All MBA hopefuls fear getting denied, but if there's any silver lining to rejection, it's that many business schools now offer feedback sessions to help unsuccessful candidates figure out where they might have gone wrong.
This availability of application feedback confirms that the schools really do welcome and encourage re-applicants, who often find success the second time around. In fact, in the past, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School has shared with us anecdotally that applicants who reapplied often have a slight edge in the applicant pool.
Find out the policy of your school of choice and get in touch with the admissions office right away, making it clear that you will use the feedback to reapply next year, if that's the case. These meetings usually take place on a first-come, first-served basis in the spring, at the end of the admissions season.
Due to the brevity of these sessions, it's important to prepare in advance. Write down a few pointed questions that will help you make the most of your meeting. If you questioned anything during the application process, you now have the opportunity to clear things up. In order to gather actionable information, your questions should sound something like this:
Was there any concern about my quantitative abilities? If so, what can I do to demonstrate my capabilities?
Were my career goals clear?
Are my reasons for wanting an MBA sound?
What were some of the biggest weaknesses in my application? Do you have any suggestions for how I can ease your concerns in those areas?
Have a plan to make sure the session stays on pace, because you'll usually have a maximum of 15 minutes. Keep track of the time and strive to end the conversation gracefully.
It's unlikely that members of the admissions committee will tell you flat out that you don't have the stats, background or qualifications to attend their MBA program, even if that is the case. Nor will they tell you to change your life plans just for the sake of the application. There's an art to extracting information, but don't expect to receive the secret key to success during this brief conversation. Take what you can get.
Ultimately, the feedback session may or may not provide helpful insight. You might receive a very actionable comment, such as "you need more work experience" or "you should raise your GMAT score at least 30 points." But with more qualified applicants than available seats in the program, the advice is often quite general and you'll have to work hard to pin down specific takeaways.
Think of this as one additional opportunity to build upon your relationship with the school, so maintain a pleasant, engaging and polite tone. The admissions committee also takes notes during the exchange that will go into your file and form a part of the evaluation you when you reapply next year, so make sure you don't get defensive about their feedback.
Treat this as an extension of your interview: Jot down the name and email address of the person you speak with, and remember to follow up with a thank-you note.
Finally, don't spend a lot of time or energy fretting about elements of your application that you cannot change in less than 12 months. Instead, use the feedback from the admissions committee and your own honest self-analysis to determine where you can improve in order to better position your application for the next admissions cycle.