MBA Waitlist: High-Stakes “Musical Chairs”

You’ve had the date circled on your calendar ever since you submitted your business school application. You eagerly check your email inbox and the MBA applicant forums every 5 minutes. You get annoyed by all of the text messages from friends and family asking if you have heard anything from the school.

It’s Admission Decision Day! The magic moment when you find out if you’re among the admits to your targeted b-school. How glorious to be informed that "you’re in." How gut-wrenching to learn that you’ve been rejected. But what about the third possible outcome: The Waitlist?

If you’re waitlisted, then your first reaction is probably disappointment or frustration. All the blood, sweat and tears that you invested in the application and essays has not produced the desired outcome. However, there are thousands of rejected applicants who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Your candidacy is still alive! Now the "fun and games" begin.

We equate being waitlisted to a high-stakes version of the childhood game Musical Chairs. We’ve all played it at one time or another — ten participants tentatively circling nine chairs, eyeballing each other, elbows sharpened. Then, without warning, the music stops. What do you do?

As an MBA waitlistee awaiting a decision about your candidacy, you could stand still and do nothing. But that only means your competitors will grab those seats and you’ll be left out. Or you could frantically dive for a seat, with the likelihood of being pushed aside by other participants who want it just as much as you do.

To maximize your chances for success in advancing from the waitlist to the class roster, the key is to be more strategic, more thorough and more assertive than your rivals. For example, here are some of the tips that veteran admissions consultants at The MBA Exchange share with applicants during our Waitlist Consultation:

1. Read the school’s waitlist instructions and policy carefully to determine what you can and cannot do. Some adcoms encourage more input while others forbid it. So, know your audience.

2. Consider what the school knows about you so far. Are there some "competitive advantages" or fresh developments in your personal or professional profile that could be featured in a succinct email update?

3. Keep researching the school and connecting with current students and alumni. This is content that you should include in your updates as it shows your understanding of, fit with and passion for the MBA program.

With over 17 years of success advising nearly 4,000 business school applicants worldwide, The MBA Exchange understands the strategies, formalities and nuances of the waitlist "game." If you’d like our guidance and support, please email us at info@mbaexchange.com

Let the music beginn!