Dos and Don’ts on The Dreaded Waitlist

mbaMission writes a monthly feature for our friends at Beat the GMAT. The following piece was penned for BTG by mbaMission Founder, Jeremy Shinewald:  

In the coming weeks, many candidates will receive responses from MBA admissions committees that can be even more frustrating than rejections: “You have been placed on the waitlist.” So, what do you do when your status is uncertain?  First and foremost, listen to the admissions committee. If the AdCom tells you not to send follow-up material of any sort, then you should not yield to temptation and send material that you think will bolster your case and give you an advantage over your otherwise silent peers. If you (misguidedly) choose to send additional information, when it is not requested, then you will definitely identify yourself in a negative way – not the type of message that you want to send to a group that will determine your fate.

Still, some schools will ask that you follow-up with additional information. In this case, you may also experience some frustration: “What can I offer the MBA admissions committee as an update? I submitted my application three months ago!” You can start by explaining (if applicable) that you have been targeting your weaknesses – retaking the GMAT and increasing your score, for example, or taking a supplemental math class and earning an A grade. Further, if you have any concrete news regarding promotions in your professional life or assumptions of additional responsibilities in the community, you should definitely update the MBA admissions committee on this news as well.

Still, even if you don’t have these sorts of tangible accomplishments, you should have some news to share.  If you have undertaken any additional networking or have completed a class visit since the deadline, you can offer a window into your burgeoning interest in the school. (When you are on a waitlist, the MBA admissions committee wants to see that you are passionately committed to the school.) Further, even if you have not been promoted, you can creatively reflect on a new project that you have started working on and identify the new professional skills/exposure that this project has provided (for example, managing people offsite for the first time or executing with greater independence). Finally, the personal realm is not “off limits.” So, you should feel free to discuss any accomplishments – from advancing in your study of a language to visiting a new country to completing a triathlon (just as examples).

We do want to sound a cautionary note. If you do send additional information, you should be thoughtful and sparing. Ask yourself a simple question: is this information that I would want to receive if I were evaluating a candidate or is this just a correspondence for its own sake? We recommend fewer interactions that indeed count. So, do not rush to connect with your waitlist manager and do not interpret a lack of movement on the waitlist as a lack of interest on your target school’s behalf. Unfortunately, being on the waitlist is akin to running a marathon, not to the 100 meter dash. You will need to stay in the race for the long haul, hoping to top many talented competitors.

With a patient approach, complemented by some thought and creativity, you should be able to develop concise and powerful communications with the admissions committee at your target schools. By showing professional and personal growth, while expressing your sincere and increased interest in the school, you should increase your chances of gaining admission.

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