All You Need to Know About MBA Waitlists Q&A

Guiding clients worldwide through the admissions maze to acceptances at 450+ top schools since 1994

2013 All You Need to Know About MBA Waitlists Q&A with Linda Abraham

Please feel free to let us know if you would like to be informed of future chats by sending an e-mail to We would also be interested in knowing if you would prefer a different format or different topics.

Audio for Q&A (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

Linda Abraham: Hello, my name is Linda Abraham. I'm the president and founder of and the presenter of today's Q&A. First of all, I want to welcome all of you to the webinar and give you a brief overview of what we'll be discussing, as well as the few technical kinds of instructions.

I'll begin with the basics of MBA Waitlist. I anticipate that we'll have 5 or 10 minutes of me just talking and giving you some tips and advice. Then I'm going to open it up to questions and the remainder of this hour will be Q&A. I hope that you thought of some good questions that I'll be able to answer. I'll also give you some general tips and resources and then as I've said, I'll be taking your questions.

So thank you again for joining and let's get going. The overriding objective when you're on an MBA waitlist is, of course, to get accepted from that waitlist and that's the same objective you've had since you started your MBA application journey. Now, realize that you're on the waitlist because on some level the school you applied to, the waitlisting school, likes you. They like your application and they like your qualifications, but there were others that they clearly liked more.

You want to maximize your chances now so the next time the school turns the waitlist and evaluates your application, you will be perceived as even better than you were when you were waitlisted and again worthy of an acceptance this time around. Now, realize that schools use the waitlist to protect against declined offers, to protect against "melt" which is when people first accept and then decline to attend, and to ensure the diversity of their classes.

This implies that this process is not entirely in your control. You can do a great job in terms of your updates and in terms of everything you do on the waitlist and you still may not make it in because if the school has a very high yield this particular year. Or if that yield is high among people like you, you are less likely to get accepted from the waitlist because these schools all value the diversity of their classes.

The silver lining of being on the waitlist is that if you choose to reapply and you can show growth from this year's application to next year's, then your chances of getting on the acceptance list this time are higher. So that's kind of the good news and again, the silver lining in this rather frustrating situation. I know that it is a frustrating situation. So in the pursuit of that overriding objective, what should you do?

Step one, you're going to want to follow the school's instructions. If the school says, tell us that you're interested and keep us updated about the developments of interest, then do it. Do it with good judgment. Good judgment, not bad judgment. Just good judgment, but do it. If they say, as have Harvard and Wharton in the past, "Don’t call us during the waitlist. We'll call you when we make up our minds." Don’t contact them. It really won't do you any good. It may annoy. If they say you may send in one update, as it has upon occasion, then make the most of that one update and don’t send in more. Since there really is nothing to say about the "don’t call us” schools we'll focus on those that allow contact. We'll certainly focus much more on those.

So once you've followed the school's instructions, and again, you determine that the school is welcoming updates, you need to assess your profile on your application. Are there weaknesses that you have worked on or ameliorated since you applied? Discuss how you have addressed them. So what could some of those be?

Did you perhaps not have much leadership since you left college? Have you taken on more responsibility or a promotion, got an award? Was your GMAT a little bit below average and did you subsequently retake it? Were you a poet or liberal arts major who hadn’t taken a math class since high school and have you since you applied taken courses that you did very well in? Have you gotten involved in nonprofessional activities? Have you gotten international exposure? Any of these items would address a perceived weakness.

The other thing you want to do even if you don’t have weaknesses, even if you're strong across the board, you still want to show that you are new and improved, that you're a dynamic, growing individual. So if you took on that new leadership role, it may be somewhat less important to the person who didn’t have that much leadership, but you still want to mention that.

You still want to let the schools know that you have assumed more responsibility or that somebody has entrusted you with greater responsibility. You want to let them know if you've initiated something innovative, originated. Again, that's the kind of activity that business schools value and that you want to inform them of.

