What to do if you're on a waitlistAs a waitlist candidate, you may have some questions about the admissions process going forward. It is difficult to predict the chances of being admitted off the waitlist. This is because a lot depends on the strength of the pool in subsequent rounds.

Historically, the admit rate has varied from year to year, and has very little correlation with the number of candidates placed on the waitlist. On the plus side, you haven’t been rejected, and you can often take action to improve your chances of eventually being admitted.

When you’ve been waitlisted, your first step should be to write a letter of continued interest. The tips below can help guide you as you craft your letter.

What to do if you’re on a waitlist

  1. Begin your letter by briefly thanking the school for considering your application. Don’t talk about your disappointment. Instead, focus on how the school’s philosophy and approach fit your educational goals.
  2. Discuss your recent accomplishments. Choose achievements that you did not address in your application and try and tie them back to key themes in your essays. These could include a recent promotion, an improvement in grades, a new leadership role in a project or organization, a recent volunteer experience, initiatives you’ve taken in your department, business, or club, additional work responsibilities, etc.
  3. How you have grown. You have to prove to the admissions committee that while you were a responsible, accomplished impressive candidate before, now you are even more so.
  4. Talk about how you’re addressing your weaknesses or shortcomings. Focus on the specific actions you’ve taken, rather than on the actual shortcoming. For example, if you have/had weak communication skills, discuss how you enrolled in Toastmasters and how the experience has influenced and inspired you. Examine, identify, and address weaknesses in your education, career, and community life.
  5. If you are sure that upon acceptance you will attend, inform the school of your commitment.
  6. Above all, stay positive. Your letter will reflect your attitude. The Admissions Committees does not want to read a bitter and angry letter, nor will they want that writer in their classrooms.

Business schools have different waitlist policies that you must conform. In fact, these will improve, rather than diminish, your chances of getting an admit. But what is similar is that no business school ranks the waitlist at the outset of the process. Every interaction with the MBA admissions committee is a potential data point that can influence the decision. So, you do have a measure of control to align your waitlist strategy with each business school’s policy.

A snapshot of the wait list policies at prominent business schools is given below:

  1. Different business schools encourage, discourage or only factor supplemental information if requested.
  2. Several MBA schools encourage additional letters of recommendation, while Northwestern Kellogg discourages additional letters of recommendation.
  3. Berkeley Haas, Duke Fuqua and Emory  encourage class visits while HBS and Northwestern Kellogg do not.
  4. Some schools, like Berkeley Haas, allow waitlisted candidates who have not interviewed, to schedule one, whereas other schools, like Duke Fuqua only interview candidates by invite only at this stage of the MBA admissions process.
  5. The University Texas at Austin: McCombs prefers to hear how their program ranks among your options and school fit as opposed to just sending updated materials.
  6. Certain business school admissions committees make MBA waitlist decisions an ongoing rolling basis while other admissions committees make MBA waitlist decisions at set intervals (often at subsequent application deadlines).
    1. For waitlisted candidates at business schools that make their MBA waitlist decisions on an ongoing rolling basis, provide your updated materials and request recommendations letters expeditiously.
    2. For waitlisted applicants at business schools that make their MBA waitlist decisions at set intervals (often at subsequent application deadlines), treat these intervals as hard application deadlines. So submit your updated materials and additional recommendations letters before these deadlines.

A few things to look out for:

  1. Before you start writing, be sure that your target school is open to receiving waitlist letters. If the school states explicitly that it doesn’t want to hear from you, then do not contact them – doing so will only hurt your case.
  2. When you’re at the brainstorming stage of the letter, and then again once you’re done writing, check and then double check that you haven’t repeated material already in your application.


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