You’ve put in your full effort, delivered an outstanding MBA application, and the disappointing decision comes back: waitlisted.  You feel like you might as well have been rejected.

Don’t despair.  It’s NOT a hopeless cause.  Every year, at nearly every top business school, people are taken off the waitlist and given that long-awaited admit letter.  The waitlist spot means they already like you and would welcome you in the class, given unlimited room.  Here’s how to position yourself best for those precious last spots at the school of your dreams.

Listen to your admissions committee

While many admissions committees welcome additional submissions to support your candidacy, others explicitly state that they do not.  Respect their wishes, and carefully read their instructions before you begin any waitlist campaign.  You’ve come this far; you don’t want to do anything now that could potentially harm your candidacy.

Let them know how much they mean to you

First, write a brief letter confirming that the school remains your clear first choice, and if admitted, you would definitely attend.  (Assuming that’s true.  If it isn’t, consider letting the waitlist spot go to another candidate.)  Add any support points that you may not have included in your essays.  Make them believe that if they place their bets on you, their yield will be a sure thing.

Add value

Beyond that, the key is to briefly provide them with updates and additions to your existing application that will strengthen your candidacy.  NOT to restate the points you’ve already made, rather to continue to build your case.  Consider it a “free square;” now you can tell them about that new project you’re heading up or your recent assignment in India.  If you don’t have any updates, create some.  The following items are all impressive additions to an admissions committee—and will help you be a stronger MBA student as well:

  • New projects/initiatives at work or in your extracurriculars, especially ones you’re leading
  • Updates to existing projects/initiatives
  • International travel, whether for business or pleasure
  • Coursework (e.g., statistics, finance, accounting)
  • Recommendations offering a different perspective (alumni recos don’t hurt)

Be in touch

If a few weeks have gone by, and you have another valuable update, share it!  If you’ve wrapped the big fundraiser you were working on, and the executive director will write a recommendation for you, send it.  The frequency of your communications is a professional judgment call; just as long as it adds value to your candidacy.  And if you’ve truly got nothing new to share, then at a minimum, stay active in their minds every so often by reinforcing that the school remains your first choice.

Prepare for Plan B

One of the first lessons they teach you at business school is “option value.”  Be smart and prepare for the possibility that the waitlist situation won’t work out in your favor. Preserve your spot at a school that did accept you, immerse yourself in the admit activities, plan your housing and move dates.  And/or, step up your efforts in your current professional role, refocus on that upcoming promotion or securing your next dream job.  If you do, regardless of the waitlist outcome, the universe is sure to reward you in the end.