Secondly, in trying to show that you're new and improved, even if you don’t have weaknesses that you are addressing, you want to incorporate anything that would demonstrate your fit with the school or your seriousness of purpose in pursuing your goals.

Now, I don’t want to do all the talking here this evening, so I'm going to ask you. What would be an example of something that would, from your life, show a seriousness of purpose in pursuit of a particular goal? I have some examples prepared, but I'd like you to do a little bit of thinking in response to that.

Anybody who's going to volunteer? What if you're not in financial services now and you want to switch to financial services? Take a math class. Good, Josh. That would be one real good one. Again, that would also work if you don’t have much of a math background.

Another example would be if you could report that you took the CFA exam in December and passed it. That would be a very concrete way of showing both quantitative skills, self discipline and seriousness of purpose about pursuing a career in finance and not just that you saw a good movie about Wall Street. Arnab says, "I tried a startup which failed but did launch my business." I guess that would be something showing seriousness of purpose certainly about business in general and specifically about entrepreneurship. Good, thank you. So, that would all work.

Now, let's move on to the closely-related ABCs of the MBA waitlist.

A: First, you want to address and ameliorate weaknesses without magnifying them. Now, what do I mean without magnifying them? I already said you can say you retook the GMAT. Normally, people would retake the GMAT because they weren’t happy with their first GMAT, but I don’t think you have to go too much into motivations there. But you don’t have to say, if you took a quant class, "I took a quant because my quant skills are weak."

You can say, "I took a quant class to prepare for the rigors of business school." You can say, "I joined some Toastmasters to improve my presentation ability. You can do all kinds of things and put it in the positive as opposed to the negative.

B: You want to boost your strengths. That was something again I talked about in terms of the three goals of showing that you're new and improved. You want to boost your strengths by revealing recent promotions, projects, awards and achievements.

C: Confirm fit by revealing how recent visits to the schools and events that may have nothing to do with schools have confirmed that the waitlisting school is the place for you. It could be revisits. It could be interactions with students or alumni. It could be something that had nothing to do directly with the school, but somehow told you, that school, that focus, that set of values and that kind of community is really the one for me.

It could be something that happened in your church or perhaps in the campaign, if you were involved in the presidential campaign or some other campaign. It could be something that happened on a sports team that you're involved in. There are many different ways that events can confirm a particular school in your mind is right for you, but be concrete and be specific. As I said before, don’t waste anybody's time.

These ABC's should be a strategic goal while you're on the waitlist. Now for a few tips: Keep any updates and letters to an absolute maximum of two pages. Do not go over that and I'm not talking about tiny fonts or ridiculously small margins. I'm talking standard business fonts, 11, 12 point, normal margins. Don’t play games because you'll end up just looking silly. If you can, keep your letter to one page. Everybody is busy and people don’t like to read long letters. That's just the reality of it.

Now, we do have a couple of resources on the site that could help you, keep your letters succinct and I'm going to post them. “Yikes, my essay is too long” provides all kinds of tips on shortening, anything really, just writing concisely. This next resource is a very specific one on what to include in waitlist letters. And then the last one is a page we have with a variety of resources for people on the waitlist.

So you can go to those resources and use them to help you make the most of your waitlist loads. Again, don’t be verbose. Keep it succinct. In business today, people don’t like long, so keep it short. If you can get feedback from the schools, some schools have waitlist managers, they provide that feedback, by all means get it. Ask if there's anything you can do to improve your candidacy and if the school suggests that there is something, those are your marching orders then you've got to do it.

If you don’t do it, you're going to look a little bit foolish because you asked for advice, they gave it, and then you're not following it. So again, go and do it. I believe that the next suggestion I have is actually declining in effectiveness so don’t abuse it and don’t put too much stock in it either. That would be the seek letters of support, either from supervisors or people who have supervised you off the job, perhaps again in the church, political campaigns, community service, whatever it might be, specifically if you can, from current students or recent alumni of the program that has waitlisted you.

