News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Decision Tips


Admissions Tip: Navigating the Waitlist

waitlistWhile the past few weeks have seen a number of admits and rejections handed down to round one MBA applicants, the fate of many remains uncertain.  There is no reason for waitlisted candidates to lose hope, as the top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in round two and thereafter, but we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier.  To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we wanted to share a few waitlist tips:

1. Know
and follow—the rules.  Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign waitlisted candidates to an admissions office liaison.  We know that the natural impulse is to reach out to the adcom and update them on that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile.  At first blush, it might seem that there’s no harm in sending a short letter or making a call, but no matter how exciting the information you wish to communicate, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you.  Though such a policy may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Feedback Session Etiquette

Interview 5At the beginning of April, we discussed the importance of signing up for a feedback session when one is planning to reapply to a program that provides this opportunity.  Today we’d like to follow up on that post by offering a few thoughts on feedback session etiquette.

While on one hand a feedback session marks the close of this year’s process, it’s crucial that you realize that the impression you make on the adcom member conducting the session may be added to your file and come to bear on your candidacy next year.  Taking heed of the following advice could help to make your feedback session as productive as possible – both in terms of gaining information about your weaknesses that you can address now and fostering a positive relationship with the school that will pay off in the future.

Be pleasant.  Though the admissions process is a highly emotional one and to have invested time, effort and money in an application without having an acceptance to show for it is undoubtedly very frustrating, receiving the adcom’s comments in an appreciative – not defensive – manner is of the utmost importance.  While it might be tempting to argue with the adcom’s criticisms of your file or counter their comments about your weaknesses with steps you’ve taken to address them, this is simply not going to be productive.  You should view this as an exercise in listening and an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to the school.  No one ever converted a rejection to an admit by merely arguing their case in a feedback session. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Round 3 Results

Interview 4With the MBA programs releasing their Round 3 notifications in the upcoming weeks, the 2013-2014 admissions season is coming to a close for the vast majority of MBA aspirants.  We’d like to offer our congratulations to all those who have gained admission to one of more of their target schools and wish good luck to waitlisted applicants whose fate is presently a bit less certain.  For all those who submitted their applications in the final round and received an unfavorable decision, we’d like to share a few tips that we hope will make the process of facing rejection as productive as possible:

1) Understand the odds and consider reapplying in the early rounds next year.  If you failed to gain admission to a school in its final application round, you should not give up hope or instantly assume that your profile contains some glaring weakness that will forever bar you from acceptance.  Because relatively few spots in the incoming class are available by the time of the Round 3 deadlines, it is always most difficult to get into a school at this point in the year.  In many cases, an earlier application is all that you need to find success in the process.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Feedback Sessions for Denied Applicants

Interview 2As many of our readers know, a small number of leading MBA programs offer admissions feedback sessions to applicants who did not make the admissions cut in a given season.  Though we’ve touched upon this subject before, we’d like to use today’s blog entry to underline the importance of these feedback sessions for those of you who are considering reapplication.

While not all schools offer feedback, a handful of schools issue an open invitation to all unsuccessful applicants.  Additionally, some programs occasionally offer feedback “by invitation” to top candidates for whom they just didn’t have room that year.  In all cases, if you are given the opportunity to get feedback, you should absolutely take advantage of it.  There are several reasons for this:

1) Signal commitment to improvement.  Signing up for a feedback session demonstrates that you are motivated to learn more about your application’s weaknesses and are seeking to improve going forward (with the intention of reapplication).  Most schools make note of these sessions and keep these notes in your file in the event that you do reapply.

2) Get the inside line.  A feedback session gives you a chance to learn something about your candidacy from the source.  Feedback sessions can draw your attention to a perceived weakness you were unaware of or confirm your own thoughts with regards to areas for improvement.

3) Advertise your interest.  In addition to demonstrating your passion to improve and your intent to learn more about your candidacy, signing up for a session suggests a dedication to the MBA program in question.  Since not all reapplicants bother to get feedback, the fact that you take this aspect of the process seriously can work in your favor.

