MBA Application Waitlist FAQ: What strategy will you adopt?

Not-so-hot Guy: Will you marry me?
Popular Gal: Send across your personal details. I’ll think about it.
[1 month later]
Guy: Will you marry me? Please let me know so I can make arrangements for the wedding. My biological clock is ticking and there are a ton of things I need to do if/after you say yes.
Gal: Hmmm…I’m not sure. I’m also talking to a thousand other guys. Please hang on, bhaiyya-ji, I’ll let you know soon.

Not a good situation to be in, right? Well, that’s more or less the kind of feeling when bschools put applicants on their wait-list. Here’s a low-down on what it means and what you can do about it, if you were to find yourself in that situation.


MBA Application Waitlist FAQ

1. What does being ‘waitlisted’ imply?

The applicant pool for most of the good business schools tends to be vast. So schools have to be selective about who they accept and filter out the rest. The selection of candidates depends on many things – primarily the strength of their applications and the diversity within the class. The very strong ones get a royal welcome (with scholarships if they are lucky). Those that are below the mark are rejected. So, what about applications that are good but capacity restrictions the Admission committees to hesitate and buy more time to decide? These are the ones that are kept on hold – welcome to the waitlist! It is way better than a rejection as you still hold a fair chance of being admitted.

2. Is there some order or rank in the waitlisted category? How do I know if I have any chances of being accepted?

More often than not, there is no specific order in which the waitlisting is done. So in most of the schools, you are at par with the other waitlisted candidates. The admissions committee would like to check out which of the successful candidates have actually accepted the offer. They would then make up their mind about which of the wait-listed candidates to accept so as to retain the diverse composition of the class. In some of the b-schools with multiple deadlines, waitlisted applications are carried forward and evaluated in the next round.

3. What should be my wait-list strategy? Should I wait patiently or would it help if I try to improve on my application?

Unfortunately, there is no standard strategy and it depends a lot on the school you’ve applied to. Some schools like Harvard Business School or Wharton do not entertain updates from students. However a lot of top business schools view the enthusiasm and the effort put in for improving the application in a positive light.

You could request the Adcom for feedback. On the basis of this (if they oblige), you should be able to prepare an outline of the areas needing improvement. Straight-forward example, if the GMAT score was low, you may try following a more structured GMAT preparation method with more devoted time for your weaker sections and re-take the GMAT.

There may be other not-so-obvious approaches as well. If work experience was the grey area and if you can make it look better by adding some recent team-leading experience, however small the team might be, it would be worth mentioning. You could proactively try to undertake projects involving greater responsibilities and target-meeting roles. If you’re able to successfully deliver and achieve results, this work experience would perhaps work in your favour and help you come off the waitlist and get a foot in the door in the b-school.

Any of these initiatives on your part would communicate your enthusiasm and passion for getting into the particular school. If you have taken up some additional course which might be of interest to the Adcom, do let them know about it. If the problem area was about focus or lack of clarity with respect to career goals, try to work on this area and present well-defined career goals and explain how the particular school would fit into the picture and help you achieve the same. Schools would always be interested in taking in students who can add value to their program while at the same time the school would also want the student to benefit from the same. It’s a mutual give-and-take relation and you should be able to justify why you qualify for the program.

4. Do I need to keep the school posted regularly?

In the case of most of the schools, it may work if you regularly send important updates (emphasis on ‘important’) about the recent development. Updates should be spaced out and try to add something new rather than repeating the same facts over again. Don’t treat it like Facebook comments and bombard them with trivial stuff. You’ll just end up sounding desperate (maybe you are, but don’t show it).

5. I really want to be a part of this school? Would a campus visit improve my chances of getting in?

This depends a lot on the school you’re targeting. For Indian applicants who are miles away from the school they are applying to, it may be tough to visit the school. But it may help if you are able to meet the Adcom in person which may also indicate your eagerness to join the particular program. Again you’ll be able to check out things about the school campus and facilities so that you are satisfied with your decision if you’re able to get in.


[Another month later]
Gal: Well, I thought about it. Big, bulging, 7-pack GMAT scores are great for an initial impression, but I think inner beauty is more appealing. You still interested in tying the knot?
Guy [controlling his euphoria, in a cool voice]: Ummm…yeah, sure. Why not?


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

3 Comments

  1. mba zorro says:

    From Bhaiyya-ji to Tying the knot :) I like the story!!! Muy bien, muy bien :-)

  2. nithya says:

    iam waitlisted at MANAGE, hyderbad for abm at WL (obc) 11 and only 16 seats wat are my chances?

  3. Chester says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have been waitlisted at IIMA PGPX. What are the odds of getting off the waitlist at PGPX program? Thanks so much!

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