4 Reasons You Got Dinged (And What You Can Do About It)

Check out our MBA Application Evaluation service. You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes again.

The adcom may ding you because you failed to present your qualifications effectively.

Many top MBA programs released decisions in the past several days, including: Chicago Booth, Cornell Johnson, Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, UVA Darden, and Wharton.

Did your app hit the chopping block? Here’s why:

1) You didn’t qualify.

You gotta call a spade a spade sometimes (or always, really). If you had weak test scores, low grades, or inadequate work experience either quantitatively or qualitatively, then you’re just not going to measure up at the top schools. In essence you fail to convince the school that you can handle the work or represent the school well to recruiters…and you’re toast. …and they may be right. (Sorry to be tough here, but not everyone is qualified to attend H/S/W/C.)

TIP: Apply R2/R3 to different, less competitive programs OR reapply next year to the same schools after you’ve strengthened your profile (improved test scores, taken additional coursework, increased work responsibilities, etc.).

2) You didn’t present your qualifications, fit, or goals well.

There are a number of points to be made here. B-schools seek applicants with multiple talents, and you need to demonstrate that you’ve got them. Competitive stats are frequently necessary for admission, but not sufficient. For example, if you have the stats, but didn’t show the soft skills, didn’t show fit, didn’t explain why you need the degree from this particular program, or failed to present your achievements in an authentic, thoughtful, and compelling way, then the answer could easily still be DECLINE. The adcom may ding you for lacking such qualifications, even though you may have them, because you failed to present them effectively.

TIP: Apply R2/R3 or reapply next year with a stronger application that clearly highlights your qualifications, fit, and goals.

3) You were a victim of the numbers at intensely competitive programs that reject more qualified applicants than they can accept.

This is true of most top 15 programs especially if someone comes from an over-represented group in the applicant pool.

TIP: Apply R2/R3 to different programs or reapply next year to the same ones and keep your fingers crossed for better luck!

4) Combination of the above.

Most likely you weren’t rejected for one single reason, but due to a combination of various factors.

For more on understanding your rejection (and then doing something about it!), please see http://www.accepted.com/mba/rejection-acceptance-videos.aspx#2.

And let’s face it, it’s hard to be objective about your application. If you’re unsure why you were rejected or what you can do to change the outcome next time around, check out our MBA Application Review. You really don’t want to repeat the same or similar mistakes again.

Don't make the same mistakes again! Get expert help for when you reapply.

Linda AbrahamBy Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Related Resources:

The MBA Admissions Directors’ Recipes for Rejection
4 Reasons for Rejection
Tips for Executive MBA Reapplicants

Tips for Executive MBA Reapplicants

Download your free copy of Ace the EMBA: Expert Advice for the Rising Executive

Work on putting together that “superstar” profile.

If you have been rejected from an Executive MBA program, it often comes down to one of three reasons (or combination thereof):

1) Your academic record was not strong enough to convince the admissions committee you could handle the rigor of an EMBA program,

2) Your work experience was not sufficient/relevant enough yet to be considered a solid addition to the program, or,

3) You did not show adequate interest in the program to warrant an offer of admission.

All of these reasons can be mitigated, with time or effort on your part. At the end of the day, there is no guarantee of admission, but by taking a hard look and assessing your situation, you can make yourself a much stronger candidate by addressing the pertinent issues.

Academic Record

A low GPA in and of itself is not a reason to ding an applicant. What tends to concern schools is when a transcript shows consistently low grades in subjects that are important to have competence in to do well in an MBA program – quantitative subjects in particular. If you do have quantitative weakness, enroll in an Algebra or Statistics course (or both) at a local college – a “real” class as opposed to online would be preferred. Get strong grades, and submit that transcript with your new application. In the optional essay, express how you recognize the admissions committee might have been concerned about your quantitative abilities, but the new grades should allay any concerns. Also lay out any additional plans you may have prior to joining the program to bolster your skills – MBA Math, for example.

