Dealing with rejection isn’t easy. After painstakingly selecting bschools that you felt would be the best for your career goals, after going through the nerve-wracking ordeal of responding to MBA essay topics that swing between introspection and philosophy, and after spending all that hard-earned money on the GMAT exam, bschool application fee, and many months of excitement + anxiety + nail-biting…what is it that most MBA applicants get from the bschool?
A standard template MBA rejection letter! Or in bschool jargon, it’s a ‘Ding’ (in contrast to ‘Dhadaam’, the actual sound of a heart breaking on hearing the bad news). Pick up any sample MBA rejection letter and the structure, content and tone would be similar. They politely thank you for considering their bschool and express regret that they can’t take many of the excellent candidates who approach them. After getting over the initial shock and disappointment, some optimistic souls go back to the rejection note, hoping to read between the lines and see if there’s any specific or useful feedback (a ding analysis) for them that explains why your MBA admissions process reached a dead-end in the MBA admissions office – but there’s none.
The top business schools receive loads of applications but due to limited intake capacity, the majority of candidates tend to face the always-unpleasant prospects of rejection. These top MBA programs tend to be highly selective. A lot of candidates keen on having a certain brand name on their resume would wish to give it another shot and re-apply the following year. In order to produce a better application and improve the chances of acceptance, candidates need to eliminate or minimize the shortcomings due to which their application was earlier rejected.
In theory, there may be umpteen reasons for rejection. The candidate may not be the right fit for the school in many ways. The candidate’s career goals may not be well – aligned with what the school has to offer. The applicant may have had very less work experience or may be too old compared to the average class profile. There may have been other grey areas like a low GMAT score, unfinished essays or poor quality of recommendations. Or maybe the admission officer felt the candidate’s name would be too tough for the rest of the classmates to pronounce. Who knows what the real reason was!
On the other hand, it may also be possible that the candidate has a strong profile but when other applications are equally strong (if not stronger), the MBA admissions committee has to consider various criteria like diversity in class profile while taking a decision. It becomes difficult to pinpoint the exact reason.
The feeling among applicants that they ought to get feedback from the school is completely justified considering the amount of time and hard work that goes in producing an MBA application. Constructive feedback can always be put to good use in case the applicant wishes to re-apply to the same school or works on applications for other schools.
So it’s only reasonable for the candidate to expect some inputs on what went wrong and what they could’ve done better. But do bschools agree with that rationale?
Well, this depends a lot on the college applied to. Some schools like Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Kellogg, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan mention on their website that due to huge number applications received, they would not be able to provide feedback for rejected applications.
However, some schools do provide feedback. These feedback sessions usually take place when the admissions season is over. Few of these are aimed only at re-applicants. This feedback session can be quite useful, especially when the inputs come directly from the admissions representative. The scope for improvement in the application can be clearly defined. So candidates need to look out for when these sessions are being planned.
Darden School of the University of Virginia allows candidates interested in re-applying to schedule a 15-minute feedback session with the admissions committee representative.
The Haas School of Business (University of Berkeley) provides feedback to candidates who were invited for an interview or denied from the waitlist.
CEIBS China, in fact, encourages re-applicants to schedule a feedback session with the admissions managers which can happen over the phone.
In terms of the quality of feedback, ISB (Indian School of Business) might be the best of the lot. More often than not the feedback and suggestions are better, specific and more actionable than other schools.
So in case you have an opportunity to get feedback for your rejected application, surely go for it. Even if you’re not planning to re-apply to the same school, it would help you address these issues in applications made to other schools.
Even in the case of schools that do provide feedback, candidates often feel that the feedback is too generalized or vague. It hardly gives them an idea about what was lacking in their application or what could be better. The frustration and helplessness prompted one such MBA applicant to create a petition urging MBA admission committees to provide more useful and less superfluous feedback
This disconnect could arise as the person evaluating your application during the admissions process may not be the same as the person giving you a feedback. And not too many schools would take on the extra effort to comprehensively document the nitty-gritties of what they liked and hated about each applicant.
Many MBA admission consultants offer a rejection analysis package (Ding analysis) where they look at the submitted essays and try to evaluate what might have gone wrong. At MBA Crystal Ball, we take a more holistic approach. We have devised a mechanism (called the MBA Mock Application Process) where we test out more than just the essay strategy, by including interviews, post-MBA goals, soft-skills and other elements to the mix. The feedback process is faster, specific and personalized and also gives you a roadmap of how to proceed with your application and the colleges which would work best for your profile.
No point in duplicating a flawed (and failed) strategy with other schools.
So, if you haven’t been among the fortunate few to have got into your top choice school in the first attempt, try to find out what went wrong. Reach out to the school and talk to the team. Some information (however vague) might still give you a better direction than no inputs at all. If you aren’t too convinced about what went wrong, reach out to us (info at mbacrystalball dot com) and we’ll see if / how we can help.
Do you know of other schools that offer a feedback session for rejected MBA applications?