These people have to know you well and they can emphasize your fit with the program. Letters from VIPs or "big names" who don’t really know you from a hole in the wall are not effective and I wouldn’t even waste your time sending them in. I actually have on the blog a post I wrote last year, that “The President of the United States Wrote My Letter of Recommendation.” It's a little bit tongue in cheek but it kind of conveys that point also.

Also, if your recommender is just going to reiterate points that are found in your official letters of recommendation or in your essays, I wouldn’t bother. It's not going to do anything. As always, realize that quality trumps quantity. Do not waste the reader's time or annoy them by sending in meaningless, wordy drivel or long repetitions of your essays. I will never forget when I was talking to an admissions officer at one point and he told me that somebody has sent him a 10-page email.

He was the waitlist manager for this school. He says, "I didn’t have time to read it, much less reply to it." You want your stuff to be read. You want it to be read with interest and hopefully admiration. Don’t waste anybody's time.

So now I have some questions posted here and I'm going to respond to them. I'm also going to invite you to post additional questions.

A asks, "McCombs is currently asking waitlisted candidates to record a video interview. What sort of points would further help my application?" The same thing that would help you in an essay, those ABC's. I'd go back to them, write it all over again. Those will help you in the video. What have you done in the last six months to improve your candidacy? Why are you interested in your goals and then how will UT particularly help you achieve your goals? Why should they admit you?

Those are the questions that you need to address. But if you want to go back to those ABC's, I'll go to them again. Address and ameliorate weaknesses, boost strengths by revealing recent promotions, projects, awards and achievements. Confirm fit by discussing how recent visits to schools or other events have confirmed that this is the school for you. I hope that addresses the question. The content is the same. The format is a little bit different.

The other thing I would say is, in terms of videotaping, I would practice it a few times before you settle on the video that you actually send in. I know when I do videos the first couple are really pretty bad, and remember to smile because that's something I frequently forget to do on my videos. I actually put a smiley up on the camera to remind myself to smile because there's no feedback from the camera.

Razeen asks "Would it be a good idea to send in an extra letter of recommendation?"

That is a good question and I think that would depend on what the letter of rec would say. If it's going to add information and confirm some of the new things you've done, sure. If it's from somebody who knows you well and can speak knowledgably about your qualifications, absolutely. If that person also is an alum of the school, even better because they can then discuss your fit with the program. Again, I think it just is a matter of adding value to the application and to the information the school already has about you.

J asks, "A potential weakness that came up in an interview was the reason for being at poor universities in my undergrad, although this was 10 years ago. Would it be wise to address this issue?"

Probably yes, unless you feel that you addressed it adequately in the interview itself. I'm going to guess that the interview was not blind if that came up, in which case, it probably was with an admissions committee member or somehow that was flagged and was asked to be asked. So yes, it probably does make sense to address it succinctly in the letter. You want most of the letter to be talking about again, how you're even better than you have been, but you would want to address that. That's also the kind of issue, just so you should know that, I probably would recommend that you address in an optional essay.

M asks, "Stanford says it is acceptable to send a letter reaffirming interest but nothing else is needed. Is it acceptable to put more into that letter, i.e. what I've been doing at work since application deadline. Also, how is the recommendation treated at Stanford? They did not ask for additional letters, so should I not force one in?"

If they're not saying “don’t do it” and you have something valuable to say, you've done something important, you've done something that reflects well on your qualifications, then I would include that in your letter reaffirming interest. You don’t have to just say, unless they tell you, "I reaffirm my interest in the Stanford Graduate School of Business." You can say, "I reaffirm my interest because," and in that because can be some of those recent achievements or perhaps the information that you want to include.

Regarding additional letters, again, if you think that somebody has something to say that will really add value to your application, yes I would do it. I also would spread it out in time a little bit. I wouldn’t dump it on them all in one day.

Now J, you added that the interview was blind. In that case, my guess is either it came out in the course of your conversation or that the school asked the interviewer to ask about it, so then it was a real concern of theirs.