Work Experience

In this situation, time and more leadership experience are probably the two best ways to enhance your application. The average years of work experience in an EMBA program is typically 10-15. Some schools specifically state the minimum years of experience necessary to apply. While I was at Cornell, we never seriously considered anyone with less than five years of experience, and when we did admit someone on that lower end of the scale, there was a clear indication the individual was a superstar at his or her organization. So, if you are in the lower range of experience, seek out more high-profile leadership opportunities, and work on putting together that “superstar” profile.

Program Interest

Admissions committees realize most applicants consider multiple options, as they should, and most have a clear first choice school. What tends to bother admissions folks is when it’s obvious an applicant is only applying to a school because it’s a brand name and would be an “ok” fallback.

How can they tell an applicant’s lack of interest? It’s pretty easy – never came to an information session, never visited the campus, never reached out to anyone on the admissions committee, and/or put reasons like “location” and “reputation” in their essay as to why he/she would like to come to the school. With EMBA classes quite small compared to fulltime programs, it is a distinct possibility an applicant with stellar qualifications could be dinged – why offer a spot to someone who clearly has no real interest in attending? If you feel this might be why you were rejected, this reason can be mitigated or eliminated as well. Reach out to admissions committee members and ask questions that show you’ve both done your homework and are thinking seriously about their school. Start sending signals indicating your sincere interest.

Not sure where your application might be lacking? The good news about most Executive MBA programs is that with smaller applicant pools, admissions officers typically have more time to devote to individual applicants. Therefore, make a call and see if you can receive feedback on your application.

Furthermore we here at Accepted are always available to provide a critical analysis of your EMBA application and help you develop a game plan for the future.

Download our free special report

Jennifer WeldJen Weld worked as an admissions consultant and Former Asst. Dir. of Admissions at Cornell’s EMBA program (4 years) prior to joining Accepted.com. She has an additional 10 years of experience in higher ed and corporate marketing.

The Dreaded Med School Rejection: What Now?

Check out our tips for reapplying to med school. Journeys with Joshua: Joshua Wienczkowski walks us through med school at East Tennessee’s College of Medicine with his monthly blog updates. Get an inside look into med school down South through the eyes of a former professional songwriter with a whole lot of clinical experience — thanks Joshua for sharing this journey with us!

Update: Congrats to Joshua on his new position as student adcom member at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine — we know that with his admissions insight, he’ll be a great addition to the team!

“Dear Incredibly Hard Working Pre-Med and Hopeful Doctor,

Our admissions committee has met, and we regret to inform you that you were not selected as a student for our entering class. There were many qualified blah blah blah…”


I worked hard

I shadowed.

I volunteered.

My GPA was great!

I gave everything I had for that stupid MCAT.

What do I tell my parents?

What do I do now?

How you handle rejection says a great deal about your character, but getting turned down from your dream of becoming a doctor can hit hard to even the sturdiest of leaders. So, what should you do in the event of getting a rejection letter from all the schools you applied to? Aside from drinking the beer(s) I hope you have open, keep reading, and I’ll walk you through my plans B, C, D, and everything I laid out in the event I didn’t get accepted to medical school.

VERY first thing to-do is contact admissions at every school that turned you down, and see if an admissions counselor will walk you through their decision to not select you. Tell them you want honesty, so you can work hard at becoming competitive for their institution. Take notes, cross-reference, and find common holes in your application. Was it GPA? MCAT? Shadowing? Letters? Just not ready? Maybe they wanted to see more upper division sciences? Personal statement? Interview? You really need to dig, and have a few mentors go through your application with you to find the weak points that hindered you.

What I’ll do next is walk through scenarios, and offer solutions that I had planned out in the event they were the weak areas. Also, to clarify, I only applied to MD schools.

