Take a Number: The Dreaded Waitlist
First, Relax and Take a Deep Breath
It’s that time in the year when a bevy of admissions decisions have been handed out. For better or worse, you’re in or out… or maybe you’re just a “maybe”. If you’ve applied to six or more school this has likely happened to you and you’re trying to figure out if you should play the waiting game or commit to your second or third choice. Well this post is designed for all of you out there who are waitlisted and want to know what to do in order to get off the waitlist soon, or at the very least, position yourself to make an informed choice if you have more options down the road.
Turn that frown Upside Down, Dust Yourself off and take Your Next Steps
1. My first word of advice is that if you’re waitlisted at a school that’s not in your top-tier, gracefully bow out. Maybe this is the Tuckie in me talking, but honestly, you’re potentially taking a higher priority waiting spot from someone who really wants to go to said school and you really don’t have any intention of going there anyways.
2. Prioritize which schools you’ve been waitlisted at by absolute ‘must get into schools’. You should really limit it to one; or maximum two if you haven’t received any admits yet.
3. Once you’ve prioritized your school, prepare a professional letter or formal e-mail expressing your desire to stay on the waitlist and how X school is your number one choice, and why you would be a great member at that school. NOTE: Some schools have strict no contact policies (ehem, Wharton). But others, Tuck included, has a soft no contact policy… meaning what I described above is generally acceptable. (Of course, use common sense and discretion)
4. Ask for an extension to make a decision at your other school(s) that have admitted you. At this stage you may need to sacrifice $2000.00 on a deposit at another program, but at the end of the day that’s nothing compared to going to the school you want to end up at.
5. This is a critical step in the process. Wait until the beginning to middle-of-April to contact admissions. If you remember who you interviewed with (if it’s an admissions officer) pickup the phone and call them. If you don’t remember, then try to find out who would be a good person to talk to in admissions–but it IS IMPORTANT you speak with an admissions officer that can go to bat for you when it comes time for people to come off of the waitlist. Make sure you approach the conversation with the utmost humility and a positive attitude. Loosely follow the script (and advice bullets) below:
- “Hello, my name is The Senator and I’m a recently waitlisted candidate. I just want to say that while I was disappointed that wasn’t initially accepted I view this as an opportunity to show Tuck that I’m entirely committed to joining the community this fall and wanted to know if there is anything else I can do to enhance my candidacy…”
- What the admissions officer will likely say: “Senator, thank you for contacting us. Right now we have everything we need on file and we’ll get back to you as soon as we start making decisions.”
- Advice: This is where you have to gauge whether to press on or back off. My candid advice would be to follow-up with something like this, “Well thank you, Ms. Admissions Associate. If it’s alright with you, can I add a short essay to my file highlighting some additional parts to my candidacy that I may not have conveyed in my interviews or on my essays? There are also some updates I’d like to share that I believe would help you make your decision.” (Only add this last part if there are updates, see below)
- The response here will likely be yes, but make sure if you are going to take this route you have something VERY VALUABLE to add. Have you gotten any other admissions to schools that may be in the ‘Elite’ realm that you can add? Have you received a promotion at work? Did you undertake a new project with great results? Did you receive an award? Did you enroll in a class or retake the GMAT?
6. Think long and hard about why you may have been overlooked for admissions. Were you too cookie cutter? Was your GMAT not up to snuff? Quant skills lacking? Bombed the interview? Whatever it is, you need to somehow address it in your additional submission. Be VERY purposeful and insightful about how you approach this written piece. It may be helpful to reach out to your interviewer if it was a student and ask if they could offer constructive feedback–many schools where the student body is collegial and communal this is an easy ask.
7. Follow-up. After you submit (or not submit) an additional piece to admissions be sure to follow-up with whomever it was you spoke to just once. Not twice, not three times–just once. You don’t want to come off as aggressive and impatient. You must respect the process but you should show that you’re persistent and you really want this. DISCLAIMERS:
- THIS IS NOT A FOOL PROOF METHOD FOR GETTING OFF OF THE WAITLIST. These are just my personal suggestions that have been successful for friends who ended up at schools like Tuck, Darden, Kellogg, Booth, Ross and Yale. I cannot speak to other schools that don’t share the same type of admissions process and institutional culture.
- I do not recommend getting additional letters of reference. Why? What else are these people going to say about you that already hasn’t been said? Not to mention these are such a small part of an admissions decision.
- If you think a low GMAT or GPA are to blame you should consider retaking, especially if you want to be a banker or consultant. You will get asked your GMAT score and undergrad GPA for these professions. Taking additional classes to shore up the latter– it goes a long way towards showing a commitment to improving this area of your profile.
- Talk to current students. You’d be surprised how close the communities are at smaller schools. Many times, although we do not make the decisions, we feel very strongly about our culture and the fabric that holds it together. If someone believes you could be a unique thread in that fabric we’ll make sure someone who is making the decisions know how we feel.
- Finally, don’t freak out and don’t give up. You may have gotten waitlisted but it’s not the end of the world. If you by chance don’t get in, at the level you’re playing at you can’t make a bad choice–business school is what you make of it, the school doesn’t make you.
If you’re waitlisted at Tuck and you want some further advice feel free to e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck Class of 2015!