Waitlisted? Six Steps To Take Now

Waitlisted? Six steps to take now

Being waitlisted by your dream school is a special kind of agony. But don’t lose heart – it’s certainly better than a rejection. Still, it can feel tormenting – to be within reach of your goal yet saddled with the uncertainty of having to wait for an answer. What should you be doing to manage this anxious period?

While it appears to be out of your control, there are a few actions you can take immediately to boost your standing to maximize your odds of receiving a confirmed offer. For the best advice on how to proceed, I circled up with the Fortuna Admissions team of former senior admissions staff – who themselves have managed waitlists at top business schools.

If you find yourself on the Waitlist, here are six specific actions you can take:

  1. Reiterate your commitment to the program when you accept a spot on the waitlist. Ensure a tone that’s both professional and positive, without an inkling of disappointment (or worse, resentment).
  2. Update your alumni interviewer on your standing, and ask for suggestions or feedback (if you interviewed with an alum). While they won’t necessarily tell you “why” (and they may not know), they may be willing to share some additional perspective about your conversation and their sense of your fit with the school.
  3. Offer an additional letter of support – ideally, from someone from the community who can reinforce your fit with the school. It need not be as formal as the letters of recommendation letters you submitted with your application – a one-page email will suffice. Before you do, know and respect the program’s policy – certain schools don’t accept any additional materials. However, do not flood the admissions committee with additional letters, which can backfire by potentially harming your reputation.
  4. Assess why your application fell short. Step back to evaluate areas of potential weakness, then seek help to glean additional perspective. For example, if your GMAT score is below the school average, it may be helpful to retake the exam, but only if you believe you can boost your score by a solid margin (not just 10 more points).
  5. Reach out to the admissions office periodically – without becoming a pest. Checking in every three-to-four-weeks is appropriate. If possible, do so with a notable update on your profile, such as a job move or promotion, and at the very least reinforce your motivation. Do inform the program if you’re on the verge of taking another offer. Personal touches can reinforce a positive impression and keep you on the radar screen, so consider balancing emails with the occasional phone call.
  6. Identify next steps. Now’s the time to hatch a plan B if you don’t already have one. Do you want to reapply to the same program if you don’t receive an acceptance offer (and know that most waitlisted candidates won’t)? Or apply to other programs? As you consider next steps, identify ways to strengthen your profile in the coming year to increase your chances of admissions success in the future.

Finally, try to stay optimistic. Discouraging as it seems, you still have a chance of getting in.

For more advice on what to do when you’ve been waitlisted, especially if you have offers from other business schools, view my short video blog discussion with my Fortuna Admissions colleague Catherine Tuttle, former Associate Director at Duke Fuqua.


Caroline is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD. Fortuna Admissions is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools.