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Facing Final Round Rejection: Why You Should Feel More Hopeful Than Helpless

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With the release of many final round decisions, the 2015-2016 admissions season is coming to a close for the vast majority of MBA aspirants. Last week saw R3 admissions decisions from Wharton, and HBS and Stanford GSB will follow suit with their results this Wednesday.

We’d like to offer our congratulations to all those who have gained admission to one or more of their target schools and wish good luck to waitlisted applicants whose fate is presently a bit less certain.

For all those who submitted their applications in the final round and received an unfavorable decision, we’d like to share a few tips that we hope will make the process of facing rejection as productive as possible:

Understand the odds and consider reapplying in the early rounds next year.  

If you failed to gain admission to a school in its final application round, you should not give up hope or instantly assume that your profile contains some glaring weakness that will forever bar you from acceptance. Because relatively few spots in the incoming class are available by the time of the final round deadlines, it is always most difficult to get into a school at this point in the year. In many cases, an earlier application is all that you need to find success in the process.

Get feedback from the admissions committee.  

As we commented in a recent post, some of the top programs allow unsuccessful applicants to sign up for a feedback session with an admissions officer. (Sessions typically take place over the summer.)  This is a unique chance for you to learn how the committee perceived your application. Keep in mind that your audience with the adcom will be brief – try to approach the meeting with pointed questions about your candidacy in order to ensure that the feedback session is as productive and informative as possible. Make sure to take detailed notes of the conversation, and assume that is what your adcom is also doing.

Get feedback from other sources.  

Although a number of schools do not offer feedback, there are other ways to learn about where you may have fallen short. To start, you should read over your file with a critical eye and try to identify and understand your weaknesses. Take a step back from the process and be objective about your shortcomings. You might also share your file with colleagues who have been to business school. While this can be enlightening, you should also be careful about the feedback you collect on these fronts, since not all of it will be accurate (or consistent). Finally, you might seek feedback from an MBA admissions consulting firm. We highly recommended Veritas Prep’s Reapplicant Analysis where you’ll have the opportunity to receive written feedback or phone discussions to help you plan for success the next time around.

Plan for a productive summer.  

Although it’s tempting to simply take a break from the admissions process after receiving a rejection letter, it is imperative that reapplicants use the summer months to address the weaknesses in their profiles. In many cases, reapplicants need to pursue outside coursework, retake a standardized test (GMAT/TOEFL), increase involvement with outside activities or take on new responsibilities at work. All of these tasks take time and cannot be addressed in the fall when application forms and essays should be the priority.  By being proactive about improving your candidacy now, you will put yourself in a much better position to apply next year.

Plan to reapply in Round 1.

As a general rule, a reapplicant should plan their reapplication for the first round of the 2016-17 admissions cycle. There are at least two reasons for this: first, rejection in the final round is often a case of simply being too late to secure a spot in a carefully crafted, diverse class (especially for over-represented candidates) – an early application can eliminate some of those issues. Second, the admissions team has an expectation that serious reapplicants will apply early – both as a sign of interest and in light of the fact that reapplicants should need less time to get everything ready the second time around, The only exception to this is if the feedback on the initial candidacy suggests that a candidate needs to materially improve their candidacy with steps that won’t be complete before the first round deadline.

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