Scott Edinburgh
October 30, 2019

Fine-tuning Your MBA Application Plan After an Early Rejection

Yesterday, Wharton joined the growing list of schools to roll out the first round of rejections, releasing those not offered an interview. As round 1 decisions begin to roll in, many candidates are not receiving the news they had hoped for. While this is no doubt disappointing, do not give up hope. Personal MBA Coach would like to help you develop a strategy to realize your MBA and career dreams.

Candidates rejected from their target schools during round 1 have two options for continuing to pursue their MBA dreams.

Option 1: Apply to additional schools during round 2.

If now is really the ideal time for you to get an MBA (see our advice on this here), or if you were shooting for the stars with your round 1 list, you should consider altering your strategy and submitting additional applications during round 2. Round 2 is a very viable option! In fact last year, it was easier to get into some schools in round 2 than round 1.  

Follow these 3 key pieces of advice:

1)     Broaden Your School List.

Unfortunately, not everyone can earn an MBA from HBS. In some cases, it comes down to a numbers game: your profile is great but there were simply too many qualified former consultants from your native country in this year’s pool, making it even harder to stand out. This is why my average candidate applies to 5 schools. For some, this means having schools from a range of tiers. For others, this means spreading your eggs across multiple top-tier school baskets.

Of course, for all candidates, your target list must match your candidate profile. Be sure that you not only have a wide enough list, but one that is reasonable based on your GPA, GMAT/GRE and professional experience. Personal MBA Coach prides itself on offering open and honest feedback on your chances of success at any given school. We want our candidates to reach high, but we also will not sugarcoat your chances for you.

2)     Retake the GMAT/GRE.

Even though time is limited for January deadlines, you may want to consider retaking the GMAT/GRE or switching from one exam to the other. Remember, depending on your profile and background, you might need a score above the average to be competitive. This is particularly true if you had a lower GPA or are from an overrepresented applicant pool. As you plan to re-take the exam, consider your previous preparation. Did you get help last time around? If not, consider hiring a personal tutor who can give you targeted advice on how to improve your score.

3) Improve Your Application Development and Interview Preparation.

Finally, reapplicants should focus on improving all aspects of the application itself. As you develop a new plan, take an honest look at your application (or we offer a ding report service to do this for you) and think about whether your story clearly and consistently came across. Some questions you should consider include: Have you shown your unique value add? Did you share what truly makes you shine? Were your career goals clear? Did you actually answer the questions? Did you show passion? If you received an interview invite: How did the conversation go? Were you adequately prepared?

Option 2: Strengthen your profile and apply again next year.

For those of you willing to wait another year to give your dream school a shot, consider these 3 pieces of advice in addition to the suggestions above:

1)     Improve Your Extracurricular Activities.

Step up your involvement outside of work. Seek leadership positions within your existing organizations or consider joining a new activity or group. For more details, read our blog: Improving Your Extracurricular Profile.

2)     Look for Leadership Opportunities at Work.

In any way you can, take on more at the office. A promotion is of course ideal, but even if that is not possible, look for ways to stretch yourself within your existing role. Or consider volunteering for internal committees or projects to help strengthen your company and culture. Review these tips on how to make your career work harder for you for more specific suggestions.

3)     Address Your Skill Gaps.

Think about where you are weakest and see what you can do now to close these gaps. Is there a course you could take to improve your analytical skills? Perhaps you got an interview but did not get accepted? If so, consider options for improving your presentation and interview skills. Everyone has weaknesses; take the time now to address yours.

By starting early for next year, you can take the time to fine-tune your story, rethink your LOR strategy and ensure all aspects of your application work together cohesively. Every year we successfully advise reapplicants on what to change (and what not to) to increase their chances of success.  

Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, Personal MBA Coach regularly helps applicants navigate their applications each year and is the #4 ranked admissions consultant on Poets & Quants. Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive support includes mock interviews with a team of former M7 interviewers and customized GMAT/GRE tutoring with tutors who scored in the 99th percentile.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for over 11 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!

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