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Admissions Tip: Navigating the Waitlist

While the past few weeks have seen a number of admits and rejections handed down to round one MBA applicants, the fate of many remains uncertain.  There is no reason for waitlisted candidates to lose hope, as the top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in round two and thereafter, but we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier.  To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we wanted to share a few waitlist tips:

1. Knowand follow—the rules.  
Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign waitlisted candidates to an admissions office liaison.  We know that the natural impulse is to reach out to the adcom and update them on that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile.  At first blush, it might seem that there’s no harm in sending a short letter or making a call, but no matter how exciting the information you wish to communicate, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you.  Though such a policy may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school.

2. Communicate if you can.  For those programs that do permit or encourage contact from waitlisters, it’s absolutely a good idea to send an update.  In addition to the obvious news items mentioned above, it’s beneficial to read over your essays and reflect on whether there is some piece of your background or interests that you haven’t gotten across yet.  Taking the time to write about your relevant recent experiences, positive developments in your candidacy and ways that you’ve enhanced your understanding of the program is a nice sign of your interest in the program, and is a good strategy for telegraphing your commitment to attending.  It is, of course, also in your interest to make sure that the adcom has the most up to date information so that they can make an informed decision the next time your file comes up for evaluation.

3. Keep in touch.  Don’t disappear after an initial note to the adcom or phone call to your waitlist manager (if applicable).  If you have plans to be on or near campus, for instance, send a quick email to alert your waitlist manager (or whoever you may have interacted with on the adcom) to alert them to this fact.  In many cases you’ll find that the adcom offers to have you stop by for a friendly chat about your candidacy—something that can go a long way towards helping your case.  Beyond a visit, sending a brief update every few weeks or so is another way to reaffirm your interest in the school and keep you fresh in the minds of the adcom—something that could work to your advantage in a discussion of which candidates to admit from the waitlist.  In all cases, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so please use good judgment!

4. Have a contingency plan.  While it’s important to do be consistent and enthusiastic when waitlisted and communicating with staff at your target program, it’s also wise to have a backup plan.  With the Round Two deadlines for several top programs about 1-2 weeks away, there’s still time to put together a solid application to another school.  Even if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams and intend to reapply if not admitted, it’s also never too early to start thinking about the coming year and what steps you might take to enhance your candidacy before next fall.

For valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.

Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free to contact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services.  Hang in there!