The Next Step for Accepted, Wait-listed, or Denied M.B.A. Applicants

When admissions decisions arrive, accepted M.B.A. students and rejected applicants must act swiftly.

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With round two notifications pouring in from many schools, M.B.A. hopefuls need to know what to do now, no matter which status group—admitted, waitlisted, denied—they fall into. After an appropriate amount of time spent doing the happy dance, posting the news to Facebook, and celebrating over dinners or drinks, admitted applicants should focus on two things: getting their finances in order, and tactfully informing supervisors of their impending departure, especially if the news will come as a surprise.

Once you've been admitted, your school will present you with a package of information about public and private loans and scholarships. Many top schools offer varying types of financial support, though the majority of students will need to figure out how to pay for the bulk of their graduate management education. The program may have access to loans or lines of credit for both domestic and international M.B.A. students and will sometimes act as the guarantor for private loans. 

[Read about how to decide whether to get a part-time or full-time M.B.A.]

After you have searched your target schools' websites for all available sources of funding, you may want to peruse general sites such as FastWeb, Peterson's, and FinAid. Also, all U.S. citizens and permanent residents may take out Federal Direct Student Loans up to $20,500 per year, with a fixed interest rate of 6.8 percent. Getting your credit in order before applying for a loan is crucial, so make sure to regularly check your credit report and fix any errors that appear before it's time to begin the loan application process.

When it comes to letting your bosses know you're about to head for the hills, diplomacy and professionalism are key. In an ideal world, you would have already included your supervisor in the process by asking her or him to act as a recommender for your application. If that was not possible, use good judgment to determine how much notice your employer should reasonably expect. Present your resignation in writing, and explain why you're moving on. Remember, your supervisor and colleagues form a part of your developing network, and you should make every effort to avoid burning bridges from this point in your career.

[Learn how to persuade your boss to pay for grad school.]

Applicants who have just received word that they've landed on the wait list of their dream school need to manage this state of M.B.A. limbo well. In fact, I devoted an entire post to this topic in 2011. Follow the rules of your particular school and know that the wait list is often a test of your judgment. If the program does provide the option of submitting additional materials, be judicious when deciding what to send. Exercise restraint in communications, but also convey your enthusiasm whenever possible. They want to be sure you'll say yes if admitted!

For those facing the dreaded "ding" from their program of choice, the blow can feel devastating. If possible, seek feedback from the admissions committee to learn precisely what, if any, were the weaknesses in your application. Deirdre Leopold, Harvard Business School's managing director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid, plans to offer feedback to candidates who made it through the interview process but were ultimately not offered a seat. Leopold says, "The challenge of comprising a class rich in diversity of backgrounds and perspectives" is what drives HBS's admissions decisions. The vast majority of the calls she'll make offer reassurance that "it wasn't anything that is or went wrong" with the candidate's application or interview, she says.

If you are denied, give yourself time to detox and cool off, but not too long. Planning needs to start as soon as possible, so you can show improvement before you apply in the next Round 1, which is only six months away. Schools look quite favorably upon reapplicants, as it shows a strong interest in the program.

Be ruthless in assessing the good and the less-than-stellar aspects of your application, and act on the feedback you receive so that when you do reapply, the admissions committee will be able to see real growth and commitment to strengthening your candidacy.