The MBA admissions decision all applicants dream of is “admitted” or “admitted with a scholarship”. However, the letter informing you of the AdComs decision can bring you news of a different type, such as “waitlisted”, “conditionally admitted” or “declined admission”. Always aiming for the best, you should come up with a winning strategy for each scenario.
Well, this is hardly something you will have been dreaming of, but you can always make the best of a bad job. Failure is invaluable if we learn the lessons it teaches us, and we can actually learn a lot from being rejected during an MBA application.
Rejection may come at several stages, including the first screening of the application, which most likely means that you do not meet some eligibility criterion for admission. You may be rejected at the interview stage, meaning that you are not invited for an interview. Finally, you may not be selected for admission after the interview because there were better applicants.
Schools do not give a reason for rejecting you, but some MBA admissions consultants offer the DING analysis service – they analyse your application performance and suggest possible reasons for you not being admitted. This information will be useful to help you decide whether to reapply for the next intake or adapt your school choices.
Many MBA programmes are highly competitive. Admission rates may be as low as 7% and the pool of applicants can reach 10,000. Before applying to a school, especially if it is a stretch for you, it is important to find out how a rejection will affect any application for the next intake. If it will negatively affect a subsequent application then you should think twice before applying.
However, more often than not, MBA aspirants apply to more than one programme, widening their options to improve their chances of gaining admission and actually beginning their MBA studies. If you have realistic expectations as to which MBA programmes are the right fit for you, and which ones are a stretch, then you cannot really be disappointed if rejection comes from a stretch school. You can just be pleasantly surprised if you gain admission. However, if rejection comes from a school that seems like the right calibre for you, then you should consider the DING analyses.
This admissions decision actually leaves the door open. It means that you have been admitted, but you can only actually enrol in the programme if some of those who are fully admitted do not enrol, creating an available place in the next class. The admits were a step ahead of you in convincing the AdComs that they are the right fit for the programme, so you have to be patient while they decide whether or not to enrol.
Actually, there is a lot you can do while waiting. If you do not like being on standby you have other choices. Business schools will ask you in writing whether you would like to be put on the waiting list. If you decline, your application to the school is at an end – you cannot change your mind later.
If you are happy to be put on the waiting list you should inform the school in writing. This is an excellent chance for you to communicate with the school and provide any fresh information about any relevant developments and accomplishments since you submitted your application. Before you reply, take a critical look at your application and decide whether to get advice from an independent MBA admissions expert about what information will improve your chances for admission. Your reply to the school should be well thought through, because it forms part of your application package.
If you have applied to other programmes, you will start receiving their replies too. If you have been admitted elsewhere and opt for that school, you should inform the rest. That way, you free up a space for anxious applicants on waiting lists. If you would like to keep your admissions options open, you can keep your place at any school by paying the enrolment deposit. All you are risking is the deposit.
Some schools may offer you a “conditional admission”. In this case you have been accepted onto the programme, but you cannot begin your studies until you meet some preliminary requirement, for example, an additional test or a prerequisite course.
You should inform the school whether you plan to accept their conditional admission offer. If so, start preparing to meet the prerequisites. Take this seriously, because schools are strict about their requirements. Successfully meeting them is evidence that you can be successful during your studies – and that is the aim of the whole application process. AdComs have the job of deciding whether you have the potential to succeed and to contribute to the MBA programme.
“Congratulations! You have been admitted to the programme for the class of …” The letter of admission is confirmation that you can enrol on the programme of your choice.
The admissions letter describes the next steps you need to take. The first one is usually paying your enrolment confirmation deposit. This is generally non-refundable, but if you do enrol on the programme, it will usually be deducted from your tuition fee.
If you – like most applicants – are also waiting to hear from other schools, you might be in a situation where the various schools’ deadlines do not work in your favour. To be on the safe side, you may want to pay some deposits, then decide where to enrol once all the replies are in. This means that you will lose some deposits, but at least you will keep all your options open.
After admission you should start planning your budget according to the programme’s payment plan. Time flies, so you should take care of any visa requirements and your lodging and travel arrangements straight away.
However, the first thing to do is send a thank you letter to the school, no matter whether you actually plan to enrol or not. This is also the time to inform everyone who has supported and guided you during your application – recommenders, test prep instructors, friends and family, coaches, the list is usually longer than you initially expect.
Admission with a scholarship
This is a dream for many MBA applicants. The letter is basically the same as the admission letter, but it includes the decision to award financial support (scholarship, fellowship, etc.). Depending on the school’s application and scholarship review process, the letter of admission and the scholarship letter might come separately some time apart.
If you have applied for a scholarship and your letter of admission does not specify a decision, then you need to clarify the next steps with the admissions office. You have to analyse your options (if you have applied to other programmes) and decide whether to enrol even if a scholarship is not forthcoming.
In reply to a letter offering admission and a scholarship, you should send one thank you letter to the admissions office and another (through the admissions office unless otherwise specified) to the donor of the scholarship (if different from the business school).
You should also take care to thank all of your supporters outside the school.
If you need a visa for your MBA studies abroad, the official scholarship letter is an important document for your visa application. Check out the deadlines as soon as possible, so as not to risk delaying the start of your studies due to administrative reasons. The consular offices follow their own procedures, and not your academic calendar.
There is definitely a lot you can and should do after any MBA admissions decision. Prepare for all scenarios, be open to learning lessons, embrace all opportunities, and thank all who have supported you.