In honor of the first birthday of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools, by Linda Abraham and Judy Gruen, we are posting a series of excerpts from the book. This post is excerpted from Chapter 10: “Tips for Special Applicants: Waitlisted, Reapplicants, Career Changers, Military, Overrepresented Groups, Underrepresented Minorities, Older Applicants, Younger Applicants.”
Landing on a waitlist can be a nerve-wracking experience. As a result, sometimes waitlisted applicants let their anxiety or disappointment get the better of them. Many adcom members have complained on their blogs of applicants who react emotionally and behave in ways that are demanding, rude, disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate, either in their emails, calls, or even unscheduled drop-in visits to their offices. There may be 200 or more waitlisted applicants at your school, and these types of responses do not demonstrate perseverance; they reveal immaturity and lack of judgment. This behavior is duly noted and will work against you.
If you are waitlisted, take heart: the school is still very interested in you. You’re still a contender. To maximize your chances of turning that waitlist into an acceptance, follow the school’s instructions precisely: Send what they ask for, and don’t send what they don’t want. Update letters should be short – no more than two pages. Keep the letter focused on what you have accomplished since applying. This and additional letters of support will show the adcoms that you are a stronger applicant now than when you first applied.
Open with a brief thank you for continuing to consider your application and reiterate your commitment to the school and your belief that its philosophy and approach fit your educational preferences and goals. The rest of the waitlist letter and additional letters of support should focus on three critical areas:
1. Updating your qualifications
Report any and all substantial achievements since applying: earning a promotion, assuming additional responsibilities at work, or taking notable initiatives in or outside of work. Have you had an article published? Earned a patent? Launched a business? Led a notable project at work? When possible, highlight new accomplishments not previously discussed in your application. Ideally, you should relate these new achievements to some of the themes or experiences you addressed in your essays.
2. Steps you have taken to ameliorate weaknesses
Reinforce the idea that you are working to strengthen a weak spot in your profile. For example, if you enrolled in Toastmasters to improve your communications skills, specify that you joined the group two months ago. Tell them what you are gaining from the experience, but do not say you have taken this step because you are concerned about your low verbal score or substandard grades. If you had a low GPA in quant subjects, did you take an accounting class and earn an A? Have you raised your GMAT score? Have you taken a leadership position in community service, which you had neglected since college?
Report other specific plans for additional classes, including when and where you plan to take them, and state your willingness to enroll in any additional courses or follow any additional instructions that the school recommends or provides.
3. Fit with the school
Continue to prove fit by explaining what else you have done to further your knowledge of their program and build your network there. You may already have mentioned in your application or in an interview how the school’s philosophy and approach match your educational preferences and goals, so in a waitlist letter, cite new examples that illustrate this match. For example, if you have visited the campus (post-submission), mention which class you sat in on, who taught it, and what your impressions were.
Similarly, mention recent email exchanges with alumni or students. What new aspect of the program that jives with your interests have you discovered through these connections? Investing in connecting with the school, its students and resources will help drive home the message that this school is the best place for someone with your post-MBA goals.
MBA admissions directors want waitlisted applicants to show passion, but not obsessive-compulsiveness. Follow these steps, and you can be sure that schools will respond to this extra personal effort, provided that your sincerity is matched by an equal measure of professionalism and courtesy.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of MBA Smarties‘ publication, and Judy Gruen and Linda Abraham the co-authors, will be sharing excerpts from the book. Whether you are still deciding whether to get an MBA, deciding where to apply, working on essays, preparing for interviews, or trying to deal with a “special situation,” MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools provides practical, down-to-earth advice for the MBA application process in a coherent framework — and for less than the cost of a first-run movie. Check it out. Download the first chapter FREE.