5 Things To Do When You Get MBA Waitlisted
Updated: Feb 1
Why you got waitlisted
After spending months studying for the GMAT/GRE exams, contemplating your post-MBA narrative and perfecting your essays, being placed on the waitlist of your dream school is frustrating. However, this is not a death sentence. It means you matched the school’s criteria and the AdCom is interested in your profile, but something went wrong. Things that might have gone wrong:
The school may have received more competitive applications than usual. Application year 2021-22 (right after Covid) was a particularly competitive year, for example.
You might not meet their diversity targets. Business school classroom experience (and rankings) depend on their cohort's diversity, so if they received lots of great applications from your applicant pool, you may have been waitlisted.
You might have underperformed in the interview. We often see applicants receiving an interview purely on stats (eg. a super high GMAT), but fail to convey a clear post-MBA goal in the interview.
Either way, you’ve been waitlisted. They won’t offer you a place right away, but you may receive an offer at a later date – if you play your cards right.
What to do when you’re waitlisted
Instead of sitting on your hands and feeling like you’re stuck in limbo, here’s 5 things you can do to stay sane:
1. Accept the offer
It sounds obvious, but start by gritting your teeth and accepting the offer. Don’t let your pride get in the way at this stage. It won’t feel great to accept the waitlist spot, and even worse to pretend you’re happy about doing it, but there’s no hard feelings.
You must get over any negativity and try to change your mindset. You’re not losing anything by accepting your place on the waitlist. And it’ll start to feel easier when you’ve taken the situation into your hands by following steps 2 - 5.
2. Write a Letter of Continued Interest
Tell the AdCom that you’re still interested in their program and intend to wait for them to decide on your candidacy. Reassure them that you wouldn’t reject their offer, helping them to preserve their “yield” (% of admitted candidates who accept the offer).
How to structure a Letter of Continued Interest
Start by thanking the Admissions Committee
Consider addressing any weak spots in your application you missed in your original application: eg, poor GMAT/GRE scores, low GPA, or lack of managerial experience.
Have you completed a business certification, taken a quant class, retaken the GMAT/GRE, had a job promotion or switched to a senior role? If so, share any resume updates.
Try and participate in more school events, visit the campus, connect with professors / current students / alumni and add that to your letter. Mention your takeaways from your conversations, how you developed a better understanding of the school’s ecosystem, and realized an even deeper motivation to pursue your MBA at this school.
In case you were waitlisted before getting an interview and you believe that there were some aspects of your profile that didn’t come up naturally in your application, you can even make a gentle request for an interview.
3. Improve your credentials
While waitlisted, you can still improve your credentials and update the school, so you should!
GMAT/GRE: Consider biting the bullet and resitting the GMAT/GRE. Even a 10 point improvement in your GMAT score gives you an excuse to update the school, and might be the difference between you and other waitlisted candidates.
Courses: Aside from the GMAT, you might be able to finish a course that addresses a weak point in your application. Maybe you gave up on a Coursera Python course because MBA applications took over – then go back and finish the course so you can update the school.
Extracurriculars: If extracurriculars were a weak point in your profile – often the case for many consultants and investment bankers with crazy hours – you might use this time to take up a new leadership responsibility at your extracurricular activity.
4. Letters of support
Some schools offer the option to alumni and current students to write “letters of support” in support of certain applicants. The school’s theory is that current students and alumni are well positioned to speak to the culture fit between you and the school.
So if you have any friends or colleagues who are current students or alumni of the school, now is the time to call in a favor! Ask them to submit a letter of support on your behalf, mentioning:
How they know you
How your personality fits with the school
Schools that offer the option of letters of support include Ross, Booth, Yale and Kellogg.
5. Work on Plan B
Ultimately, whether you get the admit will also depend on factors beyond your control. For example, how many admits accept their offers, and how many defer or decline their offers. Only about 20-30% of applicants who get waitlisted after an interview eventually receive offers.
So as well as completing steps 1-4, you should start thinking about the next round of applications. If you have other offers, you should probably put down your deposit for your second choice to keep your options open. Yes, you may lose the money if you get off the waitlist at your preferred school, but often schools will refund the deposit anyway (contrary to what you may have read online, we’ve seen it happen).
Needless to say, if you had plans to resign from your job and travel the world, don’t do this based on a waitlist spot.
Oh and there’s one more thing you can do. Book a 20 mins free strategy chat with our team of experts.