This is the time of year when business schools release their final decisions. Unfortunately, it isn’t always good news. You poured your heart and soul into the arduous MBA application process. Then, when your status changes to officially denied, a b-school rejection can seem like the end of the world.
For those of you feeling disillusioned by a rejection from your dream school, remember this: just 417 candidates became members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA class of 2021, out of 7,342 applicants. At Harvard Business School, 938 out of 9,228 applicants joined the MBA class of 2021.
Getting into a top MBA program is no easy feat.
When the news comes in, the disappointment can feel overwhelming. It especially stings when other friends you’ve made during this process seem to receive acceptances left and right. The process of recovering from a b-school rejection has three main phases. First, there’s disbelief and devastation. Then comes soul-searching for reasons why. Finally, the resilient will actively strive to improve.
Step back and give yourself a break. Starting over without taking a breather only sets you up for failure. You’re mentally fried before you even begin. Take time to regroup emotionally. Focus on friends, family, hobbies, or other interests that languished on the back burner over the past several months.
Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you won’t start business school in the fall, it’s time to swallow your pride and cast a critical eye on your initial application to find out why it got rejected.
Go through every component to understand any weak elements. Is your work experience too limited? Did you clearly demonstrate why an MBA makes sense at this point in your career? Have you shown why you “fit” with a particular school and what you would contribute to the class?
Did any of these red flags lead to your b-school rejection?
Though it’s rarely one thing that rings a warning bell, frequent red flags include a lack of leadership skills and experience, less than stellar recommendations, and low GMAT test scores or undergraduate grade point averages.
Whether given intentionally or not, a lukewarm endorsement of a candidate is a definite warning sign for admissions committees. Since you usually won’t see the finished letter, it’s essential to guide your recommenders by reminding them of concrete examples of your leadership skills and accomplishments.
We suggest saying something like, “I want you to feel comfortable, but I also want to make it as easy as possible for you, so I put together this list of accomplishments.” If you have doubts about whether your supervisors would write you an outstanding letter of recommendation, then you may need to postpone applying to business school until you do feel confident of their support.
Feedback on your weaknesses directly from the schools is, unfortunately, hard to come by. If you do have the opportunity to speak with a member of the admissions committee, take advantage by asking for details about each area of your application and make sure you walk away from any feedback session with action items for next year.
Think hard about the suitability of your target schools.
Also, make sure you applied to the right school. Some people apply to the wrong places for them, and they’ll need to do some soul-searching before they reapply. If your scores don’t come close to those of an average student at the school, it’s not likely you’ll get in next time unless you make tremendous strides on your GMAT and have other extremely impressive qualifications, too.
Finally, many schools include an additional essay question for reapplicants. This helps them better understand what has changed in your situation to make you a stronger candidate this time around. Of course, you should stress your new accomplishments. But we always encourage applicants also to address any weaknesses they may have.
Have an awareness of your failures and address them. Finally, be humble. Admissions committees know there’s no such thing as a “perfect” candidate, and one of the best ways to bounce back from a b-school rejection is to show how self-aware you are by acknowledging your shortcomings.