Scott Edinburgh
December 2, 2021

What To Do If You Were Rejected In Round 1

If round 1 did not go as planned, do not give up hope! Remember, there are countless reasons for a rejection – so many that Personal MBA Coach developed a Ding Report service to help candidates understand where they went wrong! While many times candidates are rejected due to a mistake that they can fix, there are some surprising reasons for a rejection. In some cases, you might have even been dinged because you were overqualified!

Regardless of the reason, Personal MBA Coach would like to help you develop a strategy to realize your MBA goals.

Candidates rejected from business school 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 (or potentially round 3) is a very viable option!

Follow these 3 key pieces of advice:

1) Broaden Your School List.

Unfortunately, not everyone can earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. In some cases, getting rejected from business school 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. (If you are applying to business school as a consultant, find out how to differentiate yourself here.)

Due to this numbers game, our average candidate applies to 5 to 8 schools. For some, this means having schools from a range of tiers. For others, this means putting your eggs in 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/EA and professional experience. Personal MBA Coach prides itself in 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 it for you.

2) Retake the GMAT/GRE/EA.

Even though time is limited for January deadlines, you may want to consider retaking the GMAT/GRE/EA 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 and think about whether your story clearly and consistently came across.

Some questions you should consider include: Have you shown your unique value added? 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 on enhancing 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 our 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.

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 14 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 year, our clients earned more than $6.5M in scholarships!