How to turn a “ding” into a “win” at top business schools

Guest post written by JP Odunlami, Harvard MBA graduate and Senior Consultant at The MBA Exchange

Facing a perceived defeat can be tough in any field, but especially so when it comes to business school applications. Candidates often feel they’re asking the admissions committees to evaluate their professional and personal background against those of peers, and they’re deeply disappointed when not granted admission. However, this is absolutely the wrong mindset to have when targeting business schools as it can lead to a failing approach to the application process, and tremendous frustration if things don’t work out as expected.

The goal of a successful admissions campaign should be to help the right school for you to discover the right aspects of your candidacy and conclude that you’re the right fit. To do this correctly, there are some important steps, which I previously outlined in my blog post Should I Reapply? 3 Keys to a Successful Reapplication. Beyond the best practices mentioned in that post, here are some additional important aspects that reapplicants should keep in mind:

1. View the reapplication decision in the right context
The first step is having the kind of mindset necessary to turn a “ding” into a win. Consider your first rejection as a valuable step toward earning a seat in the program rather than an insurmountable failure. In fact, if leveraged properly, a failed application contains some of the key ingredients needed to succeed the second time. You undoubtedly learned about the school, about yourself, and the application process through that initial experience. All this accumulated knowledge gives you a leg up on competitors applying for the first time. A skilled admissions consultant can help you find, maximize and leverage the value of a “ding” and show you how your application can be better the second time around.

2. Now is the time to reapply
Historically, many of the top business schools were hesitant to accept reapplicants, and usually held them to a higher standard than first-time applicants. However, in recent years, many of these programs have changed their viewpoint and are now more receptive to reapplicants. For instance, Harvard Business School emphasizes that it welcomes reapplicants. Now, more than ever, reapplicants have a chance to prove themselves a second or even third time. The key is to do it in a way that helps adcoms learn MORE about your candidacy while still presenting the positive aspects of the first application. Timing is important, as a school’s admissions priorities can shift when there are changes in administration and leadership. Therefore, you should jump on the opportunity to reapply now, as the positive disposition towards reapplicants may not last forever.

3. Consider the school’s culture
As mentioned in my previous blog post about reapplications, it’s crucial that you convey your candidacy with authenticity and confidence, but also in the best way for the targeted school. An important consideration is whether you’re applying to a program with a top-down culture that caters to “big thinkers” who want to resolve world problems. In such a case, it will be essential to align your life’s aspiration with your personal and professional history of working towards it. On the other hand, you may be reapplying to a school where an ambitious yet pragmatic, well-planned and thoroughly researched career plan is essential. In that case, you must show you’ve done thorough research on your intended post-MBA career goals and explain how this particular MBA program will play a key role in achieving it.

While most top schools want to see both – an inspired life vision together with a solid career plan – there’s often a preference for one over the other. However, this focus is difficult to develop alone as a reapplicant or, for that matter, as a first-time applicant. As you probably experienced the first time around, it’s not easy to be objective when assessing your own career and life, and reading between the lines to guess which area interests the school most. In this process, it can be highly beneficial to have an expert on your side with years of experience, spanning a range of candidacies, and skilled at determining a school’s priorities and preferences while comparing them to your aspirations and profile.

While there’s no magic bullet for gaining success as a reapplicant, working with the right admissions consultant can make a world of difference. The MBA Exchange has the experience (5,000+ clients over three decades) and the proprietary tools to help reapplicants tackle these key aspects and present the most compelling and appealing value proposition for admission into top MBA programs.

In fact, our track record for reapplicant success confirms that a “ding” really IS a step on the path to an eventual “win”. I personally have advised dozens of reapplicants in gaining admission to top schools including Harvard, Wharton, Columbia and many others. The process starts with a free expert evaluation of your current candidacy or an expert ding analysis.

I invite you to explore the possibilities and turn them into a probability of success!