How to get off business school’s MBA waitlist?

By Arvind Kumar

Securing a spot in a top-tier MBA program is a challenging feat, and while being placed on a waitlist may feel disheartening, it is not the end of the road. The MBA waitlist is an opportunity for prospective students to showcase their continued interest and commitment to the business school. 

In this article, we will explore the top reasons applicants find themselves on a waitlist, provide a stepwise process on what to do when on an MBA waitlist, offer tips on increasing your chances of getting off the waitlist, highlight things to avoid, and conclude with some final thoughts.

Top Reasons You Ended Up on an MBA Waitlist

Competitive Applicant Pool

Business schools often face an influx of highly qualified applicants, making the selection process extremely competitive. Even if you possess a strong application, you may find yourself on a waitlist due to the sheer number of accomplished candidates.

Balancing the Class Profile

Admissions committees strive to create a diverse and well-rounded student body. If your profile aligns with others who have been admitted, you may be placed on a waitlist until the committee assesses the overall composition of the incoming class.

Limited Seats

MBA programs typically have a limited number of seats available. In some cases, you might be placed on a waitlist simply because the school has reached its capacity and needs to assess its yield before making final decisions.

Timing of Application Submission

The timing of your application submission can impact your chances of admission. If you applied in the later stages of the admissions cycle, the school may have already admitted a significant number of students, leading to a waitlist status for those applying later.

Specific Application Weaknesses

If your application exhibits certain weaknesses, such as a lower-than-average GMAT/GRE score, a less-than-ideal GPA, or limited professional experience, the admissions committee may place you on a waitlist to see if other candidates with stronger profiles accept their offers before making a final decision on your application.

Incomplete Application Picture

If your application lacks certain elements or details, the admissions committee may be hesitant to make an immediate decision. This could include missing information, unclear career goals, or insufficient evidence of leadership and teamwork skills.

Concerns About Yield

Admissions committees are concerned about their “yield,” which refers to the percentage of admitted students who ultimately enroll. If the school is unsure about its expected yield, you may be placed on the waitlist until they gauge the response from admitted candidates.

Waitlist Strategy

Some business schools intentionally maintain a waitlist as part of their admissions strategy. They may waitlist borderline candidates to evaluate how many admitted students accept offers, and then admit waitlisted individuals to meet their enrollment goals.

What to Do When You Are on an MBA Waitlist

If you find yourself on an MBA waitlist, resist the urge to panic and take a moment to compose yourself. Follow these steps:

Step 1 – Adhere to the MBA Waitlist Instructions

Different business schools have unique procedures for handling waitlisted candidates. Some may encourage updates on your profile, while others explicitly state a preference for no further communication. It is imperative to follow their instructions precisely. 

If a school discourages further communication, respect their request. Business schools typically provide clear guidance, so pay close attention to their instructions in all correspondence.

If the school indicates no desire for additional contact, patiently await their response. Conversely, if they are open to communication, there are specific actions to consider, as discussed in the following section.

Step 2 – Assess Your Willingness to Wait

After evaluating your application, you’ll be better positioned to decide whether waiting for a response aligns with your goals. If you envision enrolling in the business school in the future, consenting to be placed on the waitlist makes sense. 

Consider the school’s yield rate in your decision-making process—the lower the yield, the greater the movement on the waitlist. Yield rate represents the ratio of enrolled MBA students to the total admission offers made by the school. 

Top business schools like Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB had yield rates of 80-85%, while Kellogg’s yield hovered around 35-40%. Consequently, it may be relatively easier to move off the waitlist at Kellogg compared to Stanford GSB.

Step 3 – Affirm Your Candidacy

As a waitlisted applicant, it’s crucial to demonstrate unwavering interest in the specific program, particularly if it is one of your top choices. Some schools prefer responses through candidate portals, while others accept emails. 

Regardless, promptly express your gratitude for the opportunity to be considered further. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the school, especially if you believe your profile, particularly your GMAT/GRE score, is stronger than the class average. Address any doubts about your willingness to accept an offer promptly, as this uncertainty may have contributed to your waitlist status.

How to get off the business school’s MBA waitlist

To increase your chances of moving off the business school waitlist and securing admission, consider taking the following strategic actions:

Acknowledge the Decision Promptly

Respond to the waitlist notification promptly, expressing your appreciation for the opportunity and confirming your continued interest in the program. This initial step signals your commitment and professionalism.

Request Feedback

Politely request feedback on your application. While not all schools provide detailed feedback, some may offer insights into areas that could be strengthened. Use this information to tailor your strategy during the waitlist period.

Submit a Letter of Continued Interest

Craft a compelling letter expressing your ongoing interest in the program. Highlight any relevant updates, restate your commitment, and share specific reasons why the school remains your top choice. This letter is an opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment.