MN asks, "Do you suggest we sit tight for schools like HBS who say to send in nothing?" MN, I know it's really hard. I really, really do know it's hard. I would say, yes. You pretty much have to sit tight. The only possible exception would be that if you know well the current students or a recent alum and that person wants to send in a letter of support about your exceptional qualifications for Harvard Business School, I can't see how that would hurt you because it's their initiative, it's not yours. But I don’t think that it also will have much value because I think that the key question for them is just going to be the makeup of their class.

Josh asks, "Is there a trend you have seen as to when schools typically start to select from the waitlist? I know it is school specific but I'm just curious if there is an average or general timeframe, typically in April, May when deposit dates have passed?" I do think there's a typical timeframe. I have not noticed any change in that process. Sometimes some schools will look at it, the waitlist, from round one, when they make round two decisions, some will do it as they're getting answers. It varies.

But I really haven’t seen any trends and I do think that schools really start turning to the waitlist in April and May. But they continue June, July, and I have had clients who were accepted the week school starts, especially if they are located in the same city or very close geographically to that school. Thank you. Very good questions, you really are all coming up with great ones.

Jason asks, "What is the ideal frequency of emails to the waitlist manager?" There's ideal frequency, there's also timing. Sometimes you want to time something so that it goes in at a certain point in the cycle. In other words, before the decision is made. So you kind of have to balance that. I think that at this point, when things are kind of spread out in terms of that, they probably are not evaluating the waitlist right now. I think I would probably spread things out maybe three or four weeks apart.

If you have an update, send it now and then have a letter of recommendation go in three or four weeks then maybe you have another update. Assuming something worthy of update occurred, another three to four weeks. Again keep in mind, the decision dates and when they are likely to go to the waitlist. As I mentioned before, don’t send in meaningless drivel. Don’t send them nothing.

Another good question, Moez asks, "Is there strategically a good time when to send my letter, i.e. right away versus waiting until round two responses go out?"

Assuming that the school allows for more than one update, I would send one immediately to show commitment and interest and all that. Then I would try and have another update sent in probably about two weeks before the round-two deadlines or when they next say they're going to be going to the waitlist. That's probably how I would try it. Or if you have different things happening, maybe you can also visit the school. By the way, that's another way to show interest especially if you did not previously.

I wouldn’t schedule a visit if you've already been there necessarily. Also, realize that if you're talking about visiting a school in New York, it's probably not that big of deal because it's kind of relatively easy to get there depending upon where you live. So school visits are nice and they allow you to talk in a more informed way about why you want to attend the school. You don’t necessarily get brownie points for visiting, but certainly after you visit, you could then have more to say about why you want to attend that school.

Eric asks, "Is it acceptable to say that you have registered for an online class recently? There won't be a grade to report back, but would this effort make a difference?" I can't guarantee you that the effort would make a difference obviously, but I do think that would be a way of showing that you are improving certain skills or addressing a weakness. So yes, that is definitely something that I would include in an update.

Again, if the school limited you to one update, then I probably would try to do it after you have the grades. But if you have the opportunity to send in more than one update, send it immediately back, the statement of interest right now, and also inform them that you are taking this class to prepare for business school.

Matt asks, "Most schools say visit to a campus does not affect decisions because they don’t want to penalize people who cannot make it. But in your opinion, can a campus visit help show interest and passion that may help a waitlist candidate?" Again, I don’t think you get brownie points, certainly at the larger big city campuses, for visiting a specific school. I do think that visiting the school can give you insight and information that will help you convey that passion and why you are the right fit for that school.

So it's not so much the brownie points. It's much more about the information that you acquire. Now, does it also show a seriousness of purpose? Yes, it does. Is it going to get you in and make a difference? I don’t know. But again, it will give you insights to the program that should make your waitlist letters a little bit more convincing.

Arnab asked an interesting question and I'm not sure of the answer to it. I haven’t seen any data that would support any particular answer. "Is it statistically likely to be waitlisted if you apply for round one as opposed to later rounds?" I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. That's an interesting question. I haven’t seen any data that would support it either way.

