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How to Succeed as a Reapplicant: Comprehensive Strategies for MBA Apps : The B-School Application


MBA re-application is a painful process. The wounds have not quite healed, and you need to reassess your profile weaknesses, retake the GMAT, and talk to new recommenders..

Although the number of reapplications to top 25 MBA programs fluctuates, we expect at least 10% of applications to be reapplications.
Here I share suggestions and comprehensive strategies on 10 key areas where re-applicants should focus in the upcoming cycle.

1. Consider the Class size
As a re-applicant the first metric you should be interested when selecting a school is its class size.
With smaller class sizes, the percentage of reapplicants goes down, as applicants tend to choose schools where the odds are better for reapplicants. Reapplicants who want to take advantage of this trend (provided they really have overcome the shortcomings from previous cycle) should focus on smaller but prestigious MBA programs. For the US School, a class size of 200 to 400 is considered small.

In the Indian context, IIM A PGPX has about 150 seats and IIM B has about 75 seats. In comparison, ISB has about 850 seats. Except in cases where re-applicants show a drastic improvement on the GMAT, it would be extremely difficult to succeed as a re-applicant at high reach schools with small class sizes.

2. GMAT- Know where you stand
During profile evaluation sessions, GMAT scores are usually the most painful part of the discussion. Early on in the application season, most applicants are 20 to 30 points below the class average for their target schools.

Please take note-
For South Asian and Chinese Applicants: Quant scores are weaker when the percentile score is below 80, while verbal scores in the 60-70 range raise doubts about being able to communicate effectively in class and with international peers.
For native English-speaking countries, the opposite can be true. The general bias the adcoms have for quantitatively focused profiles must also be take into account.

If you had applied the previous year, you could have made up for a slight deviation from the suggested percentages with an elaborative narrative on your career progression, leadership skills, or aspects of diversity. What most applicants overlook in this exercise is that the MBA is a quantitatively focused program. If you need to compensate for your weakness, you should always start with the GMAT.

3. GPA- Reevaluate your undergrad report card
«My GPA is low. Will top MBA programs take that into account?» is a question we get all the time.
If you are reapplying, the answer should be obvious. The school was afraid to select you over similar applicants, perhaps preferred a weaker profile with a higher-than-average GPA.

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A safe threshold for undergrad GPA is considered to be 3.2 on a 4 point scale. For many, converting percentages to the US GPA system may not work. To simplify this, consider 75 percent or higher in an undergraduate course a good score for international applicants.

How can you overcome weaknesses that show in your transcripts?
With the proliferation of online courses and online education (such as Harvard’s entry into online education), MBA applicants have found a new way to rectify their otherwise permanent record. To compensate a low GPA, I suggest taking quantitatively focused courses to highlight your skills and score between 80 and 100% in courses offered by top business schools.

Engineers, marketers, or business developers, focus on two topics: Statistics and Calculus.
Finance majors, a focus on statistics, accounting, and financial analysis can do the magic.
Remember- You only should take online courses for subjects where you score lower than 70% (unless its for your own interest).

Career changers with a below 3.2 or 70 percent GPA can also utilize this strategy to demonstrate a proficient score above 85 percent in their target area after the MBA.

4. Changing the Narrative
The readability of your essays is influenced by the narratives surrounding your job, extracurricular activities, conflicts, personal development, and promotion. MBA applications prioritize authenticity over pure storytelling, so excessive use of clichés is not well received.

Reapplicants may find it challenging to objectively assess their previous essays because they have invested heavily in the writing process and may have developed assumptions about the important life stories. It is crucial for the narratives in your essay to reflect your current responsibilities. Many reapplicants, who have successfully cleared the initial hurdle and reached the interview stage, often cling to narratives from the past, even though the new year may have brought them new roles, responsibilities, or even a change in function. Since most schools retain the applicant’s file for at least two years, simply rewording the essays and opting for a safer option is not the most effective strategy. If you performed well in the essay but failed in the interviews, it would be sufficient to write a narrative similar to last year’s and update it with your current duties, responsibilities, and goals. When incorporating new narrative elements into last year’s version, applicants often make additional assumptions about the reasons for their previous rejection. The best approach to the rewriting process is to start by listing the reasons for rejection.

