Ah, the purgatory of admissions decisions. Being waitlisted can be very frustrating. A waitlist decision usually indicates the program has some interest in admitting you but has extended offers to candidates deemed more qualified. Your status will depend on how many of the initial offers are accepted, and your letter should provide a date or estimated date of when the program hopes to be able to provide an update.

If the program that waitlisted you is one of your top choices, I recommend calling the admissions office and asking to speak with either the admissions director or the recruiter you worked most closely with throughout the process. During the conversation, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ask for honest feedback on your application and interview and probe to see if providing any additional information may help your chances for admission.
  • Some admissions officers may be hesitant to give you direct feedback but willing to speak in generalities. For example, if your admissions contact says anything like, “we had a very strong applicant pool this year and many of the students we admitted had extensive work experience,” you may want to ask if submitting another letter of recommendation highlighting the breadth of your experiences would be beneficial.
  • Mention any new information, such as a promotion, new job, volunteer experience or new projects at work that may benefit your application.
  • If you are willing to do so, ask if retaking the GMAT would improve your chances for admission.
  • Try to keep the tone collegial and inquisitive, as opposed to defensive or desperate.
  • End the conversation by reiterating your passion for the school and letting the admissions officer know if you are admitted you are very likely to attend.

If the program that waitlisted you isn’t one of your top choices, it may still make sense to have a conversation with the admissions team. If nothing else, the conversation may be helpful for your own personal development. Alternatively, you may wish to simply wait it out while they make their final decision. Another option, if you have already chosen another school, is to politely and professionally let them know you would like to be removed from the waitlist. Again, this may help bump one of your fellow applicants to the top of the waitlist.

Whatever you do, please don’t:

  • Call the program to tell them how wrong they were for placing you on the waitlist.
  • Email the dean of the school to criticize the admissions staff.
  • Email the president of the university to criticize the admissions staff.
  • Email the board of directors of the university to criticize the admissions staff (are you sensing a theme here?)
  • Have your parents, spouse/significant other or sibling call the admissions office demanding to know why you have been waitlisted.
  • Post negative comments about the university, program and/or admission staff online
  • Email the admissions team weekly to ask about your status

Believe it or not, these actually happen – each year I’ve had at least one student engage in one or more of these behaviors. Not only will these and similar behaviors almost always prevent you from being admitted, it could jeopardize your status at other schools. Again, we all read MBA boards and other websites and the last thing we want to see is unprofessional behavior from someone we are considering admitting to our program.