Moez asks, "Should you limit your correspondents to just one letter or is it okay to send a second update?" That is somewhat dependent on the instructions you received from the school. If the school does not say “you can only send in one update” then as far as I'm concerned, you can send in more. My caution to you would be that the second update has to tell them something new and something that's important to know then to an admissions decision. So yes, that would be my caution and my suggestion there.

Josh asks, "Is it true that schools do in fact rank the waitlist? If so, when do they typically begin that ranking?" Josh, I have asked that question to so many schools. It's a good question, a logical question. I have never had a school say that they rank the waitlist. This makes sense because again, many of the schools are using the waitlist to ensure diversity of their classes and the schools don’t want to admit all of one kind or none of one kind of person. They want this tremendous diversity in their classes. So I believe them when they say that they're not ranking the waitlist. Jason asks, "You mentioned sending updates to the schools. In reality, my application was sent two months ago and I had an interview four weeks ago. Given the holiday season, there isn’t that much to update. Any advice based on this on how to distinguish yourself against others on the waitlist?" That's a very good question, Jason.

I think you would have to talk more in terms of events, and even this would be difficult, that have piqued your interest in the school, preferably events that took place since you applied, interactions with alumni. Perhaps you can network and speak to current students or recent alumni that you will have something to say. That is a good question. It's a tough situation to be in.

Most of the people who are waitlisted now applied in October and even that is only three months away. It's a good question. But if you had had that promotion, if you have assumed a greater responsibility or even if you just got in a new project that allowed you to develop new skills, that would again be something that you could include. It's a good question. Josh asks, "Do you think a current student recommendation or a recent alumni recommendation carries more weight for a waitlisted applicant's profile?" More than what, Josh? Could you clarify a little bit?

Would a current student be better or recent alum? I would say the person that knows you best. In other words, their ability to comment intelligently on your qualifications, as well as fit with the school should be controlling, and if they are equally qualified based on their relationship with you to comment on your qualifications. It would probably depend how recent the alum graduated.

If that recent alum graduated three years and hasn’t been back and really isn't active in the alumni association, then I probably would go with the current student. If the recent alum was a very active student on campus and is an active alum who's definitely involved in the school, then I might actually go with the alum. So it's not a black and white kind of question, but it's a good one.

Eric asks, "If I have been offered a new job recently that is an upgrade or promotion, how is that viewed compared to staying with your current company?"

If you have been offered a position that's a promotion or an increase in responsibility, and especially if it brings you closer to your post-MBA goals, you would still have a good six to seven months to take that role. I would say grab it especially if you have not been accepted to other programs. You can't be confident. You can't count on the fact that you would be accepted to your waitlisting school. You want to be in a position where you can reapply next year with this enhanced profile, with the promotion and the increased responsibility and all that, so I would say grab it. Congratulations on the offer.

Arnab asks, "Is there any way to mitigate factors like age and demographics which are in some sense set in stone with respect to fellows on the waitlist." I actually haven’t figured out how to mitigate age. I haven’t figured out how to reverse the clock. I think there's a whole beauty industry attempting to. But getting serious about it, in terms of age, I'm going to guess that you are older than average, that you are older than the typical applicant.

I think it's really important for the older applicants to show that they are particularly realistic about employability and career goal and maybe that they have the network where they're not going to be exclusively relying on the school's career services. Because career services and school programs for that matter, are really aimed at people at a particular place in their career. When you get people who are significantly older or younger, the schools become concerned. Is that person going to not only benefit from the program but are we going to be able to place that person? I'm not saying you can't say, "I want to change careers." I'm not saying that you don’t have a chance. There's actually an excellent blog out there by a fellow, MBA Over 30. He's actually 35. He's quite clear about it. He was absolutely adamant. He did not want to go to an EMBA program. He applied and he just got accepted to Chicago and Wharton. That doesn’t mean that every 33, or 35, or 37-year-old applicant is going to be as successful as he was. He worked very, very hard.

He knew exactly what he wanted, why he wanted it and why he wants this school. He also was rejected I think at one or two schools. But he did it! He's a very good writer, a very interesting fellow and he did it, so it might be inspiring to you.

