So, you’ve been rejected. Maybe it was a rejection letter from your dream school. Perhaps it was from multiple schools. Maybe you thought that you were definitely going to get into a certain program only to be unpleasantly surprised.
No matter what, rejection is tough. You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your applications, so when you don’t reach your goals, it can be extremely frustrating.
You might be asking yourself, “Is business school right for me? Should I even try to reapply? And how do I reapply to business school?”
Reapplying to business school might seem like a daunting task, but doing so can pay off in the long run. In this blog, we’ve outlined some of the best ways to face an MBA rejection and how to reapply to business school, so next time around you'll get that acceptance letter.
Facing Business School Rejection
It’s important to realize that a business school rejection isn’t the end and that you aren’t alone. In many cases, it's much more likely that you will be rejected than accepted, especially when it comes to the M7 business programs, where over 75% of applicants will face rejection. However, what can set you apart from the crowd is how you approach reapplying to business school.
Successfully Reapplying to Business School
To start the business school reapplication process, you must determine why you were rejected the first time around. If you can, try writing to the schools directly to ask for feedback on your application. You may or may not receive an answer, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
If the admissions committee provides you with feedback, then you will have some direction on which areas need improvement. However, if you do not receive an answer, you will have to start by evaluating each component of your application, checking for any weaknesses.
Review Your Application and Improve Your Weaknesses
Your resume is arguably one of the most important aspects of any application. It highlights your most relevant skills and experiences to help paint a picture of who you are. The resume is likely the first impression you will make on an admissions committee, so you must make sure that you are putting your best foot forward.
The format of your resume is critical. Admissions committees have thousands of applications to go through, so ensuring that your resume is as reader-friendly as possible can ensure that they don’t miss any crucial details. Make sure that your resume is in basic font and that necessary headers are bolded or underlined. Doing so will ensure readability.
Furthermore, the order of information is significant. First, begin your resume with a summary of your qualifications, list your work experiences and achievements in reverse-chronological order, and then include your educational background, skills, and languages.
Also, the length of your resume is crucial. Unless you are applying to an Executive MBA program, your resume should not be more than one page long. Concision is key, which leads to the next important factor in writing your resume: content.
The next crucial component of your resume is the content. Make sure you only include the most relevant work experiences and leadership roles that you have had. Furthermore, try not to include any college experiences on your resume unless they were incredibly impactful. By keeping your resume short and sweet and including only the most important skills and experiences, you can create a highly impactful portrait of yourself and your potential.
Furthermore, pay attention to the way you frame your work and leadership experiences. Rather than saying that you “worked on a team,” it’s much more impactful to say that you “worked on a team that increased revenue by 20%.” By doing this, you aren’t just telling the admissions committee what you did, but you’re also highlighting the impact that you had in your role.
The language that you use on your resume is also extremely important. When listing your responsibilities and achievements, start each one with short, specific action verbs. Some examples are “assisted,” “supported,” and “supervised.” You also do not need to include words such as “I,” “a,” “an,” or “the,” as in most instances, these words are implied.
The next application components that you should evaluate before reapplying to business school are your MBA essays. In representing who you are, essays go a step further than your resume. Here are some things to consider when evaluating your business school application essays:
The tone of your essay is critical. Make sure that you are true to yourself when you are writing. Let your personality shine through and be authentic.
It may sound obvious, but be sure that the content of your essay answers the prompt. If the prompt asks you to explain your goals for the future, don’t spend the entire essay writing about what inspired you to apply to business school. Ensure that you are answering the prompt rather than writing about what is most interesting to you.
Furthermore, your essays should go deeper. Make sure that you aren’t just rewriting your resume in your essays. Try to tell a story or further explain a particular role you were in, and remember to highlight what you gained from the experience.
Your essays should teach an admissions committee things they cannot glean from your resume. So, give them a deeper dive into your experiences and accomplishments. Your MBA essays should reflect who you are.
Lastly, your essays can be a great place to acknowledge any weaknesses you have or explain any discrepancies in your resume. Pointing these things out might seem like something you would want to avoid, but in reality, being honest with an admissions committee can help them see the best in you.
Finally, know your audience. Your essays should reflect that you have researched the school that you are applying to and understand the program's qualities. Don’t just use one essay for every application; make sure that the essays respond to each unique prompt and show your interest in that particular program.
To an admissions committee, your grades are evidence of how well you operate in an academic environment. If you were rejected from business school, it might be due to your grades.
