young man in a shirt and tie crossing his fingers, looking hopeful

Waitlisting Strategy – Show Your Zing

It’s that in-between time on the MBA admissions calendar – Rounds 1 and 2 are over, interviews are done, and decisions are made. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with these decisions, and if you’re one of them, my condolences. I know that wasn’t the outcome you were hoping for. You’re probably feeling pretty vulnerable right now.


There are still some options, including Round 3, January intake, or rolling admissions schools. But if you’ve decided to stay on the waitlist, working on an update letter might help ease your anxiety, whereas staring at the calendar and hoping for the best definitely won’t.


It’s a good idea to consider why you might have landed there. Most waitlisted business school applicants engage in a mental conversation about how they are not good enough. However, if you’re on the waitlist, you have been deemed qualified. Unqualified applicants get a rejection letter. The waitlist does not mean, “You better get your $hit together, kid – then maybe we’ll think about letting you in here.” But that’s often how it’s interpreted.


Here’s probably what happened. Someone with your profile submitted an application and their qualifications were a smidge higher (incidentally, this is why you need to apply to several schools). Adcom couldn’t justify giving the seat to you for this reason. Some other Taiwanese female entrepreneur or white male banker from Minnesota beat you out.


You could pray that that person declines and picks another school. Or, you could work actively to heighten your personal brand. Write your elevator pitch. What makes you irreplaceable? Do the deep thinking and soul searching you might have skimped on before. Rather than trying to obtain parity with the class profile – which has never inspired a soul – focus on how they NEED you there and why. How will the class be enriched by the diversity you bring? What unique contribution will you offer their academic community?


Consider how your profile falls short. If your test score is subpar, this is a strong hint to retake. That being said, don’t attempt to redo your entire undergraduate college career if your GPA is a 3.4. If you have a shallow leadership record in the workplace or community, this might signal for you to step up your commitments in those areas; get a board position if possible and include the impact in your update letter.


If you’re strong in those areas, get some holistic feedback on your application to see if it aptly demonstrates leadership, teamwork, ability to contribute, and clear, realistic goals. Fuzzy, haphazard goal essays signal that you might end up becoming deadweight on their job placement statistics.


Also – do some extra school research and alumni networking. It will make you look active and engaged. In your update letter, use what you have gained to demonstrate an inextricable nexus between your goals and their program.


Rather than taking frenetic action to become “good enough” or sending continuous updates, create one solid, succinct update letter that showcases your ZING in a way you had not previously captured. Address whatever shortcomings were identified. Be strategic about using this as an opportunity to reposition yourself. At the same time, make sure to submit other applications! Worrying won’t help, so continue to create options and possibilities.


It’s intimidating that you are basically re-auditioning for the role. But you won’t make the cut by attempting to remedy all your weaknesses. Make a clear, compelling value proposition that will capture their attention. Focus on your strengths.



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