But again, to get back to your question, I would say that in terms of mitigating age, you need to show that you have your own network, you're very realistic about your goals and you're not entirely relying on the school's career services to get a job afterwards. In terms of Indian engineer and common demographic and all that, we have a lot of that. There's a page on the site called Diversity and Overrepresentation. There are some very good resources and advice there.

The point is to focus not on the fact that you're an Indian engineer but on the things that are specific to you, that are distinctive to you as an individual. Whether it's hobbies that you have, interest that you have or your unique insights and perspective on events and things that you have done that's unique to you and it's not going to be shared with every other Indian engineer out there. So that's what you're going to want to talk about.

M asks, "In the beginning, you made a comment about re-applicants. Have you seen much success for re-applicants, higher percentages than standard candidates? I've been waitlisted at Stanford, Sloan and Haas." That is tough, M. "But admitted to Anderson. If I do not get into the GSB then I will have to think long and hard about reapplying, but wonder what the odds may look like?" Well, it's kind of hard to say without actually knowing a little bit more about you, seeing your application and stuff like that. But in general, applicants who are waitlisted and reapply do, do better. I can't give you statistics right now. I have seen them. Schools certainly look favorably at that.

However, the one thing I want to caution you at, that is more true the lower down the rankings you go. When you're talking about these top ranked schools with acceptance rates hovering around 10%, quite frankly it's less true, because they generally just look at you in comparison to the applicant pool in that year. They don’t give you brownie points for having applied last year.

Again, it's not really a matter of brownie points. I shouldn’t be that flippant. If you reapply to a program, they realize that you're that much more interested. Some schools are just less concerned about yield than programs lower down the food chain.

I hope I answered that question for you, M. It is tough to be waitlisted at three schools. I do want to give you my congrats on the Anderson acceptance. It too, is a fine school! That's great. We have clients who are at Anderson that are very, very happy there. They're really enjoying the program.

M asks, "With schools which ask for no new information such as Wharton, do you suggest respecting this entirely or is it all right to do this subtly? Either you visit the campus, get an alum to write a note. I'm sorry I joined late but it seems like you already discussed this question. It would be helpful if you can just replay the chat window itself."

I can't quite replay it. I did address this. I think those are basically the only two steps that you can take and I would caution you that you can certainly do these things. They may have some impact but they probably won't because I think the main factors driving the elite schools will be the makeup of their classes. The one point I made very early on in the chat was that for applicants who are waitlisted, it means that you're qualified. They like you. There was just somebody else that for whatever reason they like more.

At this point, I think what's going to really drive especially the elite schools' acceptances from the waitlist will be what kind of class they're trying to…the makeup of the class they're trying to create. Keep these questions coming. You guys are doing a great job.

J asks, "If you have a sub-par GMAT, but have taken a math (calculus) class and come from a finance/accounting background, would you suggest I take another math class (say statistics) to hedge my GMAT score?”

Would you mind telling me how low the GMAT quant was? I don’t know if you want to do that in this setting, but if you would I will be able to respond more intelligently, 600 overall. May I ask where you were waitlisted? Cornell? Yes, I would take as much math as you possibly can. Definitely do that.

C asks. "If we do not get accepted on the waitlist and decides to reapply next year, what should we do differently to get a different result? How can you know what the admissions committee did not like about your application? Is it only a matter of who is applying in the cycle?"

That is an excellent question. There are basically three reasons and it can be a combination of the three reasons, general reasons that you are rejected. One, you simply did not qualify. You weren’t competitive. Two, you were competitive, you were qualified, but you failed to present your qualifications well via your application.

Or three, you are a member, yes and it does happen, of an overrepresented group. You were qualified, you did a good job on your application and they simply had too many people like you. For whatever reason and sometimes it's really hard, you are not one of those accepted. It can be maddening. It can be a combination of those three factors.

So if you are rejected, the first thing you need to do is asses and I would even start the assessing process now. We also have a page devoted to MBA re-applicants with several articles and pre-recorded webinar s.

