5 Valuable Tips to Get Off the Waitlist
So here you are, you’ve taken the exam, and you log on to check your application status. Obviously, you’ve spent the last 6 months preparing to go to business school. You’re ready to find out the status of your application and when you log on, you’re hit with the strangest of three outcomes: you were neither accepted nor rejected, but waitlisted. This is, by far, the place where all good candidates go to await further judgment.
You’ve just entered ‘admissions limbo’ because you don’t know if you should pack your bags and take a vacation in the Caribbean or stay put and start the waiting game. At least when you’re rejected, it’s like dealing with death: you eventually come to some form of acceptance. You get to grieve; dust yourself off; and move on.
At Manhattan Admissions, we see candidates develop all kinds of rationales to help them deal with their waitlisted status. The most common—and most inaccurate—is that they weren’t good enough. This is too bad. Because even if they eventually get accepted from the waitlist, they’re still going to feel like the ‘second choice’. So here’s what we tell those candidates. Being waitlisted just means you were qualified and worthy, but there was one element lacking or in question. In fact, every person on the waitlist is qualified to be a member of the class. An MBA admissions committee will never waitlist a candidate they believe is unqualified.
Waitlisted candidates have more than one course of action to add fire to their candidacy. However, there is no one-size-fits-all course of action. Have a look at the information below to see which actions are right for you.
- Understand your waitlist status.
There are two kinds of waitlists. The opt-out waitlist means that a school automatically puts you on its waitlist unless you tell them to remove you. The opt-in waitlist requires that you accept a position on the list, usually within a certain period of time. We tell our students: Always accept a waitlist offer, even if you’re not sure what you want. You can always withdraw later.
- Immediately ask for an application review.
Some MBA programs will give you feedback. They may even make specific suggestions for how to improve your chances of getting off the waitlist and into the incoming class.
That said, if your school offers reviews, the waitlist letter would say so. If the letter specifically tells you not to contact them, don’t ask for feedback. If the school is unclear, or if you get a personalized waitlist notification from a specific individual, go ahead and ask for the feedback. This will be valuable information for you to know.
- Write an update letter.
You only write a single update letter. Submit your letter via email three or four weeks after getting notified that you are waitlisted. If you were waitlisted as a first-round applicant, send your update letter in about four weeks before the second-round decision-announcement date, as many waitlisted first-round candidates are actively considered as second round candidates as well.
- Get a new recommendation and/or letters of support.
Unless the school specifically asks that you do not send in a new recommendation, you’ll want to take this step. If you applied to a school that requires three recommendations, you’ve already got a third one lined up you could use for any school that originally required only two recommendations. An additional voice to weigh in is great especially since the school has already deemed you worthy.
- Take a class.
If your GPA is low, that probably factored heavily into why you weren’t a clear ‘admit.’ Immediately sign up for a couple of community college classes at night—and get terrific grades—to prove you’ve got the intellectual ability as well as the discipline to do well in a rigorous quantitative curriculum. The four best classes to choose from are any kind of accounting, microeconomics, calculus, or statistics.
No matter why you’ve been waitlisted, you should get yourself to campus immediately. Ask to see an admissions officer; even include this request in your update letter. Many schools will be happy to accommodate you. For the ones that won’t, camp out in the admissions office and ambush someone.
However, don’t turn into a crazy person! There’s a slight balance that you need to achieve as a member of the waitlist between staying top-of-mind and becoming annoying. Remember, you should have confidence that the admissions committee has already designated you as worthy, so don’t be overbearing. Just take a step back and assess the situation. Annoying behavior will only serve to label you unacceptable to the school in the long run.
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