Saturday, November 12, 2011

If at First You Don’t Succeed: Apply, Apply Again!

You are brilliant and well-rounded. You are confident, innovative – a great team player. You are the perfect candidate for XYZ School of Business, and you can’t wait to start. And then… you get a rejection letter.

Now what?

You have a few options: a) cry and wonder how you ever thought you had what it takes to get into B-School; b) apply to other schools for which the deadline has not passed; or c) spend one more year polishing your application and re-apply.

If you know your top choice business school stands head and shoulders above the rest – if the school’s location, faculty, rank, whatever, makes it the ideal place for you – then, sister, you’ve got to re-apply! And get in this time.

That’s what I did. Here’s how:

1. Talk to the admissions staff. Some MBA programs offer candid feedback sessions for denied applicants. In other schools, you may be able to get a special meeting – perhaps during the slower summer months. Take notes during that meeting and make sure you get specific. When I pressed for details, I learned that specifically my GMAT quant scores, and my lack of quantitative analysis experience, had disqualified me. So I focused on that.

2. Let the admissions staff know you will be re-applying. Tell them your targeted plan for improving your candidacy. This sends an important signal and helps you establish a personal connection to the school. I sent the admissions office a letter outlining my “Quant Bootcamp”: Calculus in the fall, Statistics in the Spring, and a GMAT score at least 100 points higher by next year’s application deadline. And then I worked my butt off to make all that happen!

3. Consider alternative programs at your school of choice. Determine whether your experience and skills are better suited to the Executive or Part-time MBA programs.

4. Go the extra mile. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Though at times the admissions process seems like a mechanical algorithm of scores / grades / extra-curriculars, at the end of the day, it is actual warm-blooded humans making these decisions. And humans tend to value qualities like persistence, dedication and follow-through. You have a file in which all your correspondence and application materials are logged. What qualities do you want that file to reflect?

When it came time for the following year’s application, I made sure to highlight the progress I had made with quantitative analysis. I actually wrote the optional third essay. I submitted an extra letter of support.

And here I sit – a Forte Fellow, an MBA student at my dream school – on the path to a bright and prosperous future. Now, isn’t that better than crying and feeling rejected?

By: Jessica Galeria, Forte Fellow
U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business Evening and Weekend MBA Program, Class of 2013


  1. Jessica your story is very inspiring! Congratulations on your admission to Haas and great job on being persistent and achieving your goals! Any specific advice on where to start with community involvement? I feel that is one major gap on my background that I should improve. Best wishes!

  2. like it thank you very much Miss jessica.