The admission rates at the top programs are quite low. The seats are few, and the competition is fierce. As a result, thousands of highly qualified candidates are rejected every year. However, the good news is that every year, reapplicants are accepted into their target programs with an improved application. All the written components of your application (essays, recommendations, resume, application form), as well as interviews, play a critical role in your chances of success. So, you must create a robust strategy to turn your failure into a success story.
As a reapplicant, your priority is to evaluate what went wrong. Identify potential issues that you need to focus on this year and then highlight specific actions required to address weaknesses in your last application. Your strategy to strengthen your application will depend on your case and the factors that resulted in your rejection. For some candidates, the problem might be their academic credentials (GMAT or GPA) or the Round they applied for. For others, a lack of leadership, or too little or too much experience, or simply a hurriedly created poor application may be an issue. Therefore, no one solution will work for all.
Here are some steps you can take to strengthen your application based on your individual needs:
1. Strengthen Your Academics
B-schools use academic credentials (GMAT, GPA) as standard metrics to evaluate applicants. If you applied last time with a low GMAT, then you should take another stab at it. It is not enough to look at the average GMAT or GPA of your target school. If you belong to an over-represented applicant pool, you need a higher-than-average GMAT /GRE and GPA. So, retake the GMAT with better preparation and earn a competitive score. A stronger GMAT will increase your odds and boost your confidence to reapply to your target schools. If you have a low GPA, you should offset it with a strong GMAT and an alternate transcript by taking courses in business-relevant areas.
2. Reevaluate Your Essays
Essays are the most crucial components of an MBA application. Working with reapplicants, I have found that essays from their previous application needed significant improvement in content and presentation. I cannot stop emphasizing that creating MBA essays require a great deal of brainstorming, writing, rewriting, revising, and proofreading. Your essays are the best tools to highlight your personal, professional, or academic accomplishments. Ask yourself if your essays presented your best self that distinguished you from others? If not, revise your essays or completely re-craft them to achieve better results.
3. Re-examine your Career Goals
Sometimes the candidates are rejected because they are not articulate about their career goals. Ask yourself these questions: Was I specific about my goals? Were my goals realistic given my work experience and training? Did I explain thoroughly how the school will help me achieve my goals? If yes, work on these areas and explain how you see yourself progressing from point A to B. Also, you should explain to Ad Com what steps you have taken in the past year in preparation for your goals. If you have attended any networking event, done research, or taken extra courses to pursue your goals, mention that in your application.
4. Demonstrate Professional Growth
Sometimes applicants are rejected because of too little experience that lacks growth and leadership. In such cases, it is time to show the Ad Com that you challenged yourself with more demanding projects, received a promotion, and contributed significantly to your organization by taking the initiative and accepting leadership responsibilities. Therefore, between your last application and your reapplication, you should continue building your credentials and articulating those improvements in your reapplicant essay. In addition, your resume should indicate your professional growth in the past year.
5. Strengthen your ECs
Strong ECs brighten up your resume and present you as a well-rounded candidate. Business schools value academic excellence, career progression, and professional accomplishments. But they also give significant weight to extracurricular and community service activities because they are seeking well-rounded individuals who have other interests as well. So, it would help if you volunteer for new experiences at work and outside of work. Try to get involved in an activity you are passionate about. Whether practicing sports, singing in your church’s choir, or volunteering in a temple or a Gurudwara, get involved.
6. Reevaluate your Choice of Schools
Are you one of those candidates who applied to only 1-2 top schools? Was your list of target schools unrealistic the last time you applied? If yes, you need to reevaluate yourself and change your strategy. So often, I have seen applicants having an unrealistic view of their profiles and applying to only 1-2 schools that are long shots, which often results in rejection. To increase your chances of success, you must apply to 5-6 schools (2 dream, 2 reach, and 1-2 safe).
7. Apply in Early Round
Another reason for an unsuccessful application is applying in the last Round. There are only a few seats available in the last Round, so chances of success are slim. If you belong to an over-represented applicant pool, you should reapply in Round 1. I have worked with many Indian applicants who had previously applied to 4-5 schools in the last Round and received a rejection. Next application season, they worked with us in Round 1 and were accepted into multiple schools with substantial scholarships.
8. Re-assess Other Key Components- Resumé, Application Form, & Interview
Sometimes applicants invest so much time writing/ rewriting their essays that they undermine the importance of other non-essay components, such as resume, application form questions, video essays, and interview performance. Because many top MBA programs have reduced the number of required essays, the resume and application form questions are more important than ever. Resumé is your first introduction to the Ad Com; it is a snapshot of your key achievements in the professional, academic, and extracurricular areas, so it requires your attention and focus. Similarly, application form questions throw a spotlight on specific aspects of your candidacy, so these components also demand equal attention. Also, interviews play a more significant role in admissions decisions, so if your Interview did not go well last time, you need to prepare adequately for the Interview to maximize your chances.
9. Re-examine your Recommendations
The recommenders provide a third person’s perspective about your candidacy. Many candidates do not realize how important the recommendations are in determining admissions success. You need to be discreet in your choice of recommenders and be sure that they are well informed about the process and requirements of their role in your success. If your recommendations were a problem in your last application, fix that in your reapplication, and make your recommenders vouch for you.
10. Schedule a feedback session
If you have been rejected by a school that offers feedback to applicants and are planning on reapplying to the same school, you should take advantage of this opportunity to learn about Ad Com’s perspective. This tells you about the areas of improvement and shows your commitment to the program. Some schools (such as Darden) provide explicit feedback to the rejected candidates on different aspects of their application that they need to strengthen, e.g., GMAT, essays, EC’s, and encourage them to apply again. The school’s feedback gives you a clear direction for your next course of action.
11. Review the Red Flags in your application
Sometimes applicants do not adequately explain the weaknesses in their profile, such as low GPA, employment gap, education gap, inability to get LOR from the current supervisor, delayed MBA, etc. In addition, some applicants want to pursue a second MBA, which needs explanation. If you had any of these issues and did not adequately explain them, you should do it now in your optional essay.
Lastly, many schools provide an additional reapplicant essay, so you must write a reapplicant essay to demonstrate your growth between your previous application and reapplication and address the areas mentioned above.
If you are considering reapplying in Round 2, get started NOW. Create a solid plan, strengthen your application, and reapply as a much stronger candidate.
At MER, we have successfully worked with many reapplicants. Some of them have shared their experiences in interviews
Reapplicant Success Stories
You may email Poonam at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about your application.
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