Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tips for waitlisted applicants

I hate waitlists. Many times during the process, I was at loss to know what to do. I could not get much help on the web either.

A school's reasons for waitlisting applicants may vary from managing the yield to balancing the diversity of the incoming class. From an applicant's perspective, it means only one thing - You are not good enough to fit into their scheme of things outright and need to try harder. An optimistic way of looking at this would be that you are not a 'weak' candidate and they dare not reject you outright.

The critical question is how to handle waitlists. I list down some points based on my experience with two waitlists that I had to deal with. These are some of the things I did or I read about after I received those excruciating waitlist decisions.

  1. Do not act in a hurry. Take your time before you send any update/ communication to the adcom. They are not expecting an update from you the very next day. You generally have about a week's time to decide if you want to remain on the waitlist.

  1. Check what steps specific to your school are to be followed once you have been put on waitlist. Most schools send across a Waitlist FAQ along with a waitlist decision. Schools such as Wharton do not allow you to send any additional material.

  1. Ask the school if you can send stuff like additional recommendations. In my case, Fuqua encouraged this but Tuck categorically told me not to send any additional reco.

  1. Go through your entire application package. Ask someone familiar with the process to read your essays e.g. I got my Tuck application essays reviewed by a friend who had cleared his waitlist at GSB Chicago and so had a fair idea of what the missing links in an app could be. Do you need to re-emphasize something? Maybe your why MBA was not as strong as other parts of your app. Maybe you need to explain this again.

  1. Check with your school if they are willing to give you a feedback. If yes, you are in for a windfall - you have a perceptible weakness that they think can be overcome. Show them that you are willing to make amends.

  1. Check with your interviewer if he can give you any feedback based on your interview. I did that and it turned out to be useful.

  1. Make a list of possible updates that you can send to the adcom.

a) Examples of updates that I know people sent include: Promotions/ change in roles or responsibility/ improved or new test scores (I had my TOEFL waived off at most schools but sent my TOEFL scores as an update later). Updates such as salary hike/ bonus are debatable. If you decide to send such updates, you should have received this bonus/ hike as a result of of performance and you should make it a point to tell the adcom the same.

b) Updates may also include info on any initiative that you took within/ outside of office. Something like you being felicitated by your CEO ;), you launching a new initiative etc.

  1. I would recommend not to send too many update mails during the waitlist period. Two or at the max three update mails should serve the purpose. The adcom should not feel as if you do not have the maturity to understand what needs to be sent and what not. As Thomas Caleel, Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid recommends on - The Development has to be:

unanticipated, and
of significant benefit to the applicant in the time remaining until matriculation
to merit informing the Wharton adcom.

  1. Do not forget the fundamentals: Why is the update important? How will it improve your overall application? What value will you add to the incoming class because of that update?

  1. Can you visit the school? Nothing like it. I was not in a position to go to the US after I got waitlisted but the whole world seems to advice about making that piligrimage to bolster your chances to the max.

  1. I have read about cases where applicants have got current students and alumni to officially put in a word for them. Worth a shot. I did not get this idea while there was still time, neither did any alum/student know me well enough to recommend me. Still, it is an option that people seem to have exercised.

  1. If you already have an admit from some other univ, I think it does not hurt to inform the waitlisted school about this and tell them that despite the admit you would still like to attend their program.

  1. Apart from the updates, it is nice to express your love for the school in your correspondence. Continue your research on the school, continue talking to staff/ students/ alumni/ interviewer.

Do not forget that your waitlist may have more to do with the quality of other applications with a similar profile rather than any weakness in your application. Leave it to the adcom to decide whether you fit into the scheme of things or not rather than being overzealous.

I am still awaiting a decision from Tuck but whatever the result, I am sure that I will not be left out due to lack of trying :)

Edit: A post that should help waitlisted applicants. Rahul added another useful link as a comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great summary. Thank you very much and wish you the very best with your MBA plans.