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Critical Action Points for Changing Your MBA Waitlist Status to Accepted

Posted on Jul 14, 2018
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Being on the waitlist for admissions to a top tier business school can be rather unsettling. However, getting waitlisted is not the same as getting rejected, and in fact, clearly communicates that you remain a strong candidate for this business school. You still have a chance to tip the scales from ‘waitlisted’ to ‘accepted’, but you need to be proactive now. Below are a set of key next steps to consider, which will need to be tailored and prioritized based on your profile.

  1. Ask yourself, “Why?”
    This is the time to take a step back, and think about why you have been waitlisted. Is there a specific component of your application that you are aware is weaker than the rest? Reread your application, recommendation letters, and essays, and review the website of the MBA program to identify the gaps. Make a list of possible reasons, prioritizing what you consider to be the biggest gaps in your application and which ones you can try to address through subsequent action and communication.
  2. Understand the type of waitlist status you are on
    There are two types of waitlist statuses – opt-in, and opt-out. The opt-in status is when the admissions office requires you to send a response confirming that you would like to stay on the waitlist. The opt-out status is when the admissions committee automatically places you on the waitlist, and only requires a response if you would like to be removed from further consideration. Read the waitlist letter carefully to ensure that you take the next step correctly.
  3. Follow the rules.
    Most schools will provide you with a detailed set of next steps to follow up on getting waitlisted. Some schools may welcome letters of support and updates on your achievements, and on actions you have taken to address your shortcomings. Some may request further recommendations or to take additional courses. Others may specifically state that you only need to communicate your willingness to stay on the waitlist, in which case consistently sharing further information like update or support letters may be frowned upon. These guidelines and protocols vary significantly by MBA program, and should be clearly paid attention to and followed.
  4. Stay in touch with your waitlist manager.
    Most schools will provide you with contact information for a waitlist manager. If no specific waitlist manager is provided, do your research on who your point of contact is at the admissions office. Periodically, you can call or write to your waitlist manager to reiterate your passion for the school and its MBA program, as well as your sincere eagerness to attend. You should also consistently emphasize that you will definitely attend if accepted into the MBA program. Make sure that you limit your contact to once every few weeks, so that you do not bombard or overwhelm your waitlist manager.
  5. Write a letter with updates.
    Received a promotion or award at work? Gained recognition for extracurricular endeavors? Share your success in one passionately worded letter to the admissions committee three to four weeks after you have received your waitlist status. Reiterate your passion for the MBA program, explain recent achievements and steps taken to address shortcomings in your application.
  6. Get a new recommendation and/or letters of support.
    You can submit an extra recommendation letter, or you can request an alumnus to send a letter of support. The alumnus should know you well as a person, but also in terms of your academic prowess, professional background or extra curricular work. Make sure that you do not inundate the admissions office with update and support letters, but that you stagger them over multiple weeks.
  7. Visit the campus.
    Write to the admissions office and ask to see an admissions officer prior to visiting the campus. Be prepared to share updates, and with a relevant set of questions on student life, the campus, and the program’s extracurricular offerings. By doing your research and being well prepared, your sincere eagerness to attend the program and your passion for the school shine through, and are likely to make a positive impact.
  8. Have a backup plan.
    As you are doing everything you can, you can also channel your energy while you wait towards a strong backup plan. Final round deadlines for other MBA programs are around the corner, but you still have time to apply. Alternatively, if you are willing to consider schools outside of the US, there are many that accept applications well into May in European MBA programs. Research your options to select the right business schools, and to see whether it makes more sense to apply now or in Round 1 next year.

Remember, by being placed on the waitlist, the school still considers you to be a strong candidate, so don’t lose heart yet! There are many students that get admitted from the waitlist, so based on your profile, get the right strategy in place and build a strong backup plan.

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