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How to Strengthen Your MBA Reapplication: A Comprehensive Guide

August 15, 2023 :: Admissionado Team

When people ask us whether or not they should reapply to business school after getting shot down the first time, we toss a simple question right back at them: Has anything about your portfolio and experience changed, and even better yet, improved, since your last application? If you’re the same exact candidate as last year, meaning that you don’t have anything new to offer other than the very high hopes that it’ll work out better this time…chances are it’s not going to. So what’s the game plan? Let’s dive into the fun part—making your reapplication shine!

Show How Far You’ve Come

It’s time to wow the admissions committee with your progress. That means you’ve got to display an enlightened understanding of why you failed last time and show just how much effort you’ve put into becoming a better business leader. Let’s get specific about what you can include in your reapplicant essay to showcase your change and improvement:

  1. Promotions Rock!
    • Have you received any promotions? Promotions are amongst the strongest things you can write about because they show true advancement. Bonus points if you were promoted at a younger age than others, or quicker than others on your team. Even the promise of an upcoming promotion is helpful. Make sure to write explicitly how this promotion has positively affected you and brought you one step closer to your goals.
  1. More Responsibility? Yes, Please!
    • Are you leading more people? Have you been sent on business trips abroad? Maybe you gave your first presentation to the board last month? Did you champion a new company soccer team (with totally awesome jerseys)? Any additional responsibilities, at work, at school, in your volunteer organizations, and beyond, show that you are always moving forward. Extra kudos if you actively sought these responsibilities out.
  1. New Accomplishments
    • A whole year has gone by since you last applied… what have you done other than scrolling through your timeline looking at memes? Workplace achievements take precedence since they show career advancement, but other achievements are also great. List them off! Don’t be bashful—quantify your success!
  1. Innovations: Have You Made Something Better?
    • Let’s talk about your ideas, your creations, and your initiatives. The admissions committee wants to see that you’ve stepped up in a big way, that you’re taking charge. Indicating this will not only boost your candidacy but also show that you have the makings of a leader in you.
  1. More Community Service
    • What have you done since last year? Any new achievements in your volunteer organization? Or perhaps you joined another one? Awesome! This is especially helpful if lack of volunteer work was one of your weaknesses previously.
  1. Entrepreneurial Progress
    • This could be an app you’ve been working on, a small family business you’ve collaborated on, or a private real estate venture you’ve undertaken. Let’s show that you are a business all-rounder.
  1. Higher Test Scores
    • This is pretty self-explanatory. Higher GMAT. Higher TOEFL. Higher GRE. These things always help.
  1. New Awards
    • Is there a shiny new “employee of the month” certificate hanging on the wall? Go you! Any kind of awards or recognition from work that you’ve received in the last year can give you a push.
  1. New Certifications
    • Finished your CFA level 3, eh? Got admitted to the Bar? Got some Six Sigma certification? These can also positively impact your reapplication.
  1. Revised Goals
    • It’s very possible that the career plan you presented in your prior applications didn’t make sense. Or maybe it wasn’t ambitious enough or seemed too standard. This year, you have the opportunity to reconsider your goals and present new ones that are better, more plausible, and more interesting. Just don’t forget to explain why you revised them.
  1. Continued Dedication to the School
    1. Show the ways in which you can showcase your continued dedication to the school. Did you visit? Tell them about it! Mention how you’re applying earlier this time because you love the school, or that you met more students and professors, read more blog posts, watched more videos, attended more events, and did more research. Tell them how you did all these things because you truly believe it’s the perfect B-school for you for specific reasons.

Writing Your Reapplicant Essay

The reapplicant essay is a tricky one to write. You have a few hundred words, maybe a little more, to remind the admissions committee why they didn’t let you in the first time around, and to change their minds. Here’s how to nail it:

  1. Acknowledge Past Weaknesses:
    • Start by acknowledging the weaknesses in your previous application. Maybe your goals were fuzzy, or you lacked leadership experience, or you simply didn’t have the GMAT score or quant skills. Recognize those faults in a concise, straightforward manner, without spending time justifying them.
  1. Show Improvements:
    • Spend the bulk of the essay showing how you’ve improved on those weaknesses and turned them into strengths. Version 1 might not have had clear goals, but Version 2 did X, gained Y experience, and did Z research and now knows exactly what her goals are and how to achieve them. Mic drop.
  1. Show, Don’t Tell:
    • This is not going to work if you simply state that you have improved. Show the admissions committee! Paint a picture of what you did to improve or how this new and improved version of you is putting those skills to use.
  1. Focus on Achievements and Lessons Learned:
    • List your new achievements and explain what you’ve learned from these experiences. This combination of what you’ve done and what you’ve learned shows comprehensive growth.
  1. Intentionality is Key:
    • Show that you acted specifically to address certain weaknesses. This demonstrates self-awareness and maturity.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Don’t push harder on the same stuff as last year. There’s a reason that material didn’t work, and ramming the same crud down the adcom’s throats will not help your case. Even if you think they screwed up, and wayyy undervalued X or Y about your application, this essay is NOT Judge Judy’s courtroom and you do not get to make your case. Take a breath and move on. Show them what’s new and improved, not what’s old and stale.
  • Do not justify those weaknesses. Acknowledging is different from explaining. If you spend the first half of the essay telling the adcom WHY your goals were fuzzy or your experience lacking, you will come off as whiny, and ain’t nobody got time for that. They don’t want to hear excuses, and they won’t give your new application time of day if there’s even a hint of that tone. Acknowledge your weaknesses and move on.
  • Finally, don’t focus too much energy on one area of improvement. There may be one particularly glaring weakness in your previous application, and hopefully you dedicated a lot of energy to fixing that since then, but it’s not likely that there was only ONE area in which you needed improvement. Give them a few reasons that version 2.0 is better than version 1.

Specific Tips for a Successful Reapplication

  1. Apply to your top few reapplicant choices (two or three at most). Let the rest go.
  2. If you were waitlisted, definitely apply! The school WANTED you, but you were in a tough pool; you may have been edged out for reasons other than weakness in your actual candidacy (they were assembling as diverse a class as possible and maybe your profile was overrepresented, etc.). They’ll be looking out for you a second time around for sure.
  3. If you earned an interview, consider applying. Here too, you’ve passed stage one. It means that there was something they liked about you last year. Crank up the essays (always), but spend lots and lots (and lots) of time in front of a mirror, grabbing friends/family, talking to yourself… practicing the living hell out of your interview. The only way to grow more and more comfortable is through practice. Muscle memory. Repetition. Doesn’t mean you need to be rehearsed, you need to be comfortable though. [We’ll tee up a special post on this soon enough, stay tuned.]

When you get dinged, it’s hard to stop the questions and self-doubt. But the truth is, you’ve got work to do. It’s easy to get caught up in the wrong headspace, preventing you from moving forward on your MBA reapplication the right way.

Overall, if you’re going to reapply, show some introspection as to why you were not accepted last year. Talk about how you actively sought out all the changes and improvements we just discussed. Not only does the school want to see that you have significantly improved, but the admissions committee wants to see that you have thought about your weaknesses and taken concrete steps to address them to both become a better candidate and move yourself closer to your goals. Likewise, if your goals have changed, you’ve got some explaining to do! Why did you present these other goals last year? Why did you change them this year? Dig DEEP!

 If you need personalized advice or have specific questions, feel free to reach out to our re-applicant experts for guidance. Now, go out there and show them how Version 2.0 is ready to rock their world!