4) Make a connection.  In many cases, a feedback session can be the beginning of a relationship that is forged with a member of the adcom.  If the person gives you feedback, you should email them a “thank you” letter and take advantage of the opportunity to develop an advocate for your candidacy on the committee.

Stay tuned to this blog for some tips on proper feedback session etiquette in the near future.  In the meantime, be sure to sign up for feedback sessions if your target school offers them.  If your target school does not offer this kind of service, you may want to take advantage of Clear Admit’s feedback service, which includes a strategic review of your prior application(s) and a written report highlighting your strengths and weaknesses as well as specific guidance for reapplication.

Contact Clear Admit if you are interested in learning more about this service.

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Admissions Tip: Waitlists That Discourage Supplemental Information

We have previously posted some correspondence tips for those applicants who have been waitlisted by schools that welcome supplemental materials and communication.  Today, we’d like to provide some advice to those who are in an arguably more difficult position: waitlisted by schools that discourage further contact with the adcom.

This may sound obvious, but if a school indicates that they do not want supplemental materials, then you should respect their guidelines.  In other words, do not send along a new recommendation or an essay if the program has clearly indicated that you should not do so.  There may be exceptions to this—for example, if a dramatic change has taken place in your candidacy—but in most cases, you should simply follow the rules.

While at first it seems as though this leaves little option for waitlisted applicants other than sitting and waiting for a more definitive decision, one of the best things an individual in this position can do is just the opposite—take action and visit the school.  This makes particularly good sense for those who have never been to the campus of their target programs.  Very many things can happen when spending time at the school:

1) You may interact with students or professors who can better inform you of opportunities at the school and give you a better sense of the campus culture.  If you make a particularly strong impression, you might even inspire someone to intercede with the adcom on your behalf.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Dealing with a Ding

Interview 4With many MBA programs beginning to release their R2 decisions, the spring notification season will soon be coming to a close.  While we would like to hope that today’s topic isn’t apropos for too many of our readers, we wanted to offer some advice to applicants who’ve been rejected from their preferred programs and are planning on reapplying next season.  While it’s important to take some time to deal with the disappointment, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the next season, and there are a number of steps you can take to improve your candidacy and move toward a stronger application.

1) Reevaluate.  While it’s certainly difficult when things don’t go as planned, this is actually a great chance to take stock of your career and goals and to make sure that an MBA is still a logical and necessary step at this point.  It’s this sort of reflection that can lead to refined career goals and a clearer sense of the reasons you need a business education.

2) Revisit your applications.  Once you’ve gained some distance from the emotional and time-consuming application process, it’s wise to review the materials you submitted to the schools with a critical eye.  Having learned much about the process simply by applying, it’s likely that you’ll be able to identify a number of things that you could have done better.  Whether you suspect your downfall was something like a strategic misstep in an essay or interview or a more glaring weakness like a low GMAT or lack of extracurricular involvement, there is plenty of time to address your shortcomings before submitting an application next year.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Thinking About Financing

Though many business school applicants know exactly what they want to do—and how much they hope to make—after they graduate from an MBA program, a surprising number apply to school without thinking about how they’ll pay for this expensive degree.  While some students do foot the entire bill themselves or receive scholarship support from the school or an outside institution, the vast majority of MBA students borrow funds to cover their tuition and living expenses.  With this in mind, we wanted to cover some very basic information on loans for the benefit of both recent admits entering school this fall and early birds just beginning to think about their applications for Fall 2014.

