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  • Writer's pictureLauren Wong

MBA/Masters Waitlist - 5 Steps to Navigate Being Waitlisted

Okay so you're nervously waiting to hear back from the school and lo and behold, you finally hear back and well...it's both good and bad: you're waitlisted!


Ok first of all if you're waitlisted that is overall a good thing! I know it may be disappointing to not get accepted and getting waitlisted is definitely another form of anxiety but the thing is if you're waitlisted that means overall the school IS interested and impressed by your application. So why didn't you get an acceptance? Well, it's complicated. There's many factors to think of when intaking students for every class including the program's goal for the year a balance of different concentrations, and even who else applied. For any particular year or even round, there can be a surplus of a certain type of candidate whether their intake for concentration or even country. They also may be keeping a certain number of seats for the next round in reserve. Regardless the thing is that you're a competitive candidate and thus there's a chance of you getting in that year still. So, what can you do to improve your chances?


1) Follow the Instructions

Almost all of the MBA programs will give you clear instruction on next steps. Some of them will give you an opportunity to share any updates, some will also offer you a chance to submit a second letter of recommendation, and some will just tell you "wait". It's key to follow the guidelines they send out before overwhelming them with information they didn't ask for. For example, for 2023, UCLA Anderson does not accept any extra submitted recommendation letters so anything sent is not only useless but could be seen as "annoying". Read carefully what the next steps are


2) If possible, address application weak spots

Sometimes you're put on the waitlist for a specific reasoning (lower GMAT, ambiguous career goals, priority of program). While programs will not always share this info, it's worth a shot to ask the school what part in particular was concerning so that you can work on addressing the issue. Even if they don't provide an answer, it's a good moment to reflect on what may be lacking and taking the initiative to work on addressing it. For example, if your GMAT score was on the lower side, maybe take the initiative to take it again for a higher score. If you're aware English proficiency was a concern, taking an English course.


3) If asked for, provide an update/supplementary material

A handful of schools not offer the chance to provide an update on your application. This can include recent achievements, improved test scores, additional recommendation letter, or even a video follow-up (Chicago Booth is known for this). If given this opportunity it's important to navigate this strategically! While you can provide bullet points as an update it may be more advantageous writing a formal letter. The key is go about this strategically, thinking through what updates you want to provide, how it fits with your story, and how they will boost your application.


4) Stay connected & Express Interest

As you wait to hear back, it's key to continue showing interest in the program. This can be done in several ways:

1) Attending events. Even if attending virtually, it's a good idea to show that you're still interested in the program by showing up to events and leaving a strong positive impression. I was personally told by Anderson Admission Officers that one of the reasons I was admitted was the number of events I attended where they felt they were able to connect with me. So putting on a good face and showing up at events is a great way to show them what they're missing out on!

2) Networking with Alumni & Students. As you wait for a result it's always a good idea to get confirmation that this is indeed the program that you want to commit to and a great way to do this is by talking to more Alumni and Students. Not only will you get a better sense of the program's culture but they might be able to provide direct insight on what's going on at campus and keep you up to date on recruitment. If anything, it's a great way to connect with a potential future classmate! Also, remember, most programs have current students and/or Alumni conduct interviews, so if you connect well enough, they may be able to provide feedback on improving your application

3) Regular Updates. While we don't want to bombard the Admissions office with updates, it'd be prudent to provide an acceptable cadence of updates to continue expressing your interest. I advise no more than once a month (unless you really need to share something major) with a basic check-in and update. Other key moments to check-in would be during each round deadline. A short email and update is a great way to gently remind the admissions office, "Hi, i'm still here and excited to potentially join your program".


5) Stay Calm and Plan ahead

Finally, if all else fails, plan ahead. I know it's disappointing to not be admitted and as you see decisions roll in on ClearAdmit it can be especially anxiety inducing. So, stay calm and prepare for the worst. If not admitted this year what's your next step? Would you like to improve your application for next year or consider other options? How can you get a jump ahead to start improving your application? The key here is to take a moment to reflect and think about next steps. An MBA isn't for everyone and it'd be good to think through if it is for you!


For further advice on your MBA application process (including waitlist), I offer FREE 30 minute consultation calls where I give you my honest advice and help you improve your MBA application. Click here to get started!

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