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April 10, 2019

Getting off the MBA Waitlist

How does it Feel?

  • Apply to business school and being waitlisted is bitter sweet if it is at your top choice, dream school. The spectrum of feelings include:
  1. That’s good! At least they did not outright reject me.
  2. I don’t know how I feel. Is this good or bad news?
  3. I’m annoyed. I didn’t want to go there anyway.
  • The MBA school did not say, “go away, we can’t be bothered with you anymore.” They still like you. But, with limited space, they do not like you enough to offer you that nice, plump “fat envelope” that says, “we love you, I am you best friend. Come here!”
  • According to NACAC, 40% of colleges use the waitlist; 50% of students accept the waitlist spot; only 25% get off the waitlist; and only 14% get off at the most selective schools. The chance of coming off an elite business school’s waitlist is usually in the single digits. That’s right. If you are fortunate enough to come off the waitlist, you will lose your non-refundable deposit. But, this is a small price to pay to get into your “best fit, dream MBA school.”


Business school applicants received their admission decisions to much fanfare and expectation. Ecstasy beyond belief or earth-shattering disappointment are just part of the aura of the b-school admissions process. Whether you consider yourself a winner or loser, the bottom line is it is not what happens to you that matters, but what you do with what happens to you that matters. Your life is what you make of it. Can you progress through both success and obstacles? Because it is likely you will fail many, many times before you reach success. Obstacles and the corollary, opportunities are a function of life. You just need to see them, create them, and take advantage of them. I have a friend that got into NYU Stern School of Business. Rejected from Columbia Business School (CBS), her top choice, she deferred NYU Stern for a year and re-applied to CBS. She got into Columbia the following cycle. Now that is conviction and perseverance!

Will you let failure define you or will you let your vision, work ethic and resilience? But, what if you are waitlisted at your top choice. What can you do? What should you do?

The most important things for you to do include:

    1. Reconsider as early as possible where you want business school to take you after you graduate.

      1. For example, which job, with which company, which graduate program, what research, under whose mentorship, mastering which skills and solving which of the world’s pressing problems are you planning to tackle.
    2. Get a Ding Analysis! In other words, get advice from someone such as a Morningside Heights America consultant to review your application to determine why you didn’t get in.
    3. Determine Your Priorities, and take care of business
    4. Remember: Things you do in the short-term must be consistent with things you want to achieve in the long-term.

If you got on the Waitlist at your Top Choice, what can you do to earn that coveted acceptance letter?

  • Students begin to get off the waitlist only when accepted students turn down their offers; and after colleges determine their institutional needs. Business schools have target demographics. Maybe they are short consultants from the Northeast, or perhaps Asian female engineers from the Midwest, or possibly International students from Europe in the non-profit industry.
  • Check your emails and voicemails daily for messages from your top choice program. If they reach out to you, you’ll need to respond promptly, perhaps no more than 48 – 72 hours.
  • The bottom line is, coming off the waitlist at a selective b-schools is unlikely, but not impossible. At Morningside Heights America, we encourage you to focus on the offers (options) already in your possession, rather than bank on a long shot. That being said, it is within your control to put yourself in the best position to get off the waitlist if you still wish to pursue your “longshot” top choice. But, it will require more work and requires you to prolong the already stressful and arduous process.
  • What to do

1. First and foremost, concentrate on being positive and enthusiastic, never annoying when corresponding with the admissions committee. The probability of coming off the waitlist varies. The more selective the school, the tougher it is and the lower the probability.

  1. Accept the waitlist invitation if it still is one of your top choices and you would definitely attend if offered a spot. However, decline it immediately if you are definite that you will not go if they send you an acceptance letter. Give that spot to someone else as soon as possible. It is the kind and generous thing to do.
  2. Next, accept your current best offer, and send a deposit before the deadline so that you secure your spot and enroll at your second-choice school.
  3. If you are still undecided, it’s time to do your due diligence by researching and visiting your current, best options.
  4. Write a strong and compelling cover letter to emphasize your strong interest in the waitlisted school and your unyielding desire to attend.
  5. Consider asking for one new letter of recommendation if it is from someone that knows you extremely well, and will write an exceptionally strong and supportive letter, especially if it brings a new dimension to your profile.
  6. Again, visit the schools you still consider at the top of your final list, including the waitlisted institution(s) to make sure that the vibe is “good” and the campus “rocks.” It would not be ideal to accept an offer, then spend the next two years at a place you had never seen before, but have strong regrets from the moment you arrive on campus and move into your apartment.
  7. Visit the admissions office to prove your unwavering “demonstrated interest.”
  8. Prepare a packet (i.e. pdf file) of information as an addendum to the email you send to the admissions committee. It should be composed of relevant and compelling material not already known to the Committee.

    1. Results of all unreported grades since you applied
    2. New honors, awards and accomplishments
    3. Be upbeat, optimistic, never show disappointment
  9. After composing the cover letter, send the email with a single pdf attachment of all supporting documents to the admissions committee. Copy it to your admissions representative, your alumni interviewer and finally the dean of Admissions.
  10. Tell the colleges how much you love their school, how you still see yourself attending their school, the courses you’ll take, professors you’ll interact with, research you’ll conduct, and activities you’ll participate in. This is all to show your unyielding continuing interest.
  11. Go to the accepted students fair of the college you sent your deposit to.
  12. Ask your guidance counselor to contact the college on your behalf to support you.
  13. Ask your independent college consultant, like Morningside Heights America for advice.
  14. Finish strong academically since you will ultimately send your final semester grades to the admissions committee once the final term is completed.
  15. Be prepared to make a quick decision if you get off the waitlist. You will probably have only 48 – 72 hours to reply with your final decision. If you get a call from the admissions committee, graciously accept the offer and tell them you will speak to your parents and await the formal email.


Rebecca Joseph: Don’t Wait to Get off a College Waitlist; HuffPost

Jordan Friedman: How to Get Admitted off a College Waitlist: 6 Steps for Success; US News