Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Business School Waitlist Advice from Forbes

When Forbes reporter Tara Weiss wrote a piece about how applicants can navigate the business school waitlist, she turned to Your MBA Game Plan co-author Scott Shrum for advice on what applicants can do to maximize their chances of success.

As the article states, being on the waitlist is not a comfortable experience. The lack of knowing a firm outcome can be very unsettling, especially when you're waiting on making big decisions such as leaving your current job, moving to a new place, and selling your home. However, you can take solace in the fact that the school must want you if it's waitlisted you -- the admissions office just can't find room for you in the class, at least not yet.

Your time on the waitlist also gives you an opportunity to address an weaknesses in your application. Writes Weiss:

There are several reasons candidates get relegated to the wait list. If you can find out which reason applies to you, you can try to address the problem. Among the most common: a low score on the Graduate Management Admission Test; insufficient community service or leadership experience; low grades in college math classes; unclear career goals. However, "They won't wait list anybody unless they're willing to admit them," says Scott Shrum, director of M.B.A. admissions research at Veritas Prep, an M.B.A. application consulting firm in Los Angeles.

The article also makes an important point about demonstrating enthusiasm for the program in question: It helps your chances, but only so much. If the school that has waitlisted you is your #1 choice, then you're missing an opportunity to improve your chances if you don't let the school know. After all, what school wants to admit a waitlisted candidate who only might attend? However, that is only one piece of the puzzle:

"Some people believe that convincing us they're really, really interested will get them off the wait list. That's just not true," says Peter Johnson, executive director of admissions for the full-time M.B.A. program at the Haas School. "What gets them off the wait list is strengthening one of these weaknesses."

At the end of the day, to some extent you can control how attractive you are as a waitlisted candidate. What you can't control, however, if how many applicants the school will take from the waitlist. You might do everything right, but if the school doesn't need anyone from the waitlist (or, doesn't need anyone from your particular background), then unfortunately you won't get in. Being smart about how to approach the waitlist and maximize your candidacy is all you can do, but it's better than being rejected!

For more help on getting off of a business school's waitlist, take a look at Veritas Prep's Waitlist Assistance package. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!