Taking Time Off After An MBA Rejection

Posted on February 11, 2014 | Filed in Admissions, MBA

How to deal with business school rejection and take time off before re-applying to cast a critical eye on what might have caused the rejection.

How to deal with business school rejection and take time off before re-applying to cast a critical eye on what might have caused the rejection.

Being admitted to a top MBA program is quite a challenge. One of the questions we get most frequently at Manhattan Admissions is: “What are my chances of being admitted to a program after I’ve been rejected the first time?” The answer is: probably better than you think. There is a lot of data that suggests that re-applicants are actually admitted at a higher rate than first-time applicants. This makes sense – after all, people going through the admissions process for the second time have more experience, and they also have a better understanding of their goals.

Dealing with a rejection from your “dream” business school can be tough, but it is also an opportunity to improve your application packet and re-apply with the additional experience you’ve gained from going through the process once before. Here are some helpful steps for preparing to re-apply:

  • Take time off.

    If you’ve just recently been rejected, take some time away from the entire admissions process so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective. No one likes being rejected, but it’s amazing what a little distance and time can do to your enthusiasm for trying again. Spend time catching up with friends and family, rediscover old hobbies, and maybe travel a bit if your schedule will permit. The worst thing you can do is to react to rejection by immediately doubling your efforts without giving yourself a chance to evaluate what went wrong.

  • Reconsider what your “dream” school means.

    You should also take some time to reconsider why your “dream” school seemed so perfect during the last admissions cycle. Are you sure that your goals and career plans aligned with the school that you applied to? Would another business school be a better fit for your career goals? A good way to really evaluate these questions is to answer these questions in writing. Also, interact with current students at the school to see what information they may have – they will have inside knowledge that won’t be available on the school’s website.

    Admissions committees frequently tell us that most applicants would be well served by getting away from the idea of one “perfect” school. Instead, they should be looking at the value proposition of each MBA program. Business school is an investment, so rather than becoming emotionally attached to a certain program, evaluate them objectively as you would any other investment.

    Finally, if you come to the conclusion that there really is only one school for you, make that clear in the next admissions cycle. Schools will favor applicants who are completely committed to one school, so let them know of your interest.

  • Re-evaluate what you did the first time through.

    Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
    Did I interview confidently the first time around?
    Did I provide clear examples of my leadership?
    Did I show that I would be a good fit with the program?
    How strong were my letters of recommendation?

    Admissions officers have told us that a mediocre or even generic letter of recommendation can really hurt an applicant. This isn’t to say that you may have had bad recommendations – perhaps your recommenders simply did not have enough concrete examples of your leadership. Next time around, provide your recommenders with detailed examples of your accomplishments so that they can point to real-world examples of your best qualities rather than providing a list of adjectives.

  • Talk to friends and colleagues.

    One of the best things you can do is to ask a good friend in the business world to review your application materials. Ask them to be brutally honest – they’ll be doing you a favor. If you can, talk to more than one friend – the more opinions the better.

In closing, our advice is this: a) make sure you do the research necessary to be sure of your career goals, b) have a concrete plan for what you want to accomplish with your MBA, and c) show the schools that you’ve used the extra time to make yourself a stronger applicant. If you make the extra effort, your application will be much stronger the second time around. Good luck!

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