Dinged, Denied, Rejected? What To Do If a Business School Says ‘No’

Frowning male student

Plus 5 key steps to help you avoid disappointment as a reapplicant

Obviously, every business school applicant hopes to gain admission to his/her dream school. The more time and effort you spend on applications, the more confident you become. That’s just human nature, right? Yet, as each “decision day” passes with no offer of admission, it can feel like the end of the world. Emotions run the gamut: you may feel offended, embarrassed, misunderstood, disrespected, defeated. But, when the initial shock fades, you should feel educated and motivated because you have been initiated into the high-risk, high-reward world of business school admissions.

Granted, the outcome of your initial campaign is not what you intended or envisioned; however, the journey is far from over. You can become more self-aware, more focused and more determined to succeed.

Each year, through introspection, agility and persistence, thousands of MBA applicants are admitted on their second or even third attempt. And when they graduate, their shiny new diplomas look identical to those of their peers who were fortunate enough to gain admission on the first try. (But, in most cases, the smiles on the faces of reapplicants are even bigger and brighter!)

If you are among those who have been denied admission to your dream school, how can you advance from dejection to elation? Based on our experience advising thousands of reapplicants over the past three decades, here are five key steps for your consideration as suggested by The MBA Exchange:

Step 1: Evaluate
It’s tough to be totally objective about yourself. Determining what factors in your application ulimatley constrained your chances for admission is difficult, if not impossible, on your own. You simply can’t know for sure unless you get a second opinion from someone who has evaluated a wide range of MBA applications and knows which profiles have produced the best outcomes at the target school. Fortunately, you can get such insightful feedback through a ding analysis provided by an experienced admissions consultant.

Step 2: Mitigate
If the evaluation of your unsuccessful campaign identifies some flaws, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and/or omissions that were likely to have harmed your chances for admission, the sooner you identify and rectify them, the better. Whether an issue is academic, professional or personal, considering how the adcom perceived your profile and determining the best way to reverse – or at least explain it – can make all the difference if addressed in a reapplication.

Step 3: Elaborate
Not every evaluation of a denied application uncovers a weakness or error. In many cases, the analysis finds there was a skill, achievement or aptitude that was ignored or downplayed instead of properly showcased to earn endorsement by the admissions committee. Whether it’s providing an example, quantifying an outcome, or simply adding a few choice adjectives, a reapplicant can add luster to his or her candidacy without seeming arrogant or overconfident. So, be sure to take a well-deserved bow whenever merited.

Step 4: Calibrate
After assessing a denied application, one possible conclusion is that the fit between the applicant and the target school was insufficiently defined. Such a disconnect is best spotted by an admissions consultant who’s intimately aware of the priorities and practices of each MBA program as observed over many years. In such cases, the solution may be as simple as introducing a new school to the target list where the candidate will be a first-time applicant, have a higher chance for admission, and receive an even more rewarding education if admitted. (Note: You can get some initial feedback to help you calibrate via a free, expert evaluation of your current candidacy.)

Step 5: Activate
The final step in the journey from disappointment to delight is to put your new learning to work through a strategic, reapplication campaign. A thoughtful, well-structured approach to optimizing the underlying candidacy and crafting compelling applications takes time, even for those doing so for the second or third time. Engaging the guidance and support of a skilled admissions consultant could be your secret weapon for success this time.

In business and in life, the most valuable assets tend to be the most difficult to attain. Otherwise, everyone would have acquired them on the first try. A top MBA education can pay huge dividends for the rest of your life. Those who simply walk away from a first rejection without learning from it, improving their approach, and reapplying will never receive these same dividends. Your dream b-school made its initial decision when reviewing your first application, but your subsequent decision to reapply is even more important and enduring. Choose wisely.