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Evaluate alternative programs

Some applicants go into the MBA application process thinking “it’s these four schools or bust.” If they don’t get in there, they’d much rather wait to re-apply to those same schools in the next year or two.

Others may want to consider expanding their school list and add programs where they have better odds at getting in. There are schools outside of the top 10 that are good programs and have strong reputations with certain employers. Check the school’s career site and see which industries and employers recruit at those schools. Sometimes it can pay to be a large fish in a small pond as there might be less competition at the school fighting for the job you want, and if you get it, odds are you will be paid the same as someone at a top 10 program that gets the same job type.

Steps to take before re-applying next year

If you didn’t get into any of your top choices and are either too burnt out to continue or dead set on attending one of the schools that have already dinged you, consider ways to improve your profile. A good first step is to go back to your recommenders and ask them frankly what they think your developmental needs are, and where they think you might have fallen short. Then, develop an action plan to address any of those shortcomings.

Whether or not your immediate manager knew you were applying to business school, you should also go to him or her – even take them out for lunch, and let them know you want to step up and take on more responsibility.  Be armed with some potential ideas, and if they are realistic, you’ll likely get results. The sad fact at many companies is careers aren’t properly managed, and developmental shortcomings never fully addressed. By being proactive and bringing ideas to the table, your manager is more likely to give you greater responsibilities and broaden your exposure.

And finally, honestly ask yourself if you did everything you could to get the best possible GMAT score. Improving your score is something that is still in your control, and the best way to increase your score is to do problems, understand why you got any problems wrong, and then to do more problems – rinse and repeat process.  This can be hard work, but increasing your total from, say 680 to 720 could very well be the difference maker for you.

Oftentimes, rejected applicants do not devote enough time or attention to the process, incorrectly thinking they can accomplish it all in a compressed timeline. Yet in fact applying to each school is an intensive, time consuming, mentally draining process. Next time around, give yourself enough time to do it the right way.

Michael White is the Co-Head of Darien Academic Advisors, LLC and Head of its MBA Admissions Consulting practice. Previously, he spent over a decade as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and Bank of America advising financial institutions on raising capital and mergers & acquisitions. He also spent nearly 4 years as a Senior Columnist writing opinion and commentary on the U.S. financial sector for Dow Jones’ Banking Intelligence product. He can be reached at For more information, visit

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