Rejected last year? How much should your profile and application change before re-applying?
I am commonly asked by new clients re-applying to business school:
How much does my profile and application need to change this year if I got rejected last year?
Here is my general advice on how to change each aspect of the application:
Your story: Unless it did not make sense or had large holes, I would not recommend changing your overall story. If it seemed weak in some areas (i.e. you are making a dramatic career switch without a lot of evidence of your ability to accomplish this), make sure to highlight the changes you have made to get you closer to your new career. If you haven’t made a major professional change, this could be a side project, research or volunteer work.
However, be sure to highlight anything you have done personally to improve your candidacy since your last application. Add any new volunteer work or extracurricular leadership experience that has fueled your growth.
Your LORs: Are you confident you had the best letters? If you are not sure, have a conversation with your recommenders from last year and get a sense of their interest and excitement. If your LOR isn't perfect, find someone new to write it this year. You may be required to get at least one new LOR anyway depending on the school.
Work: While it is generally not advised to make late job changes just prior to submitting an application, you can certainly try to do different things at work such as get on a new project or take on a new responsibility if you are applying for Round 2. Evaluate your experience and see where you might be lacking relative to peers.
Regardless of whether you changed jobs or roles, be sure to highlight the major projects you have tackled over the last year, calling attention to any new skills they provided. Think about where your application was weak, and be sure to mention accomplishments that allowed you to strengthen these areas.
Goals: In nearly all cases, it’s best not to change your goals, especially if you are re-applying the very next year. Instead, add a bit more detail to your vision, showing how your recent experience has fine-tuned your direction or the skills you will need to achieve these goals.
In some cases, the role you have taken on since your last application has changed your goals. If this is the case, be sure to carefully explain it, showing your path and evolution so you do not seem simply indecisive.
Extracurriculars: While you probably had some, were they strong enough? Did they make sense with your overall profile? If you are long-term planning, think about which activities you can add now. If you are applying this year, make sure that you call attention to anything you have done outside of work, or even internal initiatives at work or on-campus leadership, to call attention to your strengths. Remember, quality over quantity here.
Interview: If you got a lot of interviews but didn't get in, it’s time to hone your interview skills. Whether it is with my team of former interviewers, myself or someone else, you should ensure you have the proper training and practice to ace the interviews once you get the invites. If you got an interview or better yet were wait-listed, it may mean that you can make specific and targeted improvements to your profile in order to be successful, focusing on highlighting your growth.
Personal MBA Coach is here to help with all aspects of the application process! If you would like individual and personal support, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact me to learn how I can help! As an MIT Sloan BS graduate and Wharton MBA grad, I have been helping candidates get into the schools of their dreams with a 96% success rate for over 10 years. Email me today at: firstname.lastname@example.org