Today's post goes out to those B-school hopefuls who may have recently received great news, upsetting news, or a mix of both – otherwise known as placement on the waitlist. I often remind applicants that landing on the waitlist of your dream school is actually terrific feedback, as it means that you are qualified to attend the program, and that the school was interested in your application and your profile. So, congratulate yourself! Far more people are denied admission than are placed on the waitlist. If you're waitlisted, you're still in the running, and your application has passed an important hurdle.
The waitlist it is laden with uncertainty, even for the admissions committees. Until they know how many applicants will accept their invitations and until they start to understand the makeup of the class, they really don't know how many people will be admitted from the waitlist. In most cases, the waitlist isn't technically ranked. Again, the admissions committee is looking at the entire class composition and trying to make sure that it's a well-rounded group. As their class begins to take shape, they can make more waitlist decisions.
Fear not, for you can keep your sanity during this period of limbo, and perhaps even use the time to your advantage.
[See U.S. News's rankings of Best Business Schools.]
Should I stay on the waitlist?
The decision to stay on the waitlist depends on your interest level in that M.B.A. program. If it's your top choice, you may be willing to remain on the list until school begins, especially if you're willing to move quickly and give up a deposit on another school that has offered you firm admission.
If the waitlisting program is not your first choice, or you would like to settle your M.B.A. plans before school starts, you may choose to remove your name from the list. It is a great service to another applicant if you do so promptly, allowing someone else a chance at their M.B.A. dream.
Can I improve my chances of admission from the waitlist?
In a word, yes! The number one rule of waitlists is to follow directions. The school provided you with instructions about how to handle the waitlist process, and you must follow these directions to avoid having a negative impact on your standing with the admissions committee. If the school tells you that no additional materials are required, you shouldn't submit any under any circumstances.
Some schools, such as The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, only want to hear whether you wish to remain on the waitlist. This means you don't have to do any more work, but it can be frustrating to know you have no control over your situation.
Other schools, such as the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, and the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, historically have been more open to hearing from waitlisted candidates either by phone or E-mail. While this allows you to take some action, it also means quite a bit more work.
If the M.B.A. program does provide the option of submitting additional materials, be judicious when deciding what to send. The admissions committee may welcome letters of recommendation, improved GMAT scores or additional essays/letters from you. Carefully consider your strengths and weaknesses and what may be most beneficial in your situation. It's always best to avoid irritating the people handling your application with frivolous or irrelevant updates.
[Learn more about writing a quality admissions essay.]
Will I get in?
There is almost no way to know if you will be admitted off the waitlist, since you have little information about the ranking of the waitlist, how many people are on it, or whether the school will reach the yield they are looking for with regular applicants. Therefore, being on the waitlist means embracing uncertainty. With any luck, you've been admitted to another school and can decide whether to remain in limbo or not.
While this stage of the game may feel like agony, a good number of individuals are admitted from the waitlist. So don't give up hope, and try to consider this a positive outcome, at least for the time being.