Rejections are always disheartening. They are especially discouraging when a great deal of time, money, and effort has been invested, like in the MBA application. Psychologists from the University of Michigan, Columbia, and the University of Colorado demonstrate that rejection can feel like physical pain. We are sympathetic to the pain you are experiencing from being turned down by your target business schools.
From an emotional standpoint, receiving an MBA rejection letter can lower self-esteem, cause feelings of sadness, and knock you off-course — after all, your near-term plans of attending university have been delayed. These emotions coupled with physical pain can bring about a feeling of hopelessness; acknowledge it and take the time you need to grieve, but do not let a rejection cripple you from progress.
Before you allow a rejection to discourage your academic pursuits, re-evaluate your profile and consider reapplying. We believe that when it comes to personal and professional growth, accepting a “no” is not an option. Like the wind that does not change direction when encountering an obstacle, you too should find your path to an admission “yes.”
If your reasons for pursuing an MBA still stand valid, then honestly assess your applications’ strength and weakness, and consider reapplying, whether immediately or in the near future.
The first step in the process of an honest assessment of your profile is your application. After having had a short break from working on your application material, rereading with a fresh perspective and a critical lens is when you can most candidly assess all components of the application you submitted. It will provide an opportunity to design a strategy for next steps. You must look individually and holistically at your resume, recommendation letters, essays, short answers, academics, and the target school’s application itself.
When genuinely evaluating your resume, ask yourself: Does my resume adequately portray my role(s)? Have I written my resume jargon-free and for the MBA admissions team? Have I used a variety of verbs to describe my achievements? Do my key responsibilities outlined in my resume highlight my key achievements? Have I emphasized my community engagement over and above only listing organizations? Have I added character to my resume by including details about personal interests and accomplishments? Is my resume easy to read? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then you want to ensure you address those details next time you apply.
An essential component of the admissions decision is not only the applicant’s view of themselves in how they present their experiences, but how supervisors view the applicant’s character and ability to lead; admissions committees place a high value on the strength of the recommendation letters. Whether you have access to your recommendation letter or not, you can evaluate your choice of a recommender. Is your chosen recommender the most equipped person to write your MBA letter of support? Do they have adequate experience supervising and have had ample time and opportunity to assess your strengths and areas for improvements? Have they addressed specific examples? Do they place enough attention to detail to answer the questions the institutions ask? A detailed and robust recommendation letter goes a long way in the admissions process; ensure you have selected the best recommender to support your candidacy.
Essays and short answer questions
When it comes to selecting leaders, top programs seek communicators who can influence change. Admissions teams look for not only depth in your understanding of your experiences and how others view your contributions, but also care about your extent of development, your ability to see areas for improvement in yourself or the environment in which you serve, and understanding of your values and your goals.
When you reread your essays, short answers, etc., can you identify key elements of character strengths in your profile? Were these elements adequately conveyed? Have those elements been consistently presented throughout all components of your application(s)? Has the language chosen accurately conveyed those vital elements of your character? Do your essays and short answers include examples of character and leadership? Your choice of narrative, ability to portray leadership experience and strength of character are instrumental to the success of your essays and short answers.
GPA and GMAT
While the essays and recommendation letters are a critical aspect of the application process, your academics are another essential step. Consider if your GPA speaks to your academic excellence. Is your GPA in line with the target school’s average? If not, have you addressed your GPA honestly in an addendum (optional essay)? Also, have you considered the possibility of enrolling in coursework between now and the next time you apply to B-schools so you may strengthen any weaknesses in GPA and showcase your ability to succeed in top programs?
How does your GMAT/GRE fair in comparison to the target school’s average score? Does your GMAT/GRE reflect your best score? If not, have you addressed it in the addendum? If you know your score does not reflect your abilities, retake the test before the next application submission.
Academics are an essential component of the admissions process. Admissions teams want to know you can succeed within the program. That said, your scores need not be perfect, but, in one way or another, they should demonstrate excellence.
While each component of the application should be used as an opportunity to add value to your overall profile, reread your entire application material (including the school’s literal application) and re-evaluate your message’s consistency. Are the details in your resume conveyed in the application? Are there any areas in your application that haven’t been adequately explained? It is advisable that you not expect admissions teams assume your story, so provide every opportunity for them to understand and want to say “yes.”
After a sincere re-evaluation of your submitted material, re-examine the target schools selected. Take the time to evaluate if you need to revisit your list of schools and apply to new target schools, reapply, or a combination of the two. Revisiting material on school selection, like these tips, may prove helpful in putting together your amended target list.
Your rejection may alter your plans but don’t let it drive you to give up on your dreams of a top education. Remember that not everyone can be accepted regardless of how brilliant their application. Take the time to find programs that will give you the platforms and the support you need to grow professionally and personally and accept that the battle is never won by giving up.