It’s understandable to feel heartbroken after receiving a rejection in the first round of the MBA application cycle.
However, it’s imperative not to let disappointment cloud your judgment or distract from completing and polishing your next round of applications, admissions experts say.
Graduate business schools generally review MBA applications in two or more waves during an admissions cycle, and prospective students may apply in any of those rounds. Though MBA hopefuls who are rejected by a B-school in round one aren’t usually allowed to reapply in the next round, they can and often do apply elsewhere.
“This is an ideal window, despite the stress and anxiety, to make lemonade out of lemons, because the round two deadlines – which correspond to early January for almost all top U.S. MBA programs – are around the corner,” says Esther Magna, a principal at the MBA admissions consulting company Stacy Blackman Consulting and an alumna of the MBA-M.P.H. program at the University of California—Los Angeles.
Consider the following expert-endorsed strategies to rebound and find more success in round two.
Consider if You Are Targeting the Right Type of MBA Program
It’s possible you chose to apply to a B-school in round one that wasn’t the best fit for you based on your professional experience, career goals and academic credentials, and admissions officers at that school may have dinged you for that reason, according to MBA admissions experts.
Another possibility is that you actually were a wonderful candidate but did not make a solid case for acceptance, experts say. You may have forgotten to mention one of your more important selling points or submitted a lackluster essay, for instance.
It’s also conceivable that you did everything right and were thoroughly qualified, but that school didn’t choose you despite this, says Barbara Coward, a former MBA recruiter and admissions officer who now runs the MBA 360 Admissions consulting company. People on admissions committees are human and occasionally make mistakes, she says.
“It’s time to brush yourself off, recognize what perhaps might have gone wrong and then reapply” to another school, she says.
Thoroughly reappraising your competitiveness can help you decide where to apply next, experts say. “Certainly the wider of a net the applicant is willing to cast for MBA programs, the more of these programs that they decide to apply for … the better the admit chances are, all else equal,” Magna says.
Critique Your Round One Application and Seek Feedback From Experts
The best way to identify fixable flaws in an application is to completely review it and look for opportunities to bolster your argument for admission. These could include presenting a higher GMAT or GRE score, revising a resume or seeking a new recommender, experts say.
Because it can be hard to look at your own MBA application objectively, getting feedback from an admissions officer at the school that rejected you is optimal, experts add. Though admissions departments at the most highly selective MBA programs don’t generally provide this kind of guidance, less-competitive B-schools are sometimes receptive to requests for advice, Magna says.
You can also research online admissions requirements for schools you’re considering for round two, ask a recruiter for opinions about the viability of your application during a school information session or admissions fair, or show your application to a professor or career mentor whose opinion you trust.
Additionally, you can seek free consultation sessions with admissions consultants or post your credentials on admissions forums where B-school officials from around the country often weigh in, though you should be skeptical of commentators who don’t have professional admissions expertise.
Research MBA Programs for Round Two Application
Because the B-schools you’re considering for round two may not have been on your radar initially as an applicant, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about them before assembling your applications, experts say. Thoroughly studying the academic and extracurricular offerings at schools where you apply in round two will help you convey your knowledge about and interest in them.
School-specific knowledge will allow you to highlight the aspects of your background that align with what a particular school values most, Coward says.
Tailor Your Application Essays to Each B-School
It’s unwise to reuse a lot of essay material from your unsuccessful round one applications, and using the same essays for multiple schools in round two can also be dangerous, Magna says.
“That is typically a sure bet to get dinged, because all these programs, they compete against each other to some extent, and they have a radar,” she says. “They are aware when there is a sense of copy-paste or tweaking from their sister school … So we oftentimes, depending on the school, encourage starting from scratch.”
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