If you're not accepted A, there are other options, not just EMBA. There's Sloan Fellows. There are some very interesting right now master's programs like there's the Business Analytics Program at the NYU. There are some other master's programs at MIT, at Harvard. They are less general than the MBA, but they are aimed at mid-career executives.

Let's go back to C's question because I didn’t quite finish it. Thank you for your feedback. So you need to assess what went wrong. If you feel you were qualified then it probably was the way you presented your application. If the school that waitlisted you or that you want to reapply to gives feedback, by all means take advantage of it. If not, we offer feedback and we try to be very constructive in our feedback in the sense that we tell you what to improve so that you can do better next time around.

That is, I think one of our most valuable and least expensive services because if you spend $270 and it gives you information that you can apply to every single application next year, the pay off can be dramatic.

M asks, "Related question on the GMAT score. My GMAT score is 700 (lower English than quant). The school where I am waitlisted has an average score of 720. I'm an Indian origin, clearly an overrepresented applicant group. Could these twenty points be a game changer? I ask because they only new information Wharton willingly accepts is an updated GMAT score."

It could be. It's impossible really for me to say. Look, you do X and Y will happen. Admissions is just is not like that. However, I will point out to you that even if…let's say you retake the GMAT and you get the 720 and for whatever reason Wharton still rejects you because let's face it, it rejects lots and lots of people with 720s. However, the fact that you're on the waitlist means that they did like you.

If you're rejected now and you get that 720 and you reapply next year, round one, you're still not guaranteed acceptance at Wharton. You would also be a more viable candidate at other programs. So it would not be a wasted effort unless you're accepted at some other school that you'd be very happy to go to in which case, spare yourself the GMAT retake and just go where you've been accepted.

A wrote, "I'm a person looking at the entrepreneur route as an alternative." You may want to look into this. University of Michigan has an MS and entrepreneurship program. I interviewed the director over the summer and it looks like a fascinating program. So if you're interested in entrepreneurship and you don’t get accepted to the MBA, I really would suggest you look into that and explore and see if it will meet your needs.

I really want to thank you folks. You're coming up with great questions. I appreciate your candor, your openness, and your questions. T writes, "I'm waitlisted at Duke. I feel I was waitlisted due to a weak interview. I have updated with a peer rec from a current student to explain my fit and my impact on the program. Should I reach out further as I do not have much to update on my own?

Weak interview, that's a really tough one because so many times…you know I'm pausing here, I'm hesitating. So many applicants, they feel they did poorly on the interview and they aced it. Other times people feel they aced the interview and they really did pretty poorly. Of course sometimes they're right so it's very hard to give advice.

If you've done these two things, if you've updated with a peer recommendation, I would wait a few weeks and see if perhaps you don’t have something to add in a few weeks' time, or if you can't start something that would be worthy of adding. Duke is very community oriented. It's very team oriented. If you have something along those lines that could show again a greater fit with them, as well as interpersonal skills that maybe didn’t come through in the interview, that might be a way to handle it. You already have provided an updated peer rec.

J asks, "I have a unique and stellar character letter of recommendation from the dean of my undergrad university. It is from 2003. Would it be worth including? (This relates to the personal question I asked prior with attending 4 universities)”Thanks for the reminder because otherwise I wouldn’t have known why you're referencing that.

I think that might be a good idea, especially since it was raised in the interview. Obviously, I'm answering a little bit in a vacuum here because I don’t know the full story. But I think it would make sense to do that and you can say that this was something that was raised in the interview and you'd like to address it. You want to share this letter that was written at the time. I'm sure there were reasons for the switching around and you can share those. That's the kind of context that can really help an admissions committee understand what you are dealing with.

J, waitlisted applicants rarely get scholarships because the money usually runs out by the time a waitlisted applicant knows about it. Obviously, the scholarships are used first for those applicants they really want to attract, so rarely if ever, do waitlisted applicants get scholarships. I'm not saying it's impossible but it's much tougher. It's usually loans.