Try comparing your GPA to the average GPA of those in your target schools. If the average GPA is higher than yours, you may need to take measures to strengthen your grades. One way to do this is by taking extra courses in subjects such as finance or statistics. Just be prepared to perform well in these courses, or taking them could have the opposite effect.
Also, if you have a specific reason why your grades might not be as high as others, that might be something you can address when you reapply. Health problems, family emergencies, or other similar circumstances are all valid reasons why your grades may have taken a hit at some point. By explaining these things, you can give an admissions committee context for any discrepancies in your transcript.
Finally, you might be able to make up for a lower GPA by attaining above-average test scores. This isn’t a guaranteed way to get into your target school, but it’s another way to help prove your readiness for post-graduate studies.
4. Test Scores
Like your GPA, test scores can reveal to an admissions committee how prepared you are for business school. First, compare your scores to the averages of those in your target schools. If your scores are lower than the average, then you should take steps to change this.
Start by determining which test your target schools accept. If they take both the GRE and GMAT, you should prepare for whatever test is easier for you. According to the Princeton Review, “the GMAT suits those who have strong quantitative and analytical skills, who also excel at interpreting data presented in charts, tables, and text to solve complex problems.”
In contrast, “the GRE math section tends to be more straightforward and, unlike the GMAT, includes a calculator for all quantitative problems.” Assess your strong suits and determine which test you will find easier. Then you can begin studying and, hopefully, improve your scores from there.
5. Work Experience
For most business schools, work experience is important. If you are applying to M7 schools, the average amount of work experience for MBA students is around five years. However, it isn’t always about how long you’ve worked; another aspect that business schools evaluate is the quality of work you’ve done.
The way that you present your work experience in your application is essential. Did you only list your roles and duties with little elaboration? If so, you might need to review your work experiences and add to them. Make sure you are not only telling them what you did but also what you learned and what specific effect you had in your role.
It is also possible that you might just be lacking in the kind of experience for which your target schools are looking. Try to seek out more leadership roles at work, and if those are unavailable, try to search for ways to lead outside of your job. This can include volunteer work, involvement in charities, or other projects in the community.
6. Letters of Recommendation
The recommendation letter might seem like the one aspect of your application that you have no control over. However, you might have more of a hand in it than you initially thought.
Start by assessing the recommenders you chose for your first application. How closely did they work with you, and for how long? Maybe someone has known you for a shorter amount of time but can speak more thoroughly about your work ethic and skills. By evaluating your recommenders and possibly changing them, you can ensure that an admissions committee sees a more authentic, deep picture of who you are.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your recommenders to speak on specific subjects. If you think that your time working in a particular leadership role with a recommender is valuable to your application, then ask them to write about that experience. You likely won’t see the final product, but you can have more control over the content within them the next time around.
7. Interview Performance
The MBA interview is a way for a business school to attain deeper insight into who you are. Preparation is key in approaching the MBA interview.
First, try researching your target schools. What kinds of MBA questions do they typically ask? Who typically interviews MBA candidates? Where are the interviews usually held, virtually or in-person? How long are they?
This information is often readily available online, either through the school’s website or through school-specific blog posts and forums. Each program has its unique way of interviewing candidates, so familiarize yourself with each of your target schools’ methods.
After researching, you can then begin to prepare for the actual interview. Make a list of possible questions and answer them. Doing so is especially important for trickier questions, such as those that ask about a time that you failed or about your weaknesses.
Also, think back on any interviews you may have had before and analyze which questions were most difficult for you to answer. By doing this, you can better prepare for your next interview.
Finally, prepare several questions to ask your MBA interviewer. This shows you are interested in their program and institution.
8. General Fit for the School
Maybe you’ve always had your heart set on a specific business school because of its academic prestige or reputable alumni. However, have you considered how you fit in with that program’s values, mission, and culture? If an admissions committee doesn’t feel as though you are suitable for their program, that could be a reason that they rejected you.
Take some time to research your target programs. Do they specialize in your preferred field? Do they offer electives that interest you? Have you visited the school or spoken to current students about the program? All of these are important to assess.
Fortunately, some schools, such as Columbia, offer virtual sessions where you can ask current students questions about the MBA program. Schedule visits to your target schools and meet with the faculty. Doing these things can help you determine how well you will fit into a program.
You can also learn more about a business school’s culture and values by checking out their website. For example, on Harvard Business School’s admissions site, they state this about their students:
“Our students share the following characteristics: a habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and engaged community citizenship.”
