If you applied to b-school for fall 2011, you should have received the admissions committee’s decision by now. Whether you’ve been accepted, waitlisted, or rejected by your dream school, this guide will help you figure out what to do next.
Congratulations! You just got admitted to business school and hopefully, at one of your top choices. You’re looking forward to meeting new people and jumping back into the classroom. If you’re deciding between several schools (or deciding whether you should go back to school or keep working for a few more years), make sure you attend the admitted students’ weekend at your potential schools. There, you’ll get a sense of your potential classmates and the culture of the school.
Though you should pay attention to rankings, average total compensation, and placement rates as you make your decision, you should also consider more nebulous factors like the culture of the school and the character of the student body. Here are several questions that will help clarify the decision for you:
- Culture. Is there an emphasis on teamwork and collaboration? Are there official study groups or are students expected to find their own?
- Curriculum. Do you want an emphasis on general management in your business education–or deep dives into specific subject areas? A lecture or case-based approach? Or both? To what extent do you value sustainability and corporate responsibility?
- Placement. Are you confident that a degree from this school will yield the kind of opportunities you’re expecting it to?
- Location. Do you want to go skiing every weekend with your MBA cohort? Or hit up every urban hotspot with your old buddies from college?
- Size and diversity. Do you want to know every single person in your class within two months or do you want to be meeting new people at the end of your two years?
- Scholarships. Will the extra cash in your pocket allow you to take greater risks after graduation? To what extent do you value your short-term financial freedom?
Tough decisions generally signify you’ve done something right and given yourself options, though sometimes it may feel preferable to have them made for you!
This is a confusing position to be in, but not necessarily a negative one. Getting waitlisted indicates that you’re qualified for admission; depending on the school, you may have beat out 80%-90% of the applicant pool, which can be quite an achievement.
Why were you waitlisted? Here are the most common reasons: lack of quantitative preparation, lack of work experience, low GPA or GMAT score, and unclear or unrealistic career goals. The good news is that all the above (aside from low GPA) can be fixed with a few months to a few years of soul-searching and professional development.
First determine what the school expects of its waitlisted applicants–if it welcomes contact or expects you to just sit tight. Within the parameters of each school’s expectations, be proactive: get an extra letter of recommendation, send in updates about promotions and achievements, or take a class in accounting or finance (just make sure that you’re adding and not detracting from your application, or simply padding it with extraneous information). One of the most tangible ways you can make a difference in your candidacy is to retake the GMAT. A score that is higher than the school’s median could seriously change things in your favor.
Give yourself some time off from business school forums and internet news articles about MBA programs. When you’re ready to assess the situation, try to figure out why you were rejected. Here are some of the most common reasons: lack of consistency across application, overrepresented applicant pool, lack of quantitative preparation, lack of work experience, low GPA or GMAT score, and unclear or unrealistic career goals. You can improve in most of the above areas, so be completely honest with yourself about your weaknesses. A very small number of schools offer feedback to denied applicants; be sure to seek out that information if possible. If you need an outside opinion, you can always employ the services of an admissions consultant or ask an alum of the program to offer his/her opinion.
Remember: Apps come in many rounds and seasons for a reason. You could be ready to go again in just a few months! In the grand scheme of things, a bit of time won’t make a difference and could even improve your career trajectory (give you better chances of landing a desirable job out of school) if you take some more time to develop your candidacy.