If your top choice business school program did not accept you for admission, you probably feel upset — or, quite simply, rejected. It’s natural to feel this way, especially if you made a herculean effort to submit a strong application. If you were counting on an MBA to jumpstart your career and didn’t get into any of the schools to which you applied, you may feel as if your plans are now in question.
But here’s some good news: you can get back on track. Try to see this as an opportunity rather than a devastating setback. Most business schools look kindly upon applicants who re-apply. Oftentimes, MBA hopefuls who don’t get in on their first round will learn from their mistakes, and will become winning candidates in their second attempt.
If you’re open to trying again, the odds are great that you’ll succeed. But you do have to reassess. What went wrong the first time? What can you do differently? To determine whether you should apply again, you’ll need to develop a solid strategy.
Get feedback. Not every admissions committee will be willing to retroactively explain what went wrong with your application, but it’s worth trying to obtain this information. Feedback will help you determine whether it’s even worth another shot, and will help you shape your next attempt to be more successful than the first.
Assess and address your weaknesses. If you applied to business school with weak quantitative skills or a low GMAT score, you now have some time to take the test again, and an opportunity to improve your numbers. But maybe your test scores weren’t the problem; if your reasons for wanting an MBA were unclear or unpersuasive, that too could be a weakness and a reason you didn’t get in. A more thoughtful and detailed essay about why you need the degree will go a long way towards convincing admissions committees that you belong at their school. You may also need to tailor your essay to a school’s specific offerings. Being vague about why you are applying to a particular program can be an automatic ding.
Apply as early as possible. We can’t say this enough: when it comes to business school admissions, earlier is better. You do need to self-assess, however. If you apply too early, you might be placed in an applicant pool full of superstars. Unless you have the credentials to match, this could hurt your chances. If you apply too late, on the other hand, you’ll be fighting other applicants for the few spots that are left. At the Wharton School, for example, the admissions committee advises applicants to avoid the last round because the odds of being admitted are so daunting. So for many applicants, Round 2 is just about right.
Apply to different schools. If you didn’t get into your top choice school, it’s possible that it was never really right for you. Think about those programs where you may be a better fit, or where you are more likely to be accepted based on their application criteria.
If reapplying to the same program, emphasize the newer, better you. If you intend to re-apply to a program that previously rejected you, it’s important to update them on your progress. Tell them what’s different this time around. What have you accomplished since you last applied? How have you matured and grown?
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. The process of applying to business school is time-consuming and requires self-awareness. A well-thought out plan with strategies for changing things up will go a long way towards earning admission.