Statements like this can help you determine how you would fit in with a school’s student body. However, not every school may provide direct information like this. If that’s the case, try looking at the school’s mission statement. Here is MIT Sloan Business School’s mission statement:
“The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice.”
By assessing what a school is looking for and evaluating how your values align with theirs, you can determine whether a program is the right fit for you.
How Do Business Schools View Applicants Who Apply Again?
You can be rejected from business school for several reasons. But business schools generally welcome reapplicants.
Of course, each business school looks at reapplicants differently. Essentially, if you receive an MBA rejection letter, take the time to research how you should reapply to the MBA program at that business school.
For example, Wharton states that “Reapplicants do not have an advantage or disadvantage in comparison to other applicants.” Those reapplying for an MBA at Wharton must submit a new application that stands “on its own merits as a complete and independent application.”
MIT adopts the same model and looks “for all of the same characteristics” as it does “in a first-time applicant.” However, when you reapply to the business school at MIT, it will view your old and new applications. Make sure you highlight your new experiences and accomplishments to increase your chances of readmission.
Unlike MIT and Wharton, both the Tuck and Darden School of Businessview reapplicants positively. As Amy Mitson, the Co-Executive Director, Admissions and Financial Aid at Tuck, writes, “The fact that you remain enthusiastic about Tuck and want to contribute to our community shows us that you sincerely want to be here—we appreciate that!”
Reapplying to Business School
After evaluating your application and tackling any weaknesses you might have found, it’s time to apply. But before sending in your reapplication, consider the following steps.
Familiarize Yourself with Each School’s Reapplication Process
At some schools, reapplicants are only required to submit a few additional documents or any application materials that have been edited. However, other schools might require you to submit an entirely new application. By becoming familiar with each school’s process, you ensure that you have enough time to make any necessary changes, including writing new essays.
Be Sure to Highlight Any Improvements That You’ve Made Since Your Last Application
Often, you can do this through an additional essay specifically for reapplicants. Address the steps you took to strengthen your professional skills, GPA, and work experiences and what you learned by doing so. This will show an admissions committee that you are serious about their program.
FAQs: Reapplying to Business School
Receiving an MBA rejection letter is tough. But we’ve compiled several questions and answers to help you figure out how to reapply to business school.
1. When reapplying to an MBA program, do I have to apply during the first round?
It depends. Some schools require that reapplicants apply during the first round. However, even if it is not required, it is beneficial to apply as early as possible before more spots in the program fill up.
2. Will my target school give me feedback on why they rejected me?
Some schools state that they will not give feedback to rejected applicants. However, some schools do. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask.
3. How many times can I reapply to business school?
There is not a formal limit on the number of times that you can apply to business school again. However, if you are repeatedly facing rejection, it may be time to reevaluate your application or choose less competitive schools.
4. Will applying to more schools improve my chances of getting in?
In theory, maybe; however, it is important to consider how multiple applications could cause your essays or interviews to suffer.
If you are randomly applying to schools that you know little about or do not really wish to attend, that lack of enthusiasm might show. Try focusing on four to six schools that you are particularly interested in and for which you can provide solid and compelling applications.
5. I have many more years of work experience than the average MBA student. Am I more likely to be rejected?
Most MBA students have around four or five years of experience. If you have more than this, you’re not more likely to be rejected.
However, it might be beneficial for you to apply to executive MBA programs. These programs are designed for more experienced professionals and will allow you to continue working while attending school.
6. Can I appeal an MBA rejection?
Appeals are rarely successful, especially at top business schools that have to reject hundreds of highly qualified candidates. Furthermore, many schools do not accept appeals. Instead, try finding out why you were denied and work on improving from there.
7. What should I do if I'm rejected after an MBA interview?
The best thing you can do if you’re rejected after an MBA interview is to ask for feedback. Then, if you decide to reapply, you can focus on your weaknesses and submit a stronger application.
Rejected from Business School? Don’t Give Up
Rejection is hard, but it isn’t the end of the road. Figure out why you were rejected and go from there. By taking the time to reexamine your resume, rewrite your essays, and improve your GPA and test scores, you can show a business school that you can work hard even in the face of difficulty.
By preparing for interview questions and making sure you fit in with the culture and values of your target programs, you can make a great impression on admissions committees.
Each school’s reapplication process can be different, so do your research before sending off your application materials. If you tackle your weaknesses and highlight your personal growth, reapplying to business school can pay off in the end.