We know many candidates who had applied to MBA programs but didn’t get into the schools they aimed for. They often face a difficult question whether they should re-apply.
If you are convinced that an MBA will allow you to attain the professional objectives, I strongly encourage you to apply again for an MBA. The chances for admissions are much greater for the second attempt.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR STRATEGY BE?
An initial rejection may not be the last word. Understand the reasons for your failure and develop a completely new application strategy.
Most of the schools do not give reasons for a rejection, even if you call them. The rejection letters are usually very vague to avoid being hurtful. Nevertheless, most of the schools will admit that rejection is usually not due to one single element of the application. Most of the time, it is a really a result of a combination of factors, which you have to identify and correct in your new application.
Avoid hasty and simple conclusions
It is easy to attribute the rejection to factors such as low GMAT score, poor academic credentials, or less number of years of work experience etc. However, there are other factors such as the application was too late, there were quotas limiting the number of international students admitted, American admission officers not understanding your national education system etc. There is something serious to correct in your application and you have to find out what it is.
Ask yourself the right question
Here are some suggestions for reviewing your entire application:
Have I really understood the recruitment criteria for each of the school I applied to? What about in terms of academics (GMAT, GPA, Schools attended etc.) or professional experience (quality and duration of professional experience, leadership potential, etc.)?
Do I have what it takes to produce an application that represents a well-crafted profile? How does my profile differ from the thousands of other application received or from the few hundred other international applicants who have applied?
Have I tailored my application according to the specific demands of the school (for example, using words and theme from the program’s brochure in your essays, referring to specific courses etc.)? Does my whole application convey an original and clear message that conforms to the objective of the program?
Some practical tips
It is important that you do some self-introspection on why you failed to get an admission offer. Here are four tips to help you manage your feelings:
- Wait: Finding the real reason in the heat of the moment, just after receiving a rejection letter, can’t possibly be completely objective. A few weeks of rest and thinking about other things will sharpen your ability to generate constructive criticism afterward.
- Concentrate your efforts on understanding the gap between your application and the school’s selection criteria. Find out if you can voluntarily do something at your work that closes the gap.
- Ask someone to help you offer a critical look at your application. Reach out to the person who knows your target school really well. Perhaps this person is difficult to find! You can find a substitute by referring to some books. For example, reading essays written by admitted students can allow you to see easily what might be missing from your own application.
- Think of this exercise as an opportunity, rather than as a chore. It's always difficult to accept criticism even when it’s constructive. That being said, most of the courses in MBA programs are concerned with leadership, and being able to do this is key. MBA or no, you will get something out of this process.
THE ADMISSION APPLICATION: DO THEM OVER!
To identify your new application strategy, it’s useful to understand how the admission officers review applications for “re-applicants”. In fact, most schools ask you to indicate if you have already submitted an application in the past. This information allows them to look at your old application (or a summary of it) and compare it with your new one. So it is important to highlight as many changes and improvements as possible.
Retaking the GMAT to improve your scores may be an option to consider, especially if your initial scores were significantly lower than the average scores of students admitted to your target schools. Similarly, getting a very high GMAT score can help offset a mediocre GPA. Don’t worry about retaking these tests. Even in the best programs, students who have taken the GMAT two or three times are not uncommon.
Letters of recommendation
The instructions for a letter of recommendation contain specific guidelines for “re-applicants.” Though they may vary from one school to another, the options you have available are usually the following:
- Only one new letter of recommendation: This is the option suggested by many of the schools. The idea is to provide one new letter of recommendation to update your application. The letter should ideally describe the period of time between the two application attempts. If you are in the same organization, it is advisable to get a letter from someone in an even higher position, or at least from someone on the same level.
- More than one new letter of recommendation: You also have the option to produce more than one new letter of recommendation. You can take this option, if you conclude that your initial letters of recommendation were insufficient. Having said that, one single letter of recommendation from an author who can attest in a credible manner, to the quality of your candidature, will usually have more impact on the admission officers than three new letters.
The quality of your essays presents an overall image which is related to the demands of the program concerned. For example, talking about leadership in all of your essays if the program has the goal of developing leaders. It’s a matter of not only convincing them that you are capable of successfully completing the program, but also that you can contribute and share your experiences with other students. For “re-applicants” the first objective is to demonstrate what makes you a better candidate now. Here is some advice on how you can meet this objective.
- It is best to give priority to recent examples in order to convince the admission officer that you have gained new wisdom from the additional experiences you have acquired since the first time you applied. The better option is, therefore, to completely rewrite your essays, at least as much as you can. Of course, it’s hard to imagine how your greatest accomplishments could be completely different from one year to the next. But if you decide to re-use all or part of an essay from your initial application, you still shouldn’t hesitate to rewrite it to better integrate everything you need to include.
- Several schools have essays that are about failure. Like any leader, a manager has to be able to learn from his failures. Show what you have learned: the conclusions from your introspection, as personal as they may be, can help you rewrite your original essays.
- A lot of schools offer writing an optional essay. Don’t hesitate to do it as a conclusion where you summarize why you think you are a worthy applicant. A little boldness won’t hurt your chances for success and will allow you to differentiate yourself yet again.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE; HASTE AND BLINDNESS AREN’T
- Avoid haste. If you have endured a rejection this year , go ahead and wait a whole year before resubmitting your application for the next class the following year. Take advantage of this year to do the self-introspection at your own pace, to improve your test scores (the GMAT), to do some research (media, books), to ask for more advice (at school presentations, from alumni networks and mentors), and above all to further your professional experience.
- Continuing to gain work experience is without a doubt THE most important aspect of the admissions application and the main reason many candidates are initially rejected. The more you can accumulate professional experience that is both interesting and usable for your essays, the more you improve your chances. A new application sent in October after an initial refusal in February of the same year is only rarely based on much richer professional experiences.
- After a series of rejections, some candidates may want to submit applications to a larger number of less prestigious than their first choice schools. Such a strategy may be advantageous if, for example, MBA seems to you to be indispensable to your future professional success. That being so, it may be more reasonable to reduce the number of target schools, in order to maximize the amount of time available to really tailor the components of the applications to the specific demands of the various programs. In concentrating one’s efforts, one sometimes also concentrates on one’s chances for success.
- Avoid endless efforts in vain. By the third rejection, the message from a school is clear and is not going to change. Reassure yourself – lots of very happy company directors don’t have MBAs even if they have tried to get one!