Whether & When to Reapply

Now that many of the admissions decisions have been finalized, many denied applicants are left wondering whether they should reapply. Forrest Gump begins to ponder what to do next in his posting, That Thing Called Hope.

The business school application process is incredibly introspective. While all of the work that you put in to the process may increase your desire to attend, some of the thinking that you did about your career and life plans may actually have led you to agree with the admissions committee – business school is not the place for you.

If you have been denied this year, this is a time to take a break, perhaps briefly wallow in self pity, and then think about whether you really want or need business school. In many cases, if your goals are unchanged, the simple answer to this question is “yes”.

Have I Hurt My Chances?
Many applicants worry that they have a lower chance of acceptance with a reapplication. This is generally not the case. Many schools actually encourage reapplication. For example, Wharton states that reapplicants comprise about 10% of their applicant pool in a given year, and that about 10% of admitted applicants are reapplicants. This indicates that reapplicants have as good a chance as anyone else in the pool. They have also stated that they generally look favorably upon reapplications.

Some schools, such as Stanford and Harvard state that they do not look at the previous year’s application, and require you to submit an entirely new app. This would imply that a new application provides a completely clean slate.

Frequently, over the course of gathering feedback, you can establish a relationship with members of the admissions committee. This is also a way to show your commitment to the school and enhance your chances the second time around. While you do not want to be too agressive, and need to make sure that your interactions are not frivolous, in some cases you can maintain a meaningful dialog that can actually help your chances.

The takeaway here is that if managed properly, reapplication is not a bad thing, and can even improve your chances. Once you have decided that you want to forge ahead, the first step to successful reapplication is gathering as much honest feedback as you can.

Many schools will conduct feedback sessions to provide insights for denied applicants. Wharton states that they conduct approximately 1,500 feedback sessions each year. Kellogg and Columbia are two other schools that are willing to provide feedback. Be warned that the feedback is not always entirely helpful. Occasionally you will receive a very actionable piece of feedback, such as “you need more work experience” or “you should raise your GMAT score at least 30 points”. More often, the feedback is quite general and it can be hard to really pin down specific takeaways. You should also know that it is highly unlikely that you will hear, “you really do not have a chance here”. Even if that is, in fact, the case.

When to Reapply
When you actually reapply will depend on the outcome of outside feedback and your personal introspection. While some candidates may be in a hurry to go to school and move on with things, there are many reasons why you may want to wait a year before taking the plunge again.
1) If you find that you have a number of important issues to address in your candidacy, you may need more than the six months you still have to tackle everything.
2) You may be plain burnt out. Applying once is a very exhausting process on many levels. Being denied only adds to that. You may just not have it in you to try again so soon.
3) Finally, and perhaps most importantly – demonstrating progress is key to reapplication success. If you apply with the exact same story, same acitivities, same position…if you show that you really have not done much besides apply to business school in the past year, the likelihood of success is low. However, if you can demonstrate that you have begun to make progress towards your goals even without your MBA, that you have been promoted, taken a board seat, refined your goals…all of this will take you a long way. You may need more time to take action and demonstrate that progress. This would be a good reason to wait an additional year or more before reapplying.

These are things to think about now, before applications are posted. Go through the introspection, gather feedback and make some decisions about what you will do this year. Stacy Blackman Consulting can also provide feedback on last year’s apps to help you figure out what went wrong, and provide actionable advice for how to move forward. Just contact us at info@stacyblackman.com.

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