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How to Get OFF the MBA Waitlist, From Someone That Did

April 14, 2014 :: Admissionado Team

Remember when we told you all those things you SHOULD NOT DO while biding your time on the MBA waitlist?

Well meet our client, Tom (not his real name). Tom is a shining example of exactly what you SHOULD do if you’ve been waitlisted.

Basically, Tom took that WL status and crushed it with his bare hands. He snapped it in half like it was a toothpick. He drop-kicked it into outer space and it is now orbiting the sun with a bunch of asteroids and space garbage (and Sandra Bullock?)

Read on to find out what happened on Tom’s MBA application roller coaster ride.


It’s a happy ending.

What was your initial thought when you were waitlisted at Darden? How did you feel?

Let’s just say it wasn’t my best week.  My dog died on Monday, Tuck waitlisted me on Tuesday, and Darden waitlisted me on Thursday.  Plus, for work-related reasons, I got barely any sleep that week.  It was one of those weeks where it felt like the entire universe went out of its way to make things difficult for me.  So, I was just exhausted, really.

Why do you think you were waitlisted at Darden?

Actually, I don’t have to guess.  A little over a month after I was waitlisted, I received an email from their admissions department, assigning me a contact in their office.  Right afterwards, she emailed me, and told me that, while my GMAT was in range, my quant score was a bit low.  She also said my application and interview did not really explain “why Darden” and how I would fit in, so she asked me to submit an additional essay answering that.

What did you do while on the Waitlist at Darden? What were the steps you took?

After a 1-hour chat with Damon, we discussed strategies going forward, and eventually I did the following:

1) Regular correspondence with Darden – which I always ran by Damon first – to provide them updates, reiterate my enthusiasm, etc.

2) I retook the GMAT, raising my score from a 710 to a 750.

3) Took a math course, which they hadn’t requested, but which allowed me to go above and beyond in terms of demonstrating both my enthusiasm and my quant skills.

4) I wrote the additional essay, which they requested, to explain why Darden and I fit. Damon helped me extensively with that.

Why do you think you ultimately got into Darden?

I think two things particularly helped.  Number one, I think the waitlist gave me the time and opportunity to really improve my application, tailor it to their concerns, and correct my weaknesses.  Number two, in so doing, I was able to really demonstrate how strongly I wanted to be there, not just through my words, but also through my actions.

What was the most challenging part of the app for you? And how did you overcome that challenge?

I think it’s tough.  I come from a pretty nontraditional MBA background, and I work for a small family business, so my biggest insecurity was demonstrating that my professional experience was competitive with what they were looking for.  Of course, that’s something that comes up consistently throughout the process, in the essays, recommenders, and interviews.  Damon was extremely helpful, both in helping me understand exactly what the adcom would be looking for, and in helping me with the verbal tap dancing that helped me turn my insecurities (I’m overeducated and under-experienced) into strengths (explaining how my experiences will give me a unique perspective in the classroom, and how they will position me for an interesting career afterwards).

What advice do you have for others who are on waitlists?

This only applies to schools where the admissions committee actually reaches out to its applicants and explains what they’d like to see done:

It can take a lot of time, and serious commitment, to actually address all their concerns. I mean, studying for and retaking the GMAT in just over a month, and balancing that with an additional essay and a math class, even while, you know, working a full-time job, is really tough, especially knowing that nothing’s guaranteed.  But I think by doing all that, while I missed a lot of sleep over the past 3 months, led me to a place where my application was very strong, and where I had seriously demonstrated my commitment.

It’s a lot of work, but it really is an opportunity.  The admissions committee is basically giving you a roadmap of what you need to do, in order to get the opportunity you’re waiting for—and wouldn’t anybody kill for that?  It’s up to you to figure out how much work it needs, and what your other options are, but recognize the waitlist as the opportunity is, and treat it as such.  Go for it!


We could not have asked for more hard work, dedication, creativity, and good old-fashioned GRIT from Mr. Tom. And the Darden adcom clearly noticed.

So there you have it, folks. Getting off the MBA waitlist is NOT an urban myth. You CAN do it.