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Winning Admission as an MBA Reapplicant, w/Case Study

5 min. read

Being rejected from your first-choice MBA programs can be demoralizing, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t win admission when you re-apply. If you diagnose your weaknesses accurately and take the right steps, both to strengthen your profile and strengthen your application materials, you can be admitted.

Let’s start off with some of the basic questions that you, as a reapplicant, might have about your prospects.

Is it Good to be an MBA Reapplicant?

There are a lot of stories out there about the success that reapplicants have had. From this anecdotal evidence, it may seem like MBA programs are, in fact, biased in favor of reapplicants. However, this is not true.

The success of reapplicants is actually a kind of survivorship bias — the pool of people who are motivated to reapply are also the ones who are willing to take steps to strengthen their application and candidacy, including things like:

A school’s attitude toward reapplicants could be summarized as “What’s different this time around?” Taking actions like the ones above provides a very satisfactory answer to this question. You will, in fact, answer exactly this question when writing your reapplicant essay.

Schools like to admit applicants who know how to work hard and improve themselves, since it shows the potential to work hard in classes and on post-MBA recruiting. Schools do NOT admit reapplicants just because they admire their persistence.

What Should I do Differently as an MBA Reapplicant?

The first rule of reapplications is: don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. You can drive yourself crazy rewriting and fine-tuning everything about your profile in the hopes of sending something “different” out. This is not the best use of your time.

First of all, you should know that the schools won’t begin by reading your old applications. They’ll pull those files if and only if your current application appeals to them. MBA admissions officers are VERY BUSY people and don’t have the time to do even one iota of unnecessary work.

MBA application being denied

This is wonderful, because it means that you have the freedom to fix your errors this time around, and you can be confident that if the admissions reader pulls your old file, it’s precisely because they liked what they see in the current year’s file.

What you should change depends on why your application was rejected in the first place.

Feedback From Schools

You may be tempted to ask schools for feedback… but when was the last time that you got honest, useful feedback after a failed job interview? While it makes sense to take advantage of any formal feedback sessions offered by the schools (e.g. HBS, Tuck, Darden), feedback from schools is typically cryptic and non-committal. “It was a really tough decision! We had a strong applicant pool this year.”

Common Reasons for MBA Applications to be Rejected

What you can do instead is to familiarize yourself with MBA admissions criteria and compare yourself against those. Some of the most common reasons for rejection from an MBA program include:

MBA admissions officer speaking with MBA career development officer
MBA admissions officer reading an essay
MBA applicant rushing to write an essay

If you are a serious reapplicant, we’d be happy to give you honest feedback on your previous applications. Contact us, and submit your previous applications confidentially to [email protected].

MBA Reapplicant Case Study

We worked with a reapplicant who had previously applied to several top schools. She had gone to a good undergraduate program, had a good GPA, a good GMAT score, worked for a good employer. Basically, she had everything she needed to be a successful applicant. The problem was her career goal:

Becoming a management consultant specialized in the FinTech industry.

This career goal showed the admissions committee reader that she hadn’t done basic research about her career goals.

So, we put most of our time and energy into working with her on her career goal. In her reapplications, she stated a goal to begin her management consulting career as a generalist and explained why that was motivating to her. She also put a lot more emphasis on the amount of research she had done by networking with current management consultants and highlighting that she had worked hard to understand their job.

It was important for her application to show that she had invested a lot of time in this process of researching consulting jobs (and hadn’t just hired a better admissions consultant who told her to “make these changes”). So, in her application, she admitted openly that she had failed to sufficiently research her career goal in the previous year and owned this mistake. She discussed using the Forté Foundation career-oriented forums, and speaking to other successful women in the industry while drawing parallels to how she might be successful by taking their advice.

This particular applicant, with no change in her job or GMAT score, was accepted to her first choice: Columbia Business School. The second time was the charm!

In this case, the career goal was the key issue, but your case may be different. if you are considering re-applying, and you want our opinion on that, please fill out our form, submit your old application materials confidentially to [email protected], and we will respond to you shortly thereafter.