Scott Edinburgh
March 4, 2022

Bouncing Back from an MBA Rejection

Were you rejected from business school this year? After getting over the initial disappointment, you likely turned your attention to finding out what went wrong. While there are countless reasons for an MBA rejection (this is why we created our ding report service), Personal MBA Coach has detailed seven of the most common problems below to help you improve your applications the next time around!

Before we dive in, however, Personal MBA Coach would like to remind candidates that you may have done everything right and were still rejected from business school this year. Do not get discouraged! Instead, try again in round 3 or next year (reach out today if you need help determining whether round 3 might be right for you). Schools reward candidates who continue to show interest in their programs through reapplications, and Personal MBA Coach helps numerous reapplicants each year.

Problem 1: A too-narrow school list

Personal MBA Coach clients, on average, apply to 5 to 7 schools (the 6-school package has become our most popular). While this may seem like a large investment of both time and money, there are a number of factors in the MBA application process to hedge against (more on these below). If you apply to just a few schools, there is a stronger risk of being rejected from business school. It is much easier to add a few more schools the first time around than to start over in a future year. With a growing number of top MBA programs, there are fewer strong reasons to restrict yourself to a narrow school list.

Problem 2: Lack of a Compelling Story

Your MBA applications must stand out. The reader should understand who you are, what you are passionate about, and why these passions are significant to you. It should be easy to identify how you are unique compared to your peers.

If your application essays could have been written by any other candidate in a similar role, it will be difficult for you to stand out to the admissions committee. Successful candidates are memorable! This does not mean you need to save the universe, of course. It all comes down to story and execution.

Defining your personal story is an area that Personal MBA Coach’s clients often need the most help with. We work on this extensively with you via our comprehensive packages.

Problem 3: Application Inconsistencies

All aspects of your application should tie together. This includes your MBA essays, resume, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation. The strengths you highlight should match those cited in your recommendations. If your recommenders describe you as a detail-oriented candidate while your essays emphasize your free-spirited nature, the reader will undoubtedly be confused.

Similarly, your activities should align with your passions and expertise, and your weaknesses should be consistent. Any two pieces of your application that do not fit together will raise a red flag about your intentions and sincerity.

Problem 4: Low GPA and/or Test Score

This may be more obvious, but if you do not have a competitive academic record and test score, you may not get into your top choice, no matter how amazing your application. Even though some candidates with lower GPA and test scores may be admitted (and vice versa), you must set reasonable expectations.

As you begin to think about reapplying to business school, consider areas you can improve upon. Can you take classes to develop and demonstrate strong quantitative skills? How can you better prepare for the GMAT/GRE/EA this time around? Personal MBA Coach offers customized tutoring services to help you maximize your score. For those taking the GMAT, our tutors raise clients’ GMAT scores 90 points on average.

Problem 5: Failed Interview

If you were rejected from business school post-interview (particularly at a school with a high post-interview yield), your interview performance was likely a key driver of your MBA rejection. A strong MBA application gets you only so far. Perhaps you had a bad day, perhaps you lacked a connection with your interviewer or perhaps you simply did not prepare enough. Regardless of the cause, interviewing takes practice so be sure that you schedule at least one (if not multiple) mock interviews the next time around!

Problem 6: An Abundance of Applicants with a Similar Profile

For better or worse, sometimes acceptance comes down to numbers. While Personal MBA Coach helps clients from overrepresented backgrounds develop compelling personal stories that stand out, diversity is important to MBA programs. You cannot fill an entire class with former McKinsey, Bain or BCG consultants or investment bankers. This “numbers game” is one of the key reasons we advise candidates to broaden their school lists.

Problem 7: Insufficient Leadership Experience

It should come as no surprise that business schools want leaders. While this is particularly crucial for Executive MBA hopefuls, leadership is important for all MBA candidates. Luckily, there are many ways you can demonstrate leadership through work experience and extracurriculars.

Leading a team at work is a more obvious example, but taking on informal leadership within a team, stepping up outside the office, and mentoring junior team members are also great ways to demonstrate leadership. As you begin to plan for next year, think about how you can step up your leadership experience AND better articulate it in your essays.

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 15 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2 by leading sources including Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last cycle, our clients earned more than $6.5M in scholarships!