Waitlisted: What Should You Do Now?

First of all, be happy! Being waitlisted means that you meet the B-school’s admissions requirements. Chances are that you haven’t been admitted — and therefore are on the waitlist — because other applicants with similar profiles to you have already been admitted, and the program wants a more diverse cohort. Another possibility is that while your credentials are impressive, there were others with even more impressive qualifications.

So, what should you do now? You’ve already proven that you meet the program’s admissions criteria. If you didn’t, you would not have received a waitlist letter. Unless the school has discouraged you from contacting them, this is the time to show the admissions committee that they want you as part of their incoming class. You can accomplish this by writing a concise waitlist update and submitting supplementary letters of support.

Your waitlist package should emphasize the following three areas:

  1. Your qualifications. Focus on your latest professional successes, academics, research, expansion in your area of responsibility, resourcefulness, and community service.
  2. Things you have done to improve weaknesses. Let the adcoms know that you have taken extra classes to improve a low grade, or joined a professional or volunteer group. Show the initiative you’ve taken to strengthen yourself. This can help you stand out among other waitlisted students.
  3. Elaborate on how you fit with the school. Demonstrate that you understand the school’s mission and values and what you are doing that shows it. Your stats also need to be in line with what the program is looking for. Business schools want grads who don’t just squeak by. They want alumni that they are proud of. Use examples and specifics to prove that you belong in the program—and that they will be happy to have you.

Areas #1 and #2 prove that you’re an even better applicant now than you were when you first applied. Area #3 proves that you belong in the program and will attend when (not if!) you are accepted.

Following are some things you will want to include in your Waitlist Update.

  • A short thank-you to the school for keeping your application open. Include how the school’s philosophy and teaching methods fit your educational style and goals. Keep the letter positive and don’t keep coming back to how disappointed you are that you weren’t accepted.
  • The agreement to take extra courses or comply with any additional guidelines provided. Not taking suggestions made by the adcom will guarantee that you will NOT receive a letter of acceptance, while stating your agreement shows how much you value their input and want to attend the program.
  • Review your recent achievements. This is your chance to toot your own horn. Did you earn a 4.0 during the last quarter? Were you project leader at work? Have you started volunteering at a new organization? Did you move your department, business, or organization in a different direction? Are you now an entrepreneur? Earned a promotion or taken on more responsibilities at work? Now is the time to talk about your latest accomplishments — ones not discussed in your application — and how they relate to the ideas examined in your essays.
  • Talk about how you have dealt with your weaknesses, without focusing too much on them. If you joined a group to improve your communication abilities, let the adcom know that you did this several months ago. Express how much you are enjoying the group and what you are gaining from it. However, DON’T say that you’re doing this because you are worried about your low verbal score or below-average grades in social science classes. Turn your weaknesses into strengths.
  • If you are sure that you would attend this program, let the adcom know that this is your first choice, and will attend if accepted. Prove that this program fits you like a glove and that it will be the best choice for both of you.

Keep your letter short and sweet — no more than two pages. Be sure that any information you include is new. This is not the time to rehash your application or essays. The adcoms have already reviewed them and saw your potential. Focus on your accomplishments since you submitted your application. This new information will hopefully tip the scales in your favor. Once you’ve submitted your Waitlist Update, don’t overwhelm the adcoms with discourteous or constant phone calls or emails. This is the time when patience may ultimately pay off. Allow your letter to do its work. Don’t ruin its impact by becoming a stalker and undoing all of your hard work.

Do you need help crafting the perfect Waitlist Update? Check out Accepted’s Waitlist Services and learn more about how we can help you gain acceptance.

Linda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, and Poets&Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.

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