The waitlist…it’s definitely not what you were hoping for, but that doesn’t mean you should give up hope. In fact, there may be steps you can take to increase your chances of admission.
First, take note of what the school asks of you. Some schools, such as Wharton, only want to hear whether or not you want to remain on the waitlist. The Wharton MBA Blog points out the positives of this policy. You won’t have to spend extra time trying to “win [them] over” with additional recommendations or supporting letters or other materials. Plus they state, “all waitlist candidates are given equal fairness and consideration.” In other words, the squeaky wheel does not get the oil on the Wharton waitlist. This can be a relief because you don’t need to do any more work. That said, it can also be frustrating to have the situation totally out of your control.
Some schools such as Stanford, Columbia, and Kellogg are open to hearing more from waitlisted candidates. While this allows you to take some action, it also means quite a bit of work. Here are some concrete steps you can take:
Feedback: You can contact the admissions committee to get feedback on your application. What they say should inform your efforts moving forward — Do you need to increase your responsibilities at work? Or take on more volunteer work? Or improve your GMAT score?
Update Letter: Begin with a letter that reiterates your interest and provides an update of activities since you submitted your application — promotions/changes in scope of work/additional responsibility, travel plans, classes taken, new GMAT score, changes in volunteer activities, and personal activities such as learning a language, completing a triatholon or taking on a new hobby. Be sure to include why these updates make you a better candidate than before. How will your activities make you a student who will further enrich their program?
Reference: You can also submit an extra letter of recommendation. However, please be sure it adds new information and a different perspective from your professional recommendations. For example, it could be a letter from someone you volunteer with.
GMAT: Sometimes an improved GMAT score can tip the scales in your favor. However, before you get to work on improving your score, ask the school directly if this would help.
Dialog with the Admissions Committee: Check in with them regularly (email is a great method) to demonstrate interest and keep them updated on your situation. Be sure to keep the updates meaningful and do not pester them by asking constant questions.
Before you contact a school with any information, check with their specific policies on how much they want to hear from you — Are they open to receiving just an update letter? Are they willing to read an additional recommendation? Do they want regular updates? You want to do as much as you can without disregarding their requests or overloading their staff. Above all remember that you are still in the game!