Every year 4 out of 5 candidates are rejected by the top 20 business schools.
It’s frustrating that after all the hard work you devoted to your MBA applications that all you receive in return is a form letter saying “thanks, but no thanks.”
If you plan on reapplying to business school, you need to identify the weak links in your application and take steps to increase your chances of getting in the next time around.
Candidates are dinged for a combination of reasons, and in this article I will offer four general areas to examine when analyzing your unsuccessful MBA applications for red flags. Furthermore, I will provide some prescriptions for addressing these weaknesses when you reapply.
- Low GPA
- Low GMAT
- Limited Career Progress
- Weak Leadership Portfolio
Your overall GPA and GPA in your major matter because they provide important signals about your academic aptitude, discipline, and attitude towards academic learning. A cumulative GPA below a 3.25 puts your academic ability in question, at least for the most selective programs.
The most straightforward way to enhance your academic profile is to complete additional college-level or even post-graduate coursework. Second, everyone benefits from a high GMAT score, but your standardized test scores will be even more important if you need to combat a low GPA.
A GMAT or GRE score below the median for the schools you are applying to will raise concerns. As will verbal or quantitative scores below the 80th percentile, especially for the top programs.
Take a GMAT (or GRE) prep course, or hire a tutor and retake the test. You should refer to the policies of your target schools about retaking the GMAT, but to our knowledge, just about every MBA program out there only considers your top score; therefore, you have an incentive to continue taking the GMAT until you beat the medians or decide that you’ve maxed out with a given score.
Limited Career Progress
Admissions officers need to see evidence that you’ve made significant career progress. There are a few different ways your career progress will be measured: promotions ahead of schedule, increased responsibility on your team, the acquisition of new skills, and the formation of important relationships.
Volunteer for stretch assignments and unique projects. Showing up for work and doing what you’re told is a good formula for staying where you are, but it won’t get you promoted and it won’t get you into business school. If you want to earn a spot in a top business school, then you have to show initiative and distinguish yourself from your peers.
Weak Leadership Portfolio
Whether you’re an investment banker, a management consultant, or a software engineer – the stories about the times you have taken the lead are critical to earning an acceptance letter at a top business school.
It’s time to take a critical look at the current state of your Leadership Portfolio – the collection of leadership experiences that are indicative of your abilities to lead others. A weak Leadership Portfolio will seriously undermine your candidacy for a top-tier business school.
Leading in “ordinary situations” but doing it “extraordinarily well” is what admissions committees are looking for in your Leadership Portfolio.
If you are reapplying, you need to take every opportunity to make a leadership impact both at work and outside of work. This isn’t a matter of climbing over others in a mad scramble to the top of the corporate ladder. Rather, you should be looking for ways to serve your team and make your organization stronger.
Look for opportunities to:
- Coordinate efforts to solve a long-standing problem faced by your organization
- Persuade your colleagues to follow you in a new direction
- Help others work together more effectively
- Assemble and lead a lean, high performing team that achieves something significant
- Mentor and teach others, thereby enabling them to succeed
If you are reapplying to business school, the prescriptions we have outlined above will start you on the right path. If you’d like targeted insights on the weak spots in your application you can enlist the help of an experienced admissions consultant. Our firm, MBA Prep School, offers a Ding Diagnostic™ Report for people who are reapplying for an MBA.