There’s nothing worse than receiving a suspiciously small envelope from your top choice school. You feel your heart start to sink before you even open the letter.
But make no mistake, a waitlist position is very different from a rejection.
When you receive a waitlist letter, understand that the power is largely in your hands. You can’t control whether you’re eventually accepted or not, but the following steps will greatly increase your changes.
Unless you’ve already decided against attending that program, there’s nothing to lose by accepting a waitlist offer. Accepting a place on a waitlist is not a promise to attend if accepted, and you can easily remove yourself from the list if anything changes.
Some schools will allow you to contact them for immediate feedback as to why you were waitlisted. If your low GMAT score seems to have held your applications back, it might be time for a retake.
Even if the school can’t give you the reason you were waitlisted, you might already know. Don’t be afraid to consult with students and alumni in order to figure out the weak points of your application. Once you know what you’re working against, do everything you can to improve on those weaknesses. This might mean taking an extra class to boost your GPA or participating in more leadership-oriented activities at work.
About a month after being waitlisted, send the program a letter that details your recent achievements, your continued interest in the school, and the steps you’ve taken to strengthen weaker aspects of your application. Rather than talking about how disappointed you were when you found out you were waitlisted, focus on how the program remains an ideal fit for you. If it’s your first choice or one of your first choice schools, make it abundantly clear. Most sources recommend letters between 1-2 pages, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that longer is always better.
Most schools will allow you to submit a third letter of recommendation after being wait-listed, though a handful specifically request that you don’t send in another recommendation. Make sure you check and double-check the procedure for your school. If you are sending in another letter of recommendation, make sure the letter writer can emphasize your recent achievements. Ideally, the recommender should make the weakest part of your application seem stronger. We recommend spacing the letter of recommendation and the demonstrated interest letter by at least a few weeks.
Many schools take demonstrated interest into account, so a tour and a nicely worded thank you note about how much you enjoyed visiting might be enough to push you into the “accepted” application pile. However, a letter indicating your continued interest and a letter of recommendation are generally enough when it comes to written communication. Don’t go overboard.
If you’re still waiting to hear about one school, make sure you’ve got enough other programs to choose from. If you’ve done everything above, you will quickly return to playing the waiting game. And never forget that your success at business school depends more on how well you use the tools and knowledge offered to you than it does on a U.S. News and World Report ranking.