The dreaded (or not so dreaded) wait list

Every year there are applicants that are placed on the waiting list. Business schools have the difficult task of admitting the right number of applicants. Almost all applicants apply to various schools, so most acceptances do not turn into enrolments. Schools are forced to “oversell” their programs and accept more people than they have space for in the class. The wait-list is the way that schools manage this process.

If you have been wait-listed, I have compiled a survival guide below. First, What type of wait lister are you? I find they fall in three categories:

a) lucky to have been wait listed (grades/ gmat a good bit below average)

b) unlucky, and should have been accepted (no apparent weakness, surprised by school’s decision)

c) unconventional applicant, school did not know what to do.

For each category, there is reason to be optimistic as most wait-listed applicants I have worked with were later accepted, sometimes quite late in the cycle.

  1. Be pro-active. Inform the school that you want to be accepted and will provide more info. Not all schools welcome extra info, so if there is an explicit request not to send anything, don’t.
  2. get someone to act on your behalf. Have an alumni, student, or someone affiliated with the school contact admissions. This representative should say that you may have been overlooked/ undervalued and would make a good class participant. This is the best way to get into the class.
  3. For schools who accept further material, write a letter directly stating why you should have been directly accepted– or get a superior to write an extra recommendation endorsing you for acceptance.
  4. Know your weakness. If you have a weakness that you feel was responsible for your waitlist status, directly address and mitigate it.
  5. Stay positive- the odds are actually pretty good- and use the opportunity to become a better candidate by creating some achievements at or outside of work that you can mention to the committee.

There would be more steps, but these are the three that apply to just about everybody. If you have a dream school that you want to get into, remaining silent is really not an option. You must take action and state your case– or get somebody connected to the school to do it for you.

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