Should You Reapply to a B-School That Rejected You?
If round one admissions decisions didn't yield the results you hoped for, it's natural to feel devastated if your dream B-school rejected you. After months of working on your application plus months of anxiety-ridden waiting, learning you didn't get in is tough. But here's the silver lining: Many business schools look favorably upon reapplicants! It's worth a second try if you're willing to thoroughly examine where you may have gone wrong the first time.
Unless the admissions team indicated that the rejection came from having too many qualified applicants with your same profile this season, you'll need to re-evaluate and focus on improving your candidacy.
MBA admissions committees consider thousands of applicants each year and have a strong sense of who will fit best with their program. Study these questions to see whether applying again to a business school that rejected you makes sense.
Have you addressed any apparent weaknesses?
First and foremost, review your entire application package with a critical eye to determine where any weaknesses lie. You can improve some things in your profile, such as test scores and work experience. But you cannot change a low college GPA or a being significantly older applicant.
The most common reasons for rejection include low test scores, insufficient leadership experience, lukewarm recommendations, and boring essays. If you 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.
Self-reflection is key. Candidates who review their original application and fine-tune the areas that may have been less competitive tend to do well, says the Michigan Ross School of Business.
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.
For example, one prospective client 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.
Is the B-school that rejected you really the best fit for your goals?
The MBA is not a one-size-fits-all degree. Thus, not every business school can help every person reach their 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. Their response is unlikely to 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, interviews, or essays. In that case, it's time to move on and find MBA programs that appreciate what you offer and can help you achieve your unique professional aspirations.
That's exactly what happened with one of our clients, who applied three times to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. He also applied to Stanford Graduate School of Business on his third attempt. Haas once again rejected him, but Stanford admitted him. It seems Haas was just not meant to be.
What will you do differently next time?
You'll need to demonstrate significant improvements to your candidacy when reapplying to any B-school that rejected you. After all, their 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 again, you can realign your expectations and apply to other, more appropriate schools in round two.
Also, please 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 informed by the challenges you faced and the wisdom acquired since the last admissions cycle.
Finally, do an honest self-assessment to determine what you genuinely seek. 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 weren't a good fit. We've had many clients who, upon reflection, realized that they wanted to pursue a 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. Before reapplying, it's essential to thoroughly evaluate your candidacy and the specific reasons for the initial rejection. Demonstrating growth, improvement, and a genuine commitment to the program can significantly enhance your chances of success in a reapplication.
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers a Ding Analysis service to evaluate your materials and provide feedback you can use when you reapply. Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.