It may sound trite to say you can learn from the experience of an MBA rejection, but you really can! Learning more about why you were not accepted to an MBA programme and how to improve your application for next time can greatly increase your odds of acceptance. Not only that, but an MBA rejection may cause you to look around and explore some other options, perhaps even to find a pursuit that suits you better.
An MBA rejection is not the end
It is a common misconception to think that just because you were turned down during your first admission attempt that submitting a second application is wasted effort. On the contrary, there are countless stories of highly qualified applicants that were rejected one or more times. Reapplication demonstrates persistence to an admissions officer, especially if you have worked hard to improve your application.
Check out: All Possible Outcomes of Your Application
Admissions officers turned your application down for one or more reasons. If you can figure out what caused the MBA rejection, then you know exactly where to target your efforts for improvement. It is unlikely that an admissions office can or will tell you outright what their general formula is for determining acceptance, or even specifically why they decided you were not the best fit for their programme. But some admissions officers, alumni, or even professional consultants can help you figure out where your application will benefit from improvement.
Why did you fail?
When evaluating your MBA rejection, there are many questions you can ask about the process that may give you some insight into why you were denied acceptance. To begin to improve your application and resubmit it, step back and try to look at your entire application package from an unbiased, outside perspective.
Start with the obvious. Did you miss any deadlines or was your application incomplete in some way? One school might have rolling deadlines and accept applications throughout the year, but another might have very strict deadlines with no wiggle room. Your application might not even be reviewed if it was late or incomplete at the time of a deadline. In that case, you simply have some extra time to improve or complete your application before the next round’s deadline.
Did you apply to just one school? During the MBA application process, you are encouraged to apply to several schools to increase your chances of acceptance. Not every school bases acceptance decisions on the same criteria, so even with the same application, your odds could be drastically different from school to school. Not only that, but entry into some programmes is highly competitive. If you send an average application to an elite programme, your odds of rejection are higher.
Are your test scores high enough? If an MBA programme requires one or more standardised test scores for admission, how do yours compare? Sometimes the average standardised test scores (such as a GRE or GMAT) of a new MBA class are published by the university or B-school. A quick comparison of that number and yours could show that there is much room for improvement. Also keep in mind that if a school publishes a minimum standardised test score for acceptance, that number does not in any way mean that if your score is above that, you are likely to be admitted. That score is a baseline, so the actual scores of those accepted are typically much higher.
It might be hard to determine precisely why you received an MBA rejection, but you can find ways to improve your application if you look carefully enough.
What can you improve?
Beyond the obvious factors stated above – deadlines met, application requirements complete, multiple programmes considered, test scores high enough – look at your application from the perspective of the admissions officer. Was your desire for the degree adequately communicated in your personal essay? Did you demonstrate your passion for business and how this degree will help your career or your professional aspirations? Were your letters of recommendation impressive enough?
Do not be afraid to ask questions, and seek help wherever you can. Unfortunately, admissions offices rarely, if ever, offer actionable feedback to students receiving an MBA rejection. But if you know any recent graduates, talk to them about what they think made their application stand out, or even show them your application and ask for advice.
You can also seek professional assistance. Admissions consultants can evaluate your application – either before or after you have submitted it – and tell you both your likelihood of success and where you may want to focus on improvement.
In the end, it may be utterly impossible to know exactly why you were turned down. Sometimes there are simply random factors, arbitrary decisions, or even hidden motives that determine an application’s fate.
Consider your options
Unless your heart is set on MBA programme acceptance, or unless your job or career require it, use the opportunity of an MBA rejection to look at other options you might not have considered. There are a host of other business management programmes at top schools around the world. It may turn out that a specialised degree is of more interest to you, and that specialisation could possibly be even more beneficial to your career.
Before spending a great deal of time improving your application, renew your commitment to the MBA degree. If you have any doubts or have trouble justifying the decision, take some time to reevaluate your situation. And definitely do not submit the same rejected application to the same schools. That is a recipe for failure.
So if you got “dinged” and received that dreaded notice of MBA rejection from one of your top schools, do not despair. Spend a bit more time on your test scores, your personal essay, your letters of recommendation, and other vital parts of your application. Evaluate all of your options, and then apply again when you know your gapplication – and your resolve – are very strong.