April 2, 2002By Kris Maher and Rachel Emma Silverman

More business-school hopefuls will receive thin envelopes bearing disappointing news this spring.

As a result of the sour job market, the number of people applying for master’s of business administration programs has soared. So, schools must turn down more applicants. The trend likely will persuade some aspiring business students to try again.

Most business schools process applications through several rounds. With typically one round remaining, many report they already have evaluated more prospects than they received all of last year.

Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Hanover, N.H., estimated that by the end of this year, total applications would increase about 30% to 35% from last year. Tuck received 2,329 applicants in 2001. The school usually receives about 10% of its applications during the final round, which this year occurs April 17. Tuck already has scrutinized more than 3,000 applicants vying to join a class of between 230 and 240 students.

Business schools say they attach no stigma to second-admission efforts. Some admissions officers even report a higher admittance rate for “reapplicants” — usually because they offer additional work experience or more focused goals.

One good way for reapplicants to fare better the next time is to seek feedback from their favorite school. “We do what we can to lay out a pretty clear path to say, ‘If you do these things, your application is going to be stronger,'” says Mark Meyerrose, Tuck’s associate director of admissions.

Not all schools provide such personal feedback, however. UCLA’s Anderson School provides written feedback to rejected applicants who make a written request.

Others don’t provide such personal responses. “Because of the large numbers that we have to say ‘No’ to, it’s humanly impossible for us to respond to every single person who asks, ‘Why did you not admit me?'” says Don Martin, associate dean for enrollment management at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. Instead, the school provides a detailed letter that explains admissions criteria.

Prospective business-school students, of course, can’t change their undergraduate grade-point average or transcript. But most could improve their Graduate Management Admission Test scores, application essay, letters of recommendation, work experience and business-school interview, says Albert Chen, executive director of Kaplan Graduate Programs at Kaplan Inc., a New York test-preparation company. Among his specific suggestions:

Consider retaking the GMAT to boost your scores, even if you already are in the low end of the range of most previously accepted applicants.

Make sure your essay is targeted to what the school seeks. Ask someone who knows you well and someone who doesn’t know you to see whether the essay clearly conveys your goals. If a school wants an example of a personal or business failure, show how the episode helped you grow.

If you are working, accept projects that demonstrate leadership skills.

Treat the school interview as if it were your dream job and show why you are a perfect candidate. If it goes poorly, ask for a repeat interview that day.

Ryan Nathan, 28 years old, was accepted when he reapplied to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Philadelphia, last year. To boost his quantitative skills, he took a calculus class and got an A. By joining the Wharton recruiting team at Ford Motor Co., where he was a marketing and sales staffer, he got to hobnob with Wharton students, alumni and officials. He also participated in Wharton’s feedback sessions for reapplicants and updated his application essays with fresher work-experience examples.

Ironically, if more individuals reapply with stronger applications next year, the competition will only intensify. “A lot of people who did apply really didn’t give it their best shot [this year],” says Daniel Bauer, managing director of the MBA Exchange, a Chicago consulting company. “Now they’ve got eight or nine months to think about how to be successful.”

Write to Kris Maher at kris.maher@wsj.com and Rachel Emma Silverman at rachel.silverman@wsj.com