Shaky Numbers

MCAT and GPA are baselines that every school uses for initial cuts. The hard numbers are that an MCAT below 24 (at least 8 in every section) generally won’t be looked at for MD schools. I know everyone says get a 30, but realistically, you can get accepted with less. If MCAT was the issue, I’m inclined to tell you to reassess why you didn’t achieve the numbers you are capable of attaining. Taking a prep course does not guarantee a certain score, just like simply going to medical school doesn’t make a good doctor. Why did you not achieve your potential? Skim through new study materials. Research all of the available resources. Find the best fit for your learning style, and stick to it. If you’re a black and white, quick and simple person (like me), Exam Krackers is perfect. If you like longer explanations and want to know the “why” behind things, Kaplan or Princeton Review are killer for you.

A GPA less than 3.2 will not get you into medical school. So you blew your GPA in the first few years of college? No one can blame you for this, but if you couldn’t show an upward trend, I think it’s time to consider a Post-Bacc. or a 1 year Master’s to show you can handle the course load. If the admissions counselor at your top choice strongly urges you to think about a Post-Bacc. or 1 year Master’s at their institution, take that as a great omen they like you, and want to see you reach your full potential. It can sometimes be akin to a “conditional acceptance,” but make sure you’ve communicated with the program extensively.

Not so Shadowy Shadowing

A common issue I’ve seen is lack of shadowing, because shadowing shows your interest in medicine, and ensures you understand what you’re dedicating the rest of your life to. The only solution here is to cold call, network, and find an opportunity to shadow more. Many hospitals offer summer programs for Pre-Meds to essentially shadow/intern at their hospital for a summer or extended period of time. If you can’t obtain long-standing shadowing, working at a hospital where you have patient contact and care is often a great way to increase exposure to the field.

Anything that contributes to your exposure to medicine is perfect. An admissions counselor at my school that helped me a great deal once said to me, “if you love fishing, why aren’t you out on the lake right now? If you love patient care, why aren’t you in a hospital every chance you get?”

Interview Blues

There are often times that the person represented in an application doesn’t quite shine through as the person a medical school meets on interview day. It’s a stressful day, and can often hinder your ability to truly represent yourself and the incredibly qualified individual you’ve worked to become. If the interview is what made an admissions committee say no, there are three reasons for this:

1. They just didn’t feel like you were a fit for their school and community. Don’t take it personal in any way. Just like a first date, sometimes the fit isn’t quite right.

2. Maybe you choked. It happens to even the greatest of athletes in the final seconds of a game when everything relies on one last play at the very last inches. Pick yourself back up, practice harder, and find out why you weren’t able to be yourself on the big day.

3. The person in the application was not who they met on interview day. If someone else
writes your application (yes, I’ve seen this happen, and been offered interesting things to pen med school applications), it’s no wonder the application and you were two different people!

Regardless, find out why your interview was the reason, address the reasons, get back on that damn horse, and try again.

So, what if I haven’t addressed an issue for why you didn’t get into medical school?

Sometimes admissions are vague. Sometimes there is no concrete answer. This is frustrating. I implore you to take the feedback you’ve been given, and consider why you chose to pursue medical school. Was it to help people? That’s cool, but you can help people in so many facets.WHY do you want to help people? And WHY as a physician? Why not as a Physician Assistant? What about Physical Therapy? Why not Pharmacy? Don’t give up, by any means, but this timeframe should be a solid gut check that allows you to stand firmly on your statement, beliefs, and reasons for why you absolutely believe you should become a physician.

My backup plans were to call every school that said no, find out exactly why they said no, cross-reference the results, and find common themes. In the meantime, I was going to study even harder for the MCAT, and retake it to blow it out of the water. I was going to apply to every hospital around town and work in any position they would give me, which would allow access to physicians that I could shadow and gain more knowledge from as well as letters. My plan was to call every professional admissions company, like Accepted, and find someone there I felt could empower me, and help me craft my application and interview skills into something unstoppable. I even researched every admissions company, their success rates, and budgeted accordingly (ironically, look who I’m writing for).

Be ruthless.

Be dedicated.

You WILL get into medical school.

If you have specific questions, or just want to chat through your application in hopes of gaining some insight as to what the next step might be, feel free to reach out to me or anyone else at Accepted.

Good luck! You’ll make a damn good doctor, I’m sure of it.


