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How to Write the MBA Reapplicant Essay

Updated: Feb 1

So, you didn’t get into your target schools the first time around. We know it’s tough to deal with rejection, but you’re not alone. Top MBA programs are very competitive, and even the best candidates face rejection in their application process. For example, Harvard Business School received 9,773 applications in 2020-21, of which only 1010 candidates were able to enroll. UPenn’s Wharton received 7,338 applications and enrolled 897 students for the class of 2023. That amounts to approximately 1 seat per 9.7 candidates for HBS, and 1 seat per 8.2 for Wharton.

The fight is real.

But if you know that you have (and can demonstrate) the skills to be part of a top school’s MBA class even after getting dinged, don’t give up. Reapply in the next cycle.

Your academic timeline may have been shifted, but this gives you more time to strengthen your profile and identify the gaps in your previous application. The application process stays the same for reapplicants across all MBA programs - except for one key addition: The reapplicant essay.

The reapplicant essay is a relatively short piece that tries to understand how you reacted to your rejection, reflected on your application, and rebuilt it to apply this year. Different schools have different ways of asking this question.

Here are some examples of the reapplicant prompts from various schools:

Q. Booth School of Business asks: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/ or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words)

A. Booth is interested to see how candidates have adjusted their short and long term goals as they matured, how these will be realized through an MBA, and how Booth specifically can help their plans. With Booth’s emphasis on leadership and demonstrating excellence, there’s a strong chance that these aspects were inadequate in your previous applications.

Q. Kellogg School of Management asks: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 words)

A. Kellogg’s essay is simple and to-the-point. It is shorter on space and heavily action-oriented. Get into specifics and quantifiable terms. Whether it is retaking the GMAT, or picking up a new course, or taking on more responsibilities at work, Kellogg wants to know if you are an initiative-taker and self-motivated candidate.

Q. The Wharton School asks: Please use this space to share with the Admissions Committee how you have reflected and grown since your previous application and discuss any relevant updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)

A. Wharton’s essay is quite straightforward. No beating around the bush - Wharton has clearly outlined the changes in your profile and directly asks you to discuss them. Again, quantify and highlight Wharton-specific values. You are also asked to introspect and analyze your growth since your previous application, so remember to frame your learning in terms of leadership, collaboration, and personal impact.

Q. Columbia Business School asks: How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate how you plan to achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA professional goals. (500 words maximum)

A. While the essays above were under a tight limit of 250-300 words, Columbia wants you to elaborate. With a 500 word limit, you have ample space to discuss how you reflected on the rejection and channeled resilience this year. As is the norm with these essays, discuss your progress. While reiterating your goal action plan, think about how you can do it differently from last year.

Perhaps you could have explained them better, they weren’t specific enough, or the jump was too radical. Break down your goals into immediate, short-term, and long term plans and identify landmarks that will help you keep a check on your progress.

Pragya worked with us to reapply to Oxford and successfully received an admit. I sat down with her to discuss how she did it. An inspirational story for any MBA reapplicants. Watch that interview below.

Tips to write your MBA reapplicant essay

Now that you’ve read these example prompts, you probably have a fair idea of what universities are expecting from reapplicants. Here are their top asks and some handy tips:

Strict Word Limit: Reapplicant essays are never open-ended. In most cases, real estate is tight. Make sure you address all points adequately, but remember to edit yourself and keep it brief.

Notice What’s Changed: Naturally, submitting the same application that you did last year will get you the same result. Make sure there is tangible progress in your application essays. Consider all aspects, including your choice of career goals, fit with the school, even your recommendations. Make sure everything is up to date and inclusive of recent achievements.

Writing About Change: Don’t be tempted to reuse last year’s essays and stories. Typically, candidates discuss promotions, new responsibilities and qualifications, recent academic programs, international experience, another GMAT/GRE attempt, and less commonly, warm personal anecdotes such as getting married or having a baby. With change comes perspective. The key to a successful reapplicant essay lies in how well you can express the changes in your vision and values.

Get Into The Specifics: Think of actionable steps. Your attitude towards previous rejection and how you reoriented your profile to learn from the situation has to be explained in terms of plans, milestones, and quantifiable actions. These will credibly back up how you deal with failure and crisis.


These essays, while crucial to your application, are only part of your strategy as a reapplicant. You will need to consider your recommendations, goals, GPA, and even your school choices. Want an easy walkthrough of how to create your MBA reapplicant strategy? Head on over to our Strategy Guide.

This could be your year! If you need guidance with your MBA applications, book a free 30 minute chat with me now.


About Us

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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