MBA Re-applicant? Here’s How to Tackle Your Application V2

MBA Reapplication

It didn’t work out last year. Not what you were hoping for undoubtedly, but all is not lost. Are you determined? Are you motivated? Is an MBA still your dream? Something you need in order to succeed at your goals?

If yes, then everything is possible.

When you’re done feeling that rejection and disappointment (don’t wallow too long!), it’s time to get back up and try again. Here’s how to approach it.

Firstly, realize that there was probably a reason for the “no.” To move forward you need to figure out what that reason (or reasons) was. Your first task, then, is to pore over your application like the latest George R. R. Martin book—cover to cover. But unlike a rabid online fandom, you’ll need to turn a critical eye on EVERYTHING: resume, essays, application form, recommendation letters, the works.

Your job is to take a step back, let go of the personal disappointment, and make like Sherlock Holmes to discover WHY “candidate X” did not get the admit. Pretend like this is SOMEONE ELSE’S application, and try to figure out why THEY didn’t get in. Identify what was lacking, what was overemphasized, or didn’t come through clearly, or simply wasn’t ‘on brand’ for the school. Let go of the rich background knowledge you alone have, the personal bias you feel for that story you’ve told a thousand times, the turn of phrase you are particularly proud of, the goals you feel passionately about… This is someone you’ve never met and aren’t particularly fond of. You just need to figure out why they didn’t get into b-school.


Recommended Reading >>> The Element of Surprise in “What Sets You Apart?”


Equally important in this “revisiting” stage is knowing when to stop. Once you’ve put in the time and effort to diagnose your application and note down the faults, give it a rest. Too much self-critique eventually becomes unproductive, and if you continued to look at your application (or anybody’s application) with this mindset, you will ALWAYS find more wrong with it. Stop yourself when this exercise yields returns, and then get to work building something even better!

Look at the calendar and smile. As a reapplicant, you have time to change the narrative and make candidate X irresistible to the adcom. The diagnosis you reached in phase one is the key: spend your time revamping the areas of your application that fell short the previous year, and make sure this time around it doesn’t read like a “reapplication” but a whole NEW application.

Need to retake the GMAT? Go for it. Unless you truly crushed it the first time around, this is a good idea—it shows commitment, improvement, and follow through, and can definitely ratchet up your application a few notches. However, if you were in the 720/730 range and aren’t seeing major improvements in your practice tests, then this probably isn’t where you should be spending your time.

Another area to focus your efforts is your ACTUAL life. That’s right, real life matters on your application: if you can up your responsibilities at work, take on challenging projects, expand your experience or knowledge in some practical way, by all means do so! The successful reapplications will show growth, especially professionally. This is mandatory—even if you were on the borderline, even if THIS year’s set of readers would have accepted you last year, they can’t justify overruling a previous decision without a clear sense that you changed something about your profile.

Then, dig into those essays: Did you express your goals clearly and with convincing passion? Are those goals realistic and achievable? Are they in line with the kind of professional background you presented? Chances are, there was some kind of disconnect between your background and your goals, and you need to make that connection clearer. Or, the goals you are stating simply don’t make SENSE given where you’ve been. Even worse, you missed what makes your candidacy stand out—you’d be surprised how easy this is to do. Not to worry, that’s the purpose of the self-reflection, and this time around you can present a much stronger case.


Recommended Reading >>> Crafting Sharp MBA Goals


Finally, you’ve done the legwork, pored over your app, made changes in yourself and the way you present yourself, and you’re ready to reapply… but where? This time around you need to NARROW your focus: apply to your top two to three program choices, and let the rest go. If you received an interview or were waitlisted at a program, that’s a clear indication that you were on the right track—they WANTED to give you the admit, but perhaps your profile was overrepresented, or you were narrowly outperformed. They will be looking out for a reapplication from you.

Most importantly, DON’T relitigate last year’s application. Don’t WHINE or try to JUSTIFY your shortcomings, either in the essays or in an interview. The adcom doesn’t remember their thought process a year later, and there’s nothing we can do to change it now. Let bygones be bygones: candidate X is last year’s problem, the new and improved you is ready to ROCK!

Essay Analysis: Cornell Johnson School of Business 2018-19