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Reapplication: How It Differs

 Facing a harsh reality: rejection

When applying to university, you should be always mentally prepared for seeing this scary word: “Rejected”. This is especially true when you are applying to top schools with acceptance rates below 20% or for prestigious, highly competitive programs such as an MBA. 

Regardless of how smart you are or how high your GPA is (unless you have a perfect 4.0), most likely, there will be someone who has a more impressive profile than you or higher scores. Keep in mind that the number of seats for students is limited and you might not make it in. If you are properly mentally prepared to face rejection, you won’t be debilitated for weeks if it happens; while discouraged, you will be able to return to your normal social life shortly after and focus on your next steps.  


Reflect on your rejection - what might be the cause?

As a rule, the Admissions Office does not provide any feedback on your application or specify the reasons for your rejection due to the huge number of applicants. Therefore, you need to analyze everything and try to find the reason(s) by yourself. This is one of the most important steps: try to figure out what the Admissions Committee did not like about your profile. You have a whole year to polish your profile.

Did you find a weak spot in your application? Now let’s focus on how you can improve it.

Low GPA: This one is impossible to change. However, many schools allow you to include an additional essay with your application package, giving you a chance to explain the reasons behind unsatisfactory grades. Describe why you might not have performed to your full potential academically, and do not blame a bad school system or professors. Rather, be honest in your essay, explaining how you have changed since that time and prove that should you get admitted, you will be able to cope with the heavy academic load.

Low IELTS/TOEFL: Just retake it. Spend the next few months diligently practicing for your test. You might also try switching from TOEFL to IELTS or vice versa.

Uncompetitive GMAT/GRE score: Same here; retake it and put in a little bit more effort.  If you try to get 700+ on the GMAT while taking it for the first time without proper preparation,  you are likely to fail or at least not get your target score, even if you have outstanding math skills. Both the GMAT and the GRE are difficult to ace and people spend months on active preparation. There have been cases when a first attempt resulted in a complete failure with a score below 600, while after some preparation, students managed to obtain a 700+ score.

Poorly written essays: Try to analyze your essay. First of all, did you give an appropriate answer to the question? Did you show enough motivation for the program and clearly describe your post-graduation plans? Is there clear relevance between your plans and the chosen program? When writing the motivation essay, you have to follow a simple rule: everything you write must be logically linked together.

“Weak” references, or even worse, your referee does not support your decision: The problem here is that in the majority of cases, you won’t know the content of the references, as they have to be submitted by the referees themselves in a form that is separate from your application. In choosing their referees for recommendation letters, most people make the same mistake – they base their decision on the referee’s title or position in the company, despite having minimal personal interaction with the individual. The person who prepares you a reference has to know you very well and be able to describe you from different angles. It is better if he or she genuinely supports your decision. It’s not enough for them to write that you are not just smart and belong to the upper 20% of the company’s most productive employees; this hardly impresses the Admissions Officers. You want your referee to assert that you are exceptionally intelligent and truly belong to the top 5% of the company’s employees.

Insufficient work experience: Applying to some masters programs, such as Business Administration degrees, requires you to have relevant work experience. Use this opportunity to become more experienced and professional; if necessary, change your workplace and impress Admissions Officers next year with your achievements.

Is there life after rejection?

Actually, there is. First, you have time for self-reflection, and secondly, you might want to rethink the schools you are applying to. Realistically, you should be applying to schools where the average student admitted has a profile similar to yours. If you think that it is possible to sufficiently improve your profile in the next 6-12 months, apply again, and if not, then find a more suitable school.

Remember, if you make great progress during this time, you will have a chance of being accepted as a reapplicant. The school of your dreams won’t automatically reject you again just because you are a reapplicant. A lot of schools are “reapplicant-friendly”, welcoming prospects to apply again the next year. Don’t worry! Students who are applying for a second time have the same chances of being admitted as those who are apply for the first time. Here is what Harvard Business Schools says: “Reapplicants do not have an advantage or disadvantage in comparison to other applicants”. According to Ryan Hansen, a student of 2017 class, around 10% of all admitted students were reapplicants.

Learn the requirements for reapplicants

In general, your application process as a reapplicant does not differ much from your original one. The application package is standard: diploma/transcript, CV, references, essay(s), English proficiency test (for some international applicants), and GMAT/GRE. Some schools keep your old application for a while before deleting it forever (Chicago Booth, for example, keeps your application for 2 years), while some require you to repeat the same process from the very beginning, such as Wharton.

Recycle your old motivation letter? The biggest mistake reapplicants make is submitting the same essay as they did originally. The value of your last year’s essay is zero. Schools want to see updates and changes. In one year, your life plans may have changed, and you should have professionally developed, learned new things, and become a stronger candidate. Furthermore, the school will likely have your old application, as many schools keep their candidate profiles for a few years before ultimately deleting them. If it turns out that you did not bother to spend a few days to rewrite your essay, this will reflect poorly on you. No school needs a candidate who shows limited interest in the program and the school itself.

You will be asked to prepare an optional essay. Along with the ordinary motivation letter, reapplicants are usually asked to prepare an additional “self-reflection essay” highlighting their areas of improvement and discussing how they spent the year between their rejection and the next application round. Here the Admission Committee expects to hear how you strengthened your profile and eliminated your weaknesses. Show them what efforts you have made to become a more competitive applicant.

The references. The number of reference letters required for reapplicants differs from school to school. Some of them ask you to prepare only one recommendation letter while others will want two. You are allowed to ask the same referee to help you, however, that referee will have to prepare a completely new reference that highlights how you have improved since the last year.

This time, do some light pre-writing preparation by politely asking if your referee would be open to you giving some advice. You might want to let your referee know that the reference should include a discussion of your main strengths, accompanied by relevant examples that demonstrate them. You might also want to emphasize the importance of showing your progress since last year.

Final words

As an admissions consultant agency, MBA Strategy knows how difficult it might seem for a candidate to prepare documents that will convince the Committee that you are the one they are looking for, especially after an initial rejection. Our professional team has over 15 years of experience successfully preparing business school applications, helping our clients reach their dream schools. Working with us, you maximize your chances of seeing that precious word: “ACCEPTED”.

MBA Strategy is an admissions consulting company with over 15 years of experience assisting talented candidates to become students of the world’s top business schools. Our achievements:

  • 1,000 customers with 700+ GMAT scores

  • Over 500 students admitted to top US and European business schools

Anna Tokarieva is an MBA Strategy consultant. She is an expert in school selection, profile assessment, brainstorming, and polishing application essays.


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Author: Victoria Dudka, MBA Strategy Consultants Team Lead

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