Scott Edinburgh
March 23, 2022

Getting off the MBA Waitlist

Most candidates feel mixed emotions after hearing that they were placed on an MBA waitlist. While, naturally, getting a spot on the MBA waitlist is not as good as getting accepted to your target MBA program, being placed on the waitlist is generally good news. This means that the admissions committee liked your application and believes that you would be a great fit in their class. However, they are not quite ready to offer you a spot.

Before we discuss MBA waitlist tips and your MBA waitlist chances, let’s look at the most common reasons candidates are placed on a waitlist.

Too many applicants with a similar profile

For better or worse, sometimes it comes down to numbers. While we use compelling personal stories to help our clients from overrepresented backgrounds stand out, diversity is important in the MBA classroom. You cannot fill an entire class with former MBB consultants. This “numbers game” is the second reason why we advise candidates to broaden their school lists.

Admissions Committee was not sure if you actually would attend

Sometimes applicants are waitlisted because the admissions committee was not convinced they would attend if accepted. While this is not likely to explain an HBS waitlist, there are certain schools that applicants might view as a safety school and, if the admissions committee suspects this, the applicant may be placed on the waitlist.

Low GMAT/GRE/EA score or another addressable weakness

If an applicant has a strong profile and application but a low test score (or another addressable weakness), they may be placed on the waitlist. In this case, this gives the applicant the chance to address this weakness and update the admissions committee.

Waiting to see applicants in a future round (less common during round 2)

Particularly in early rounds, admissions committees will use the waitlist when they receive a larger than expected number of qualified candidates in an early round. Note — this does NOT mean it is harder to get in during round 1; it can sometimes be easier in round 1. To save seats in the class for applicants in later rounds, admissions committees will place applicants on the waitlist until they review applications in future rounds.

MBA Waitlist Tips

Next, let’s talk about how you can increase your chances of getting off the MBA waitlist. While waitlists are unpredictable, and it is hard to pinpoint a specific MBA waitlist acceptance rate, there are steps to take to improve your chances of admission.

Assess why you were waitlisted

The first step in determining your next steps for getting off the MBA waitlist is to try and figure out why you were likely placed on the MBA waitlist. Keep in mind, not all schools will provide feedback.

If it is not offered, do not ask! Instead, look at the list above and see which item(s) are most likely to apply to you. Personal MBA Coach offers waitlist support and ding analysis services for those who need help.

Address any potential weaknesses

If you have a weakness you can address, work on it! This could mean stepping up at work so you can mention increased leadership experience in your update letter, beefing up your involvement outside of work or retaking the GMAT/GRE/EA.

Engage appropriately

As you consider your next actions, keep in mind that less is more! We know waiting can be challenging but resist the urge to do too much!

While sending a waitlist update is often acceptable (after an appropriate period of time), frequent contact can do more harm than good! Keep this MBA waitlist letter brief and focus on the specific steps you have taken to improve your candidacy. For some schools, a strong MBA waitlist letter will also reiterate your interest in the program and detail your engagement with the program.

If you find yourself on the waitlist for one or more of your target schools, Personal MBA Coach is here to help you develop your MBA waitlist strategy. From reviewing your entire application to editing an MBA waitlist letter, we are here to provide you with guidance and clarity.

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!