The primary source of funding for U.S.-based applicants will be federal loans or alternative education loans.  The main federal loans, available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are the Direct Unsubsidized Loans, the Direct PLUS Loan and the Federal Perkins Loan.  Full-time students, usually those enrolled in two or more courses per semester, can borrow as much as $20,500/year through the Direct Unsubsidized Loan program.  The Direct PLUS Loan can be used to pay for the total cost of attendance less any aid you’ve already been awarded.  Meanwhile, the Federal Perkins Loan program is school-based program for students with exceptional financial needs.  Perkins Loans are low-interest, a rate of 5 percent, with a maximum annual loan amount of $8,000/year for graduate students or $60,000 in total. Those interested in applying for federal student aid should check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  When federal loans are not enough, private loans can help bridge the gap in education costs.  Students might contact their local bank or look into lender programs, such as SallieMae or Access Group, for details on borrowing eligibility.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Waitlist Correspondence

In addition to actively evaluating the applications of Round Two applicants at this time of year, many top programs revisit their Round One waitlists and consider the strength of those individuals with respect to the new information about the pool.  While schools vary in their receptivity to correspondence from applicants, those programs that do welcome additional materials offer a great chance for waitlisted candidates to reaffirm their interest in the school and keep themselves fresh in the mind of the adcom.

With the second-round notification dates for a number schools coming up in a matter of weeks, we wanted to offer some tips to students who have been waitlisted at such programs while there’s still some time to tip the balance in their favor.

It’s clear that you should take advantage of this chance to add to your file, so the first real step is determining what you want—and need—to communicate in your waitlist correspondence.  We suggest that you begin by revisiting your application with a critical eye.  Being waitlisted is ultimately a positive sign of the strength of your candidacy, so it’s likely you’ve put together a very solid set of materials; you do, however, want to consider what you might have done to make your application even better.  For instance, if your comments in your essays focused primarily on your work experience, you might want to convey some information about your outside interests and activities in your waitlist letter.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: The Waitlist

What should an applicant do when placed on the waitlist at his or her dream school?  While most applicants regard the waitlist in a negative light (we’ve even heard it described as “a sort of purgatory prior to getting dinged”), the best approach is to view the glass as being half-full (especially for R1 waitlisters).  In all cases, getting waitlisted is much better than getting denied.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate this often difficult and mysterious process:

1) Know your file.  Before you can develop a waitlist strategy, you need to understand where you may have fallen short in the application process.  Read over your file with a critical eye and try to identify any weaknesses.  Talk to anyone you know who might be able to give you feedback (MBA students at the target school, former admissions officers, admissions consultants, etc).

2) Familiarize yourself with the school’s waitlist rules.  Do you need to “opt in” in order to be on the list?  Are you allowed to submit supplemental materials to bolster your case or inform the committee of changes to your candidacy?  Does the school offer a chance for feedback via a phone session or interview with a “waitlist manager?”

3) Follow the waitlist rules.

CASE A: Schools that accept supplemental materials.  If a school hints that you may want to provide a supplemental essay or recommendation letter, then by all means, take this offer seriously and get something together for the committee.  Approach these materials in the same way that you would approach the application process (e.g., do not just send along something that you dash off in a matter of minutes).  If you have several items you wish to send, it may make sense to spread them out over the course of a few weeks to demonstrate steady interest.

CASE B: Schools that do not accept supplemental materials.  This may sound obvious, but if a school indicates that they do not want supplemental materials, then you should respect their guidelines.  In other words, do not send along a new recommendation or an essay if the program has clearly indicated that you should not do so.  There may be exceptions to this – for example, if a dramatic change has taken place in your candidacy – but in most cases, you should simply follow the rules. (Contact us to learn about other ways to improve your waitlist status with schools that frown on supplemental materials.)

4) Consider a school visit.  It may make sense to visit the school, particularly if you have not been before.  So many different things can happen on a visit:

a) You never know when you’ll have that chance meeting with an admissions officer who is willing to give you a little feedback (and who through the process of meeting you face to face might get a better sense of your candidacy).

b) A school may take note of your visit (if you sign in with the admissions office) and view it as a potential sign of your interest.

c) You may interact with students or professors who can better inform you of opportunities at the school and provide you with helpful “content” for any waitlist materials you go on to submit.

d) By visiting, you may find out that school X is really not for you, enabling you to move on and remove yourself from the waitlist.

