollars in educational expenses and lost opportunity costs.  If this is not enough consolation you still have next year. As a re-applicant your chances would probably be higher. Get in touch with the school and get their feedback on the reasons for your rejection. Then do something about them.

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