This post originally appeared on Stacy’s ‘Strictly Business’ MBA blog on U.S. News
If the admissions decisions from your target business schools have come and gone and you didn’t get the news you were hoping for, it’s only natural to feel devastated. After months of working hard on your application and then a few more months of anxiety-ridden waiting, finding out that you weren’t accepted is tough.
Here’s the good news: Many business schools look favorably upon reapplicants, so it’s definitely worth a second try if you’re willing to do a thorough examination of where you may have gone wrong the first time around. Unless the admissions team indicated to you that the rejection was simply due to too many qualified applicants with your same profile this season, you’ll need to re-evaluate and focus on improving your candidacy.
Admissions committees consider thousands of qualified applicants each year and have developed a strong sense for who will fit best with their program. Determine the answers to these questions to see whether it makes sense to apply again to a school that has rejected you.
1. Have you addressed any obvious weaknesses? First and foremost, review your entire application package with a critical eye to determine where any weaknesses lie. The most common reasons for rejection include low test scores, insufficient leadership experience, lukewarm recommendations and boring essays.
You can improve some things in your profile, such as test scores and work experience, but you cannot change or improve upon other factors, such as a low college GPA or being out of school for 15 years. If you simply need more time to flesh out your goals or take on more responsibilities at work to show additional examples of leadership or teamwork, then a second attempt may make sense.
One prospective MBA client, for instance, applied to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management with less than one year of work experience, and the school denied her admission. But when she tried again four years later, with more work experience under her belt, the school admitted her.
Focus on elevating your candidacy where you can. Depending on the weakness, you may need to work for another year or more to make a significant improvement that will impress the admissions committee.
2. Is the school the best fit for your goals? The MBA is not a one-size-fits-all degree, and not every business school is equipped to help every person reach his or her unique professional goals.
If you have highly specific or unusual career goals that a school finds too challenging from a job-placement standpoint – as happened with another prospective MBA client of ours who wanted to work in arts management – it makes no sense to reapply to the same program as it is unlikely the response will change a year from now.
Or the school might not be the right fit for you culturally and personally, and the admissions team may have picked up on that through your letters of recommendation, interview or essays. Perhaps it’s time to move on and find MBA programs that appreciate what you have to offer and are better suited to helping you achieve your unique professional aspirations.
That’s exactly what happened with one of our clients, who applied three times to the University of California—Berkeley Haas School of Business. On his third attempt, he also submitted an application to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Haas once again rejected him but Stanford admitted him. It seems Haas just was not meant to be.
3. What will you do differently next time? Be prepared to demonstrate significant improvements to your candidacy when reapplying. The admissions decision probably won’t change unless you have. From a practical standpoint, you should plan to reapply in round one of the next admissions cycle. If you fail a second time, you can realign your expectations and apply in round two to other more appropriate schools.
Also, don’t recycle last season’s materials and expect a different result. You need to treat the whole application process as a fresh, new experience – one informed by the challenges you faced as well as the wisdom acquired since the last admissions cycle.
Finally, do an honest self-assessment to determine what you are truly looking for. Think about your learning style and the culture of the various MBA programs; during that process, it might become evident that some of the schools you had targeted simply weren’t a good fit. We have had many clients who, after some self-reflection and growth, realized that they wanted to pursue a very different type of graduate program.
It may be hard to hear, but there is a reason why the business schools rejected you the first time. You need to understand those reasons and decide whether you can address them. If you can’t, then reapplying to those schools does not make sense.