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Second Time’s the Charm: Reapplying After Being Waitlisted to an MBA Program

Receiving a notice that you’ve been waitlisted to your top choice MBA program is tough. Even tougher is the decision to forgo acceptance to a safety MBA program and instead reapply the following year to your dream school. By putting you on their waitlist, the program is stating that they believe in you but that others were a better match for their cohort. Therefore, when you reapply, you’ll need to show how you have grown in the past year and are now ready to be a major contributor to their MBA program. Your essays are the best place to do this.

In the effort to shine in the application process, reapplicants are particularly vulnerable to the pitfall of trying to include too many examples and anecdotes in their essays. This makes for superficial essays that don’t really resonate with the reader. When creating your MBA essay package, you’ll need to show not only that you have the technical qualifications for the program but can apply the lessons that you have learned from your experiences over the past year to diverse scenarios, including the classroom. We’ve developed these guidelines to help reapplicants choose the best from the past year to create essays that will help get you noticed by your dream MBA program’s admissions officers.

Take a look at the previous year’s essay package

In my experience, waitlisted applicants typically succumb to similar pitfalls that started with the essay brainstorming process. It could be that you chose examples of a big project but where you did not play a significant role. Maybe you spent so much of the essay explaining the scenario that you didn’t have enough word count available to express why the experience was personally meaningful to you and your career progress. Finally, you might have tried a ‘wide net’ approach to the application process and didn’t have time to tailor each essay package to the specifics of the school’s particular program.

Ultimately, the anecdotes that you chose didn’t give the admissions officers the insight that they would need to see your passion and potential. For your new set of essays, focusing on experiences within the past year has proven the most successful for reapplicants. Since only a year has passed, don’t overlook experiences outside of the workplace. If you have done extensive reading, participated as a volunteer or joined relevant organizations, these can be excellent sources of anecdotes.

Include pivotal experiences that demonstrate growth

Exactly which anecdotes you choose will depend on a combination of the MBA program’s prompts and your personal experiences. However, admissions officers will look for things like critical thinking about your own actions and the actions of others. What did you get right? What mistakes did you make? How can you apply what you learned to other situations? You’ll need to show that being waitlisted was a humbling experience that prompted you to reevaluate your situation and take concrete steps towards being a more qualified applicant this year.

Reflect meaningfully on your experiences

In all likelihood, the anecdotes that you chose for your essays will be similar in many ways to other applicants. This is why it is best to spend the least amount of time possible describing the experience itself. What will set you apart is your reflection on that experience. A successful MBA essay goes beyond just the facts and tells the admissions officers why you think the example was something important for them to know about you. In each anecdote provided, the admissions officers are looking for you to tell them how this experience over the past year has taken you to a higher level in your personal or professional development.

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