Download Medical School Reapplicant Tips for Succcess


MBA Applicant Blogger Interview with Bschoolgirl

bschoolgirl_avatarWe’d like to introduce you to Bschoolgirl, an anonymous blogger at Girl Meets B-School who will be starting her first year at USC Marshall this fall. A self-proclaimed non-traditional applicant, Bschoolgirl made it into one of her top picks, and shares lots of good advice about her admissions experience. Thank you Bschoolgirl!

Accepted: First, some basics: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? And what is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?

Bschoolgirl: I’m born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I majored in Cinema and Dance at San Francisco State University. In other words, I have the sort of background that makes MBA admissions officers scratch their heads in confusion.

Pride and Prejudice never fails to cheer me up. I listened to the audiobook over and over while waiting for Round 2 decisions.

Accepted: You mention in your blog that you were a reapplicant. What do you think went wrong during your first round of applications? And what did you do the second time around to improve your candidacy?

Bschoolgirl: By pitting myself against business and finance majors, I knew I would have to work harder to prove that I could keep up. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken a ton of quantitative courses and I was on the younger side, with only two and a half years of work experience and less than a year in management. So the first time around, I received three rejections and a waitlist.

In hindsight I’m glad that I failed, because I learned a ton about the admissions process. Admissions officers aren’t sadists. They truly want you to succeed in the program, and it’s your job to convince them that you will. I simply needed to provide more evidence that I had a plan for my career, that I could handle the quantitative coursework, and that I could lead people. I thought I wanted to get into marketing, so I started talking to everyone I knew in that field to learn what skills it would take to make the switch. I took additional courses in Finance and Accounting from a local community college. And I volunteered for a committee at work that involved training others on a new software program. By the time I reapplied, I looked like a totally different candidate. I was admitted to three of my four schools, and decided to attend the USC Marshall School of Business.

Accepted: Why do you think you are a good fit with USC Marshall?

Bschoolgirl: From the moment I stepped on campus I felt at home. Marshall students are diverse, dynamic, and entrepreneurial, which really appealed to me as a nontraditional candidate. The class size is ideal, not so big that I would get lost in the crowd or so small that I would lose out on the network. And with my background, I felt that it was important to be in Los Angeles and to attend a school with a great reputation in the media and entertainment industry.

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to this coming fall? 

Bschoolgirl: Of course I’m excited for the social stuff. I can’t wait to meet my classmates and get involved with some of the student organizations. And this might sound nerdy, but I’m kind of looking forward to the academics. I think taking Finance for the first time has awakened my inner Quant.

Accepted: Do you have any reservations – anything that you’re worried about?

Bschoolgirl: I’m a little concerned about managing my time. I have a tendency to want to get involved in everything, and I’ve heard it’s really easy to overbook yourself in the first year.

Accepted: What have you been doing since graduating college?

Bschoolgirl: I worked as a video editor for about a year after college, but the hours were long and the gigs inconsistent. My next job was at a media services company working with radio and television commercials. We handled distribution for everything from the infomercials you see on late night TV to Super Bowl commercials.

Accepted: Do you plan on staying in the same career post-MBA or moving to a new industry/function?

Bschoolgirl: I’m taking the hard road by attempting to switch industry and function at once: from media to high tech, and from operations to marketing. Marketing appeals to me because it’s both creative and analytical, and I’m completely fascinated by the ways technology is changing how people consume video. Did I mention that I’m kind of a geek?

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your MBA experience?

Bschoolgirl: I started my blog, Girl Meets B-School, because I literally ran out of people to talk to about the things that were stressing me out. Strangely enough, my friends and family weren’t interested in GMAT percentiles and notification deadlines. I try to keep it funny because the rest of the application process is so gosh darn serious. It’s been awesome to discover other MBA blogs and see people stumble across mine, and for a moment we can smile knowingly at each other with that fierce, tired glint in our eyes that says, “Sure, I survived application season. What’s next?”

Do you want to be featured in Accepted.com’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your MBA/EMBA journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at mbabloggers@accepted.com.