Part Two: Tactics
As previously mentioned, a number of schools allow candidates to provide additional materials to explain any new material developments. From my perspective, I defined “material” as a new experience of significance like doing pro-bono international consulting work or volunteering to be a mentor to diversity candidates for the year. Normal course of business like another consulting project where I ran point on the analytics was kept out.
In my specific waitlist case, Booth allowed supplemental materials (e.g., updated resume, letter, etc.) as well as providing a unique opportunity to send an optional 90-second video.
(Disclaimer: waitlist guidance for each school can vary from year to year, so make sure anything shared here is still permitted by and relevant to the program you are waitlisted for)
Overall, I believe there are three guiding principles to anchor your approach to: 1. address any perceived “weaknesses” by showing concentrated effort to improve on those weaknesses, 2. double down on any particular characteristics that made you a great applicant to begin with, and 3. further establish your personal case for “Why that specific school?”.
What this looked like in practice for me
After I spent several weeks reflecting on my ambitions, analyzing my initial application, and researching even further into Chicago Booth. I designed an approach anchored on these guiding principles to hone in on three primary areas of my original application:
- Address potential “immaturity” and perceived lack of focus: in my original application, I opted to go for creative flair and a less direct explanation of my career aspirations (i.e., I tried to indirectly express my affinity for new innovative technologies by using an Instagram format created in PowerPoint as my primary storytelling medium). At the time of application, I thought this was my magnum opus. When I revisited it, I realized the character limit per post limited my ability to fully articulate my story and potentially, left gaps in my narrative. I knew in my supplemental materials, I had to be more direct of what my career aspirations were and demonstrate I could put together a more standard professional essay (via the letter).
- Double down on enthusiasm to be active contributor in the Booth community: what my application may have lacked in directly articulating my personal passions and professional ambitions, I knew between my application, interview, and random encounters with admissions staff at events, I had consistently expressed my enthusiasm to be active in the student community. I used the supplemental materials to re-assert that enthusiasm and made sure that tone carried consistently across my materials.
- Solidify “Why Booth?”: I remember even when I was writing the original application for my prompt, I found it extremely challenging to make a compelling case for “Why Booth?” without sounding overly scripted or dropping buzzwords. Based on the waitlist format, I felt it afforded far fewer constraints and enabled me to take a direct approach in the letter as well as a more abstract answer in my video to the question of “Why Booth?”.
If you’re having trouble pinpointing specific areas of weakness, I would highly encourage you to either have a trusted friend or mentor read your application with fresh eyes and offer their perspectives. Alternatively, I have had classmates who have explored admissions consultants for their specific waitlist guidance at a material price (anecdotally, ~$900 for 3 hours).
How each piece of the puzzle fits
Now that I had defined my overall strategy and anchored the direction of my supplemental materials on these three key areas, I rolled up my sleeves and got specific on how individual components of the supplemental materials could communicate my story.
In terms of timing, this period of reflection and analysis occurred over the holidays from the time of my waitlist notification in mid-December to the first week of January. This timing may conflict with Round 2 deadlines for many schools, so use your discretion on how you allocate your time.
The next section is organized by each supplemental material I prepared with why I did it, how I did it, and when.
(Note: not all supplemental materials listed below will be relevant to the program you are waitlisted for. Use your judgement on what applied to you and will be consistent with the story you are telling)
Letter to the Admissions Committee
Why: Provide context on what I was including in my supplemental materials and why. Additionally, I used this letter to get hyper-specific on how my recent experiences directly applied to Booth. Big picture, I viewed this letter as my take on writing a professional document (as opposed to Instagram), while simultaneously laying out the groundwork for what supplemental materials I was providing and why.
How: Articulated exactly what was included in my supplemental materials and why I was sharing those materials. I, then, selected two to three new accomplishments and specified what my role and responsibility was and how that connected to a particular course, student group, and/or activity at Booth in order to demonstrate “Why Booth?” and a personal connection to the school.
When: This was the last thing I put together after I had assembled all other materials (first week of February). In total, roughly two hours.