Matt asks, "How does the round applied play a role?" There's very little waitlisting in round three. It still can happen, more likely to see waitlists round one and round two, especially round one.

Matt also asks, "Round one, in the shark round? Could I have shot myself in the foot by applying in round one over round two where I may have stood out more?" I doubt it. That's the reputation that's kind of the scuttlebutt, at round one you have all the sharks and the more normal people apply at round two. There are plenty of sharks in round two and there are plenty of normal people in round one. I don’t think that that played a factor. I will be really surprised.

Let me ask you, what would you tell somebody if that person was rejected from all the schools they applied to except one where they're waitlisted and they would love to go to the waistlisting school? What should do they do? What do you think they should do?

Pray? That's a good one, Jason. What options do they have? One option is they should let the school know that they will definitely attend if accepted. They don’t have to tell them they don’t have any options. They can just tell them that it's their first-choice school and they will at that point mean it, that they're a great match between their program and the applicant's goals and educational needs, and that all that person should simultaneously and in parallel work to prepare themselves for possible reapplication efforts or alternatives.

Exactly. Arnab, you said it. They should try to look at alternative options. You have to pursue parallel paths in that case. You have to do what you can on the waitlist if you can, and you have to look at what your other options are and start to prepare to pursue them whether it's reapplication, whether it's looking at other programs or whether it's pursuing…No, giving up is not an option, whether it's pursuing professional growth in other ways, nonacademic ways. You may also want to use this time to visit schools that you may want to apply to next time. So those are three options.

Somebody's who's either waitlisted or rejected, make sure the school will know that you will attend if they accept you because they are worried about their yield and they want to fill up this class as quickly as possible. Work to prepare yourself for a possible reapplication effort or explore alternatives either in school or out of school. Then take the time to visit schools that you may want to apply to next time in addition to the schools that you've visited this time or maybe rejected you this time.

Matt asks, "Should we flat out say the school is our number school?" If it is your number one school, absolutely. You should say that. You should say, "I will definitely attend if I am accepted."

Yes. You should tell them you're…I wouldn’t tell them you're willing to wait at this point at all because obviously you want to know as soon as possible. But I would just keep telling them that you are my number one school. I would be sincere about it. I don’t advocate at all.

For the fellow who has three waitlisting schools, I wouldn’t tell each of them that they're my number one school, but I would say I would be honored to attend. If it's not my number one school and if it is the school that you will definitely accept an offer of admission, then let them know that.

Another interesting question from J, "If Anderson released decisions today of waitlist, I would like to prepare my response. How much time is too much time to let it go by before you reply to the waitlist email?"

Ideally, you should respond within a week. If it goes up to two weeks, it's starting to get long. I definitely would not want you to respond in more than two weeks. You want to again show some enthusiasm and passion which means that you should know that you'd happily accept the place on the waitlist.

Thank you very, very much for your participation this evening and your questions. You really have been a marvelous audience. Please keep in mind that has several resources to help you with your waitlist effort. I'm going to provide them again.

In MBA Admission for Smarties we do have a section on waitlist. This is my book with Judy Gruen and if you are rejected, we have a section on re-applicants. But basically it's an approach to the application process. It's very inexpensive. It's available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Clearly something went right, you got waitlisted. Something went wrong, you didn’t get accepted. You might want to avail yourself of this resource.

We also have the MBA Waitlist 101 page.

M, thank you so much for the feedback. I really, really appreciate it. T, you bought "MBA for Smarties". That's great. That's wonderful. It was a great help in the process. I'm really pleased. Thank you for sharing that.

You're most welcome. I really appreciated your input today and if we can help you with the waitlist process or with reevaluating your applications if you choose to apply, please let us know. You can contact us to get assistance or just go to the services section of the site.

Thank you so much and good luck. Good luck with it all. Have a very good evening.

MBA Q&A Index || Upcoming Q&A/Events || Top B-School Zones

Continue exploring our free resources with our MBA Admissions 101 pages