Feel free to contact us for a ding analysis. Once you are aware of the reasons for rejection, focus solely on addressing them in your essay. Engaging in unnecessary revisions to a successful story without a clear end goal would be a waste of time.

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5. Interviews as a Reapplicant– Are you prepared enough?
Reapplicants who received a rejection after the interview should recognize that a significant number of applicants face rejection during the interviews at top MBA programs. Effective communication requires extensive practice, and assuming that a few days of preparation after the essay round will suffice to master job interviews is an overestimation.

For consultants, business development professionals, and marketers, interviews may be their strong suit. However, if you do not hold a client-facing role or regularly lead meetings, it is essential to prepare for standard questions and seek feedback through mock interviews. Dedicate most of your time to refining your nonverbal communication skills.

6. Volunteering- Do you reckon a balanced right brain thinking
While it may be believable that you do not have enough time on weekends to volunteer or improve your extracurricular skills due to personal commitments, it is actually true that a majority of applicants who struggle with a «lighter» ECs section come from developing economies where the focus is on professional success and culture of giving back to community has not yet fully ingrained. In comparison, American applicants have traditionally been more involved in volunteering. If you identify the lack of volunteering as your biggest weakness, prioritizing engagement with a relevant social organization for meaningful contributions should be a top priority.

Short-term Volunteering is the quickest way to gain diverse and new experiences is through short-term volunteering programs that typically last 1-2 weeks.
Some schools do not like the «just in time» commitment, while many are more lenient, as long as you provide a coherent and honest explanation.


7. Changing Post-MBA Goals
The Goals question is guaranteed to be found in all top MBA programs applications. If your GMAT and GPA are above the class average and your letter of recommendation is impressive, you need to go back to basics. Is your post-MBA goal too ambitious, irrelevant, or weak? We clarify the feasibility of the goals by approaching the problem from two angles.

A. Employment Report

Look at the school’s employment reports for the last three years and see if your job, MBA function, or industry is underrepresented. The uniqueness of your post-MBA goal may not always work. If the curriculum is not relevant, or the school does not have a specific career team for the industry or function you are targeting, or if there’s a shift in trend due to changes in the economy or demand in the industry.

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B. Consider is your career progression
If you are reapplying, include a major project, cross-functional responsibilities, or international work experience as milestones in your narrative when talking about your post-MBA goals or leadership experience.

8. Re-evaluate Your Recommendations and recommenders
Managing recommenders is the most difficult part of reapplying. Your reputation in the organization may have taken a hit with the revelation that your previous attempt to get into a top MBA program did not work out. The process of restarting the request for a recommendation is stressful if the recommenders are the same.

If you do not have the option of changing recommenders because their first experience with the organization is closely tied to interactions with the supervisor, you can seek professional help from an admissions expert/ consultant.

In most cases, we have observed that recommenders suggest that the applicants write the letter themselves and later, before uploading it, the recommenders add their own perspective. The reason for this is the fear of not knowing how to structure the letter. The recommendation letter samples might help them get started, but you should not write the first drafts yourself. Reviewers can easily notice a similarity in tone, transitions, and narrative between essays and letters of recommendation. Persuade the supervisor to write at least the first draft of the letter of recommendation. Gradually suggest adding experiences to the letter, with the final version reflecting communication, maturity, leadership, learning, and potential of the applicant.

9. Entrepreneurship
Some schools are breeding grounds for ex-entrepreneurs while others are not. Make sure to understand how your target school would receive your entrepreneurial experience.
For example, most US B-schools will not be welcoming of entrepreneurship as a short term goal, particularly for internationals.
For ex-entrepreneurs and applicants who tend to equate ideas with entrepreneurship: Everyone has ideas, but unless you have a prototype website or application