Waitlist, Deferral or Further Consideration: What to do if your MBA admissions “waiting game” continues

Ivy-covered windows in Autumn

by Brooke Wheelan, Master Consultant at The MBA Exchange and former Associate Director of Admissions at Harvard Business School

Brooke Wheelan of The MBA Exchange
Brooke Wheelan, Master Consultant at The MBA Exchange

When your dream business school’s Decision Day finally arrives, you reasonably expect closure, for better or for worse. They will either admit or deny your candidacy, right? Well, not necessarily. You may receive a dreaded “indecision” letter and be left in limbo longer.

Waitlisted or Deferred?

The good news is the school hasn’t rejected you; the bad news is they haven’t admitted you either. Rather, they’ve delayed their final decision until they have sufficient data on the: 1) quality of next-round applicants; 2) success rate of the current interview pool; and 3) commitments from previous admits. In other words, the admissions staff is hedging to ensure they get exactly the incoming class they want. And they assume you’ll be sufficiently motivated and patient to wait for them to make a final decision, even if that means postponing or declining your other offers.

With some business schools, there’s nothing you can do now except wait if their official policies preclude you from sending any additional submissions. However, many schools request – or at least don’t prohibit – more information about your candidacy. What you do next CAN make or break your ultimate chance for admission.

What about “Further Consideration”?

Beyond waitlisting and deferring applicants, Harvard Business School has a track called Further Consideration (FC). For Round 1 applicants on this list, HBS delays interview invitations as the staff considers the Round 2 pool. Why does HBS offer the FC track? It’s all about fairness. Harvard wants to give applicants every opportunity to present their strongest possible candidacy. Therefore, while waiting, Harvard’s FC applicants have the option to write a letter (up to 400 words) featuring any relevant information about their candidacy since the September application deadline. This update includes learning, growth, development, impact, etc. – professional, personal and/or academic.

So, if you’re among the FC pool, should you write the optional letter? Absolutely! If you don’t submit an update, HBS may assume either you don’t care enough to pursue admission and/or you haven’t done anything meaningful since applying at the beginning of September. In either case, your silence won’t increase your likelihood of admissions success.

Critical Next Steps

Regardless of which business school is keeping you in limbo, if its admissions committee allows you to submit more information, go for it! With experience supporting more than 5,000 applicants over the past three decades, the admissions experts at The MBA Exchange can help you evaluate your latest achievements and craft a powerful update for your dream school.