Just as there are a number of waitlist to-do items, there are also countless things to avoid doing.  We’ll devote another post to that at a later date.  Please contact the Clear Admit offices for questions about waitlist strategy and our related services (info@clearadmit.com).

In addition, for valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.

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Admissions Tip: Choosing Between Schools

With the majority of schools having released their Round One decisions, many successful applicants will soon be facing the enviable – but often agonizing – decision of choosing between programs.  Though we know that those of you in this position will already be juggling an overwhelming amount of information about the schools on your short lists, we wanted to offer a few pointers to consider as you identify and evaluate the most important facts and factors in making this decision.

1) Immerse yourself.  If you have not yet visited campus, go to the school and see what you think of the environment. Be sure to attend classes, talk with students, tour the facilities, and so on.  Even if you have already made the trip, it’s a good idea to attend the school’s events for admitted students to meet your potential classmates.  After all, these are the folks whose thoughts you will be hearing in class for two years and who will making up your future network.

2) Consider your immediate priorities.  Think about the location, size, teaching method, etc.  Are you looking for a close-knit, “we’re all in this together” sort of experience, or would you prefer to attend classes and then disappear into a large city with a few classmates or old friends?  Do you need the benefits of a large university to pursue coursework in a specific field?  Do you crave lengthy discussions with faculty?  Do you have family or a significant other who might need to consider your location?  Are you strong in qualitative areas but looking to refine your skills in quantitative subjects?  Is there a teaching method that might better address your weaknesses or best suit your learning style?  Reflecting on the relative importance of each of these questions might help you to organize your thoughts about and the information on each program.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Navigating the Waitlist

While the past few weeks have seen a number of admits and rejections handed down to round one MBA applicants, the fate of many remains uncertain.  There is no reason for waitlisted candidates to lose hope, as the top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in round two and thereafter, but we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier.  To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we wanted to share a few waitlist tips:

1. Knowand follow—the rules.  
Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign waitlisted candidates to an admissions office liaison.  We know that the natural impulse is to reach out to the adcom and update them on that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile.  At first blush, it might seem that there’s no harm in sending a short letter or making a call, but no matter how exciting the information you wish to communicate, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you.  Though such a policy may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school.

2. Communicate if you can.  For those programs that do permit or encourage contact from waitlisters, it’s absolutely a good idea to send an update.  In addition to the obvious news items mentioned above, it’s beneficial to read over your essays and reflect on whether there is some piece of your background or interests that you haven’t gotten across yet.  Taking the time to write about your relevant recent experiences, positive developments in your candidacy and ways that you’ve enhanced your understanding of the program is a nice sign of your interest in the program, and is a good strategy for telegraphing your commitment to attending.  It is, of course, also in your interest to make sure that the adcom has the most up to date information so that they can make an informed decision the next time your file comes up for evaluation.

3. Keep in touch.  Don’t disappear after an initial note to the adcom or phone call to your waitlist manager (if applicable).  If you have plans to be on or near campus, for instance, send a quick email to alert your waitlist manager (or whoever you may have interacted with on the adcom) to alert them to this fact.  In many cases you’ll find that the adcom offers to have you stop by for a friendly chat about your candidacy—something that can go a long way towards helping your case.  Beyond a visit, sending a brief update every few weeks or so is another way to reaffirm your interest in the school and keep you fresh in the minds of the adcom—something that could work to your advantage in a discussion of which candidates to admit from the waitlist.  In all cases, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so please use good judgment!

4. Have a contingency plan.  While it’s important to do be consistent and enthusiastic when waitlisted and communicating with staff at your target program, it’s also wise to have a backup plan.  With the Round Two deadlines for several top programs about 1-2 weeks away, there’s still time to put together a solid application to another school.  Even if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams and intend to reapply if not admitted, it’s also never too early to start thinking about the coming year and what steps you might take to enhance your candidacy before next fall.

For valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.

Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free to contact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services.  Hang in there!

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