You didn’t get into any of the programs you applied to. Understandably, you are pretty upset about it, and wondering a few things: Should I reapply? If so, which programs should I reapply to, and when? Should I apply to some different schools? The decision to deny an applicant is usually a combination of factors, but these are some of the things you should do to objectively assess your candidacy, and help you decide whether an MBA reapplication is the right decision for you.
1. Analyze your profile.
Were you really qualified for the programs that you applied to? Were your test scores really high enough? Did you have enough work experience or extracurricular activities to showcase? You’ve got to 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 top schools. In essence, if you fail to convince the school that you can handle the work or represent the school well to recruiters… you’re toast.
Tip: Assuming you were rejected in R1, 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, earned A’s in additional coursework, assumed leadership roles, initiated something of consequence, increased professional responsibilities, strengthened extracurriculars, etc.).
2. Evaluate your application.
This is easier said than done; it’s hard to objectively judge something that you’ve put your heart and soul into. But it needs to be done. Did you present your qualifications in the best light? Were your application essays well written and persuasive? Did you interview well? If these aspects of your application were okay, then what went wrong? If you’re lucky enough to receive application feedback from the school(s) that dinged you, then you should carefully review, evaluate, and act based on that feedback. If you plan on reapplying, this information is crucial.
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 on their own. 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 admissions committee may ding you for lacking such qualifications, even though you may have them, because you failed to present them effectively.
Tip: Use a combination of anecdotes and analysis to present your unique story and perspective while demonstrating fit and revealing the character traits top MBA programs seek. Show a history of contribution so that evaluators can easily see that you will be a contributor when you arrive on their campus. Make sure all written components are articulate and compelling to demonstrate your communications skills. Introduce yourself as a real human being that they will want to meet in person at an interview. Use this tip to apply R2/R3, or reapply next year with a stronger application that clearly highlights your qualifications, fit, and goals.
3. Examine your school choices.
Did you apply to programs based on your post-MBA goals and qualifications? Did you aim too high? Or is it possible that you were qualified for these programs but that you didn’t properly portray fit? Did you focus too heavily on rankings and brand instead of showing that given your goals and qualifications and the school’s strengths and culture, you and your target school are a match made in heaven?
Every once in a while we hear from prospective clients who approach the idea of an MBA degree from a very narrow viewpoint. “If I don’t get into Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton, there is no point in me getting an MBA.” In 99% of the cases, the applicants, blinded by these eminent schools’ dazzling brands and reputations, miss opportunities at other programs. Furthermore, with that kind of thought process, those applicants have a miserable time showing fit. Just how deeply do you think an applicant like this can express why a particular school is “right” for them?
It is very easy for admissions committee members to see through the shallowness of reputation as the sole reason for wanting to attend. If you didn’t take the time to either visit the campus or speak to current students or alumni, you wouldn’t have had much to say about your fit with the program.
Tip: When you reapply, make sure you have logical and credible reasons for needing to attend your target school. Make sure your school choice and career goals are a strong match. Visit campus, if possible, and see the program in action.
4. Did you apply early in your target schools’ application process?
For most programs “early” translates into an application submitted during or prior to the January deadlines. Round 1 (and at the latest round 2) is the ideal time to apply if your profile is well-represented, either demographically (Indian IT male, for example), or professionally (consultant). By the time round 3 rolls around, the incoming class profile has taken shape to a certain extent, and at that point the admissions committee is more interested in bringing in outliers.
Tip: Analyze your profile as it relates to others in the applicant pool, and apply as early as possible in the next application cycle without compromising your application’s quality.
5. Decide What You’re Going to Do Differently
There is one approach you should NOT take: The same one you took last time.
What are you going to change about your strategy in approaching the process? How are you going to execute better?
Tip: Using the tips above, put together an action plan to change and submit a stronger application than you did the first time around.
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, contact us for an MBA Application Review. An objective, knowledgeable MBA admissions expert will evaluate your qualifications and your dinged application and it will cost you a lot less money (and time) than another bunch of rejected applications.
• Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One, a free guide
• Take 2: How to Reapply Right to Business School, a free webinar
• How to Reapply Successfully to Top MBA Programs, a short video