March 2, 2024

5 Exercises to Get You Off the MBA Wait List

If you find yourself on the MBA wait list, don’t despair – you’re still in the game! The wait-list letter means that you qualified for admission. You passed! You may have been wait-listed because the school has already admitted applicants with your profile or they found your qualifications impressive, but found someone else’s even more so. The point is, they believe you can handle their program; they just ran out of room. 


What can you do to enhance your chances of being plucked off the list when a space opens up? Here are 5 exercises to help get you off the MBA wait list:


1. Create a calendar document to track your wait-list strategy.

First, enter all hard dates (ends of rounds, wait-list evaluation dates, notification dates) provided by your school(s). Then map out your own timeline for seeking additional letters of recommendation, notes of support from students or alums you know, making campus visits, and sending out second and third wait-list letters, as well as thank-you notes (assuming the wait-listing school permits contact from you). Stick to your plan. An organized wait-list strategy may well succeed; a chaotic, ad hoc one surely will not.


2. Pull out the original “Why Our School” essay from your original application.

Read carefully through your reasons for selecting that school. Now, four, five, or eights months later, you’ve probably learned a few new things about this program–perhaps spoken to a few more students, paid another campus visit, or drilled deeper into their web site. Map out a comparison of your perception of the school’s “fit” now to the fit you described in your essay. What’s changed? What’s deepened? What else would you tell them now? You may even have had to cut some reasons because of the original essay’s length limits. Here’s your chance to put those reasons to use. List them–these constitute one core section of your wait-list letter.


3. What counts as a “development” in your life or career?

To some extent, it’s in the eye of the beholder. If you’ve had no obvious developments like a promotion or other dramatic career change, ask yourself these questions: Has the project you’ve been focusing on since you submitted your application advanced at all? If so, describe that progress (as nontechnically as possible) and explain your role in pushing it forward. Though the project and your role may seem like the “same old, same old” to you, any change since you applied can be considered a “development,” as long as you explain what’s new and why it’s significant. Continue brainstorming in this way–leave no part of your job or community life unexamined. Have you begun mentoring someone since you applied? If so, this is a new “leadership” role you can talk about. Have your technical skills deepened at all formally or informally since you applied? How so? In what areas did your most recent performance evaluation say you were improving? When you have three to five of these developments, you have another core section of your wait-list done.


4. Often, the hardest part of writing a wait-list letter is transitioning from one paragraph to the other.

After all, what does your recent promotion to Director of Leasing have to do with the low-income apartment building you just helped put up for Habitat for Humanity? The key to transitioning between to two paragraphs is stepping back from each and asking yourself what overriding message each one conveys. Often, the two paragraphs’ general themes have some common link that you can use in the sentence that transitions from one to the other. For example, your promotion to Director of Leasing showed that your company recognized your ability to assume more responsibility in the organization. In a sense, wasn’t your decision to join Habitat for Humanity your own recognition that you could assume more responsibility in your community? Use this “greater responsibility in organization/community” theme to transition from the career paragraph to the community paragraph. Try this same exercise with the paragraphs of your own wait-list letter.


5. Are you being creative and proactive enough to “deserve” an escape from the wait list? Or are you just going through the motions?

Whenever you’ve really wanted something badly, you’ve brought extra energy and resourcefulness to the task, haven’t you? This same out-of-the-box attitude has helped many people survive wait-list purgatory. For example, have you really thought of everyone (besides family) who might be able to write an interesting letter of support? Have you really done all you can to build an ad hoc support network among current students and alumni at the school that’s wait-listed you? Are you really sure that one more visit would be a wasted effort? Try to be proactive toward your wait-list process in one new way every day. Even if the control you have over the final outcome is relatively small, staying proactive can keep you positive during the difficult wait. When it’s all over you want to be able to say you did everything you could, right?


If you need help with your wait-list strategy, contact us today and work with one of our expert consultants!


If you’re looking for more tips, you can find them in Great Applications for Business School 2d edition. Available for immediate download at