You've Been Wait-listed. Now What?

Getting wait-listed can be frustrating, especially when you’ve been wait-listed at one of your top choices. Don’t be discouraged though, as many candidates are denied admission outright. Even though you haven’t been accepted yet, getting wait-listed is still an accomplishment.

With that in mind however, you still have more work to do and you can begin with the following steps:

  • If the school provided a contact number, be sure to give them a call and let them know you’re still interested.
  • Let them know of your continued interest, in writing.
  • Write down the contacts you have at the school. Whether they’re alumni, students, faculty, or admissions committee members, you might want to contact them about your wait-list status.
  • Some wait-listed applicants also visit the schools and meet personally with admissions committee members regarding their candidacy. This shows great interest and drive to attend their school.

Just sitting back and waiting for an acceptance letter won’t help your candidacy, but well-thought-out moves based on why you were not originally accepted, can. In order to figure out the reason for not being accepted, contact the school by phone, or simply reassess your application based on statistics available on the school’s website.

GMAT Score. If you think your waitlist status may be based on a low GMAT score, retake the GMAT. Each person is allowed to repeat the test up to five times a year. Take a course or sign up for some private tutoring lessons. They are likely to improve your score. Send the updated scores to the school.

Weak Transcript. There is little you can do to dramatically improve a weak transcript. However, enrolling in courses and receiving good grades in business school preparatory classes shows initiative, interest, and improvement. Also consider sending in an additional recommendation from a professor that can attest to your academic strength.

Lack of Work Experience. Let the school know about any added responsibilities or roles you have taken on since applying. Leadership or management roles may be especially helpful.

Lack of Community Service Work. Send updates about leadership roles you’ve taken within community service organizations. Consider sending a recommendation related to your community service work.

Weak Professional Goals. Consider telling the admissions committee more concisely where you have been and where you are going. You may want to do this in an interview; especially if you have yet to interview; or in a letter directed to an admission’s committee member.

For a few schools—such as HBS or Wharton—that ask that you do not contact or update them, it’s best to follow their directions. Do not contact them. A concise, thoughtful recommendation from an alumnus or student may help, but otherwise allow them to simply make their decision based on your previously submitted application.

With any school, be sure that all correspondence is substantive and be careful not to overdo it. Use your people skills to understand when you have done enough.