Rejected? Dinged? 5 Tips for Reapplying to Business School

This time of year, we get a huge number of inquiries from b-school applicants gearing up for the reapplication process.  

This makes sense, as this subset of students is often driven to succeed, still hurting from the sting of getting rejection letters, and aware that going at it alone all over again might not make much sense.  And truth be told, hiring a vetted admissions consultant is rarely a better investment than when you are reapplying to business school.  However, there are a few techniques and things we have discovered that can help all reapplicants, not just those who become our clients:

1.  Start doing your "ding" diligence now. 

The biggest mistake we see people make on the second go-round is they avoid all the schools from which they were dinged/rejected.  This across-the-board approach is way too broad, and is a poor strategy as it usually comes on the heels of an applicant not vetting reasons why they were dinged in the first place.  

Does the admissions committee provide feedback to rejected applicants?  Have you checked the website to determine this? Have you reached out to any alumni in your network?  Did you meet any students on your class visit?  I hope you kept in touch with them periodically.  What about reaching out to them?  What about and the person that interviewed you?  If you established a good rapport with your interviewer, send them a quick email to let them know about your status, asking (nicely) if they would be okay if they provided you some feedback  on your candidacy. 

Once you develop a sense for why you were rejected,  then you can determine whether or not it is realistic to apply to a particular program again. So what new ideas can you fold in to the mix?  

Keep this in mind, if you have sufficiently improved your application, admissions committees will value of your tenacity and demonstrated interest. Consider that bonus points.

2. Nearly every school can be "reapplicant friendly", so don't read too much into any abbreviated application format.  

Columbia and UCLA Anderson feature reapplicant essays only, where you provide "new" information, but not a fresh application.  So surely they must be down on reapplicants, right?  Nope.  We've seen Columbia respond very favorably to reapplicants - especially those who apply very early for Early Decision (we're talking July here).  So don't read into the fact that Kellogg lets you submit a whole new application and a reapplicant essay, while UCLA doesn't.  They require different approaches for sure, but one program is not more likely to admit you than the other on those grounds alone.

3. There are many forms when it "updating" the admissions committee. 

So many reapplicants get hung up on not having enough to "update" the school on - especially when they were dinged in Round 2 of one year and then apply Round 1 of the next year.  Don't sweat this.  In addition to new test scores, work promotions, new experiences (life and work), and even classes taken on the side, you also can have an updated perspective.  Better formed career goals, a better insight into the specific school, better stated themes ... it's all updated and improved.  And if they can tell you spent more time, did more research, and maybe got some assistance in improving those areas?  They will be happy, because you understand your own candidacy better and are more prepared for b-school.

4. Don't fear overhauling your b-school essays and MBA application, but don't throw good money after bad. 

Another weird myth that seems to persist among reapplicants is that you can't dramatically change your narrative in the new application.  The idea goes something like this: they will see my application from last year and know that I changed everything.  For starters, no, they probably won't.  Admissions officers have thousands of files to read - rarely are they going to double down for one person.  But even if they did ... so what?  People can't grow?  Evolve?  Better themselves?  Improvement is not a bad thing, whether in understanding of self, writing style, or even the packaging of your story.  You do every single person a favor when you get better.  Never, ever run from improvement because you think it will somehow reflect poorly.  It's pretty much impossible. 

5. Don't panic.

The most common type of reapplicant we work with is someone who got oh-so-close and barely missed.  (Full disclosure: this is partly because of our philosophy of only working with candidates we believe we can help reach their goals, so it is self-selecting.)  The hardest thing about working with this type of student is keeping them calm.  They all want to retake the GMAT, no matter their score.  They want to take four new extension classes and join five new organizations and generally transform themselves.  Going back to #3 on this list, the best updates are usually in perspective and presentation.  In all likelihood, if you got close (getting waitlisted, interviews without an admit, etc.), it means you don't need to transform, you just need to tweak.  In almost every case, essay structure needs to be fixed (business school applicants are the worst at structure, no offense), career goals need to be better articulated (our best guess is that 95 of every 100 MBA candidates do not correctly lay out career goals and articulate the appropriateness of the degree in question) and school fit better demonstrated (more like 99 out of 100 candidates miss critical DNA elements of the schools to which they are applying, instead hitting only the shallow, basic, and easily-researched aspects).  THAT is usually the way to a new result ... NOT trying to become a new person.

We hope that everyone who reapplies this year reads this post and is helped by these rules of thumb.

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