Provide Substantive Updates

Use the waitlist period to submit substantial updates to your application. This can include achievements at work, retaking the GMAT/ GRE or taking IELTS/ TOEFL (if you feel necessary), additional certifications, promotions, or any noteworthy personal or professional developments. Ensure that these updates align with the values of the business school.

Submit Additional Recommendations

If the school allows, consider submitting additional letters of recommendation ideally from alumni who know you or have worked with you. Choose recommenders who can provide new insights into your qualifications, emphasizing your fit for the program and your potential contributions to the academic community.

Maintain a Positive Tone in Communications

Ensure that all your communications with the admissions office exude positivity. Avoid expressing frustration or impatience, as this can create a negative impression. Keep your messages optimistic and focused on your commitment to the program.

Be Mindful of Communication Frequency

Avoid excessive communication that may come across as pushy or desperate. Adhere to any guidelines provided by the admissions office regarding updates and inquiries. Quality and relevance of communication are more important than quantity.

Prepare for Possible Interviews

Some schools may conduct interviews with waitlisted candidates. Be prepared for such an opportunity by reviewing your application, understanding the school’s culture, and being ready to discuss your fit for the program.

Things NOT to do while on an MBA waitlist

While navigating the MBA waitlist, it’s crucial to avoid certain actions that could potentially harm your chances or create a negative impression. Here are things NOT to do when you find yourself on an MBA waitlist:

Do Not Be Pushy or Aggressive

Avoid being overly assertive or aggressive in your communications with the admissions office. Respect the school’s process and timelines. Bombarding them with excessive emails or phone calls can be perceived as impatience and may reflect poorly on your professionalism.

Do Not Submit Excessive Materials

While submitting updates to your application is encouraged, refrain from inundating the admissions committee with excessive or irrelevant materials. Quality matters more than quantity. Focus on meaningful updates that enhance your candidacy.

Avoid Negative Behavior

Refrain from expressing frustration, disappointment, or negativity on public forums, social media, or in direct communications with the school. Maintaining a positive and professional demeanor is essential, even if you feel discouraged.

Do Not Contact Admissions Too Frequently

While it’s important to stay engaged, avoid contacting the admissions office too frequently. Adhere to any guidelines provided by the school regarding updates and communications. Being overly persistent may create a negative impression.

Do Not Lobby for Special Consideration

Resist the temptation to lobby for special consideration or exceptions. Admissions decisions are typically based on a comprehensive evaluation process, and attempting to negotiate or request preferential treatment is unlikely to be well-received.

Avoid Sending Generic Communications

Tailor your communications to the specific school rather than using generic templates. Avoid sending the same letter of continued interest to multiple schools. Personalized and thoughtful messages are more effective in conveying your genuine interest.

Do Not Disregard School Policies

Adhere to the waitlist policies and guidelines provided by the school. Ignoring or disregarding these instructions may create unnecessary complications and may even result in a negative evaluation of your application.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the MBA waitlist is a unique challenge that requires a blend of proactivity, patience, and positivity. By understanding the reasons behind waitlist placements and following a strategic approach, applicants can maximize their chances of moving from the waitlist to accepted students. 

Remember to stay engaged, showcase ongoing achievements, and maintain a positive and professional demeanor throughout the process. Regardless of the outcome, view this period as an opportunity for personal and professional growth, refining your goals for the dynamic world of business education.


Why am I on the MBA waitlist?

The MBA waitlist status can arise due to various factors, including a competitive applicant pool, the need for a balanced class composition, limited available seats, specific weaknesses in your application, or the timing of your application submission. Understanding these reasons can help you tailor your strategy during the waitlist period.

What should I do first when placed on an MBA waitlist?

Acknowledge the waitlist decision promptly and confirm your continued interest in the program. Request feedback on your application, if possible, to identify areas for improvement. This sets the foundation for a proactive and positive engagement with the admissions process.

How can I increase my chances of moving off the MBA waitlist?

Be proactive by submitting updates to your application, writing a compelling letter of continued interest, securing additional recommendations, and attending informational events. Stay positive in your communications, emphasize your fit and contributions to the program, and be patient while adhering to any deadlines set by the school.

Is it appropriate to contact the MBA admissions office frequently while on the waitlist?

While staying engaged is important, avoid excessive contact with the admissions office. Be mindful of their guidelines and deadlines, and refrain from being too pushy or demanding. Maintain a positive and professional tone in all communications.

Can I explore other options while on the MBA waitlist?

Yes, it is advisable to explore alternative educational or professional opportunities while on the waitlist. Having a backup plan ensures that you are not solely dependent on the outcome of the waitlist and demonstrates a proactive approach to your future.

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