You’ve turned in an excellent MBA application.  Unfortunately, the news was disappointing: you’ve been waitlisted. Being on the waitlist can feel like a rejection, but don’t be discouraged. All hope is not lost.

A spot on the waitlist means the admissions committee liked something they saw in you; this is positive feedback!  And every year, business schools admit people from their waitlists.  Here’s how you can best position yourself for a spot in the class.

Follow The Instructions

Take a close look at the waitlist correspondence you received. First and foremost, respond in a timely manner to accept or decline your waitlist spot.  Second, know what the admissions committee’s policy is on additional communications or submissions.  Some admissions committees are very open to hearing from you and/or receiving additional materials throughout the waitlist period, while others explicitly say not to contact them. Always follow their instructions.

If They Will Accept Additional Submissions…

Begin by writing a brief, enthusiastic letter confirming your interest in attending the program.  Passion goes a long way in standing out from other waitlist candidates.  Second, provide any updates since you applied that add value to your profile. Did you receive a promotion at work? Have you just passed your CFA exam?  Have you traveled internationally?  Are you the new events chair for your volunteer organization? Third, update them on any new efforts you’ve made to learn more about the program. Conversations with students/alumni, info sessions and campus visits are a great way to confirm your fit and show your interest.  Then, mark your calendar to send a fresh new version of this letter monthly.  Stay on the admissions committee’s radars and let them know that your dedication hasn’t waned.

An additional letter of recommendation can also be very helpful at this point, especially if your recommender is an alum or has a connection with the school community.  As always though, the best recommender is someone writing from his/her direct experience with you.

Candidacy Enhancement

During this period, it can be easy to sit back and wait for the “yes” or “no” answer.  Instead, be introspective about what may have given the admissions committee pause and take active steps to enhance your candidacy.  Take on an independent consulting project in your target field, join an industry association and/or attend conferences and events in your target field.  Sharpen your quantitative skills by taking an accounting, finance, or statistics class and acing it.  Retake the GMAT or the GRE if your scores were on the cusp.  If you’re lucky, the school you’re waitlisted at might even be willing to offer you feedback.  Very few schools will do this (Tuck is one of them), but if you’re able to get direction from admissions on areas where they’d like to see you improve, take advantage of it.  It will also demonstrate your willingness to adapt and grow.

Contingency Planning

There are no guarantees in the waitlist world, which means you have no choice but to put Plan B in motion. That may mean putting your deposit down on a different school and finding housing. It may mean pursuing other ways to progress in your career. Or it may mean preparing to reapply to business school next year–in which case you should take a step back and seriously evaluate why you were not successful this year.  Do you need to lower your expectations?  Strengthen your candidacy?  Step up for more leadership roles?  Reassess your career goals?  Or perhaps you just need put more effort into your applications.  An admissions consultant such as Shine can help you evaluate where you may have fallen short and improve your chances of success.

Finally, if you are no longer considering a program that has waitlisted you, show compassion for your fellow waitlisted applicants and contact the admissions committee to release your spot.  Who knows, someone might just do the same for you.

[To put together a waitlist strategy for your schools, or for general MBA admissions advice, contact us at]

© Shine/ MBA Admissions Consulting, March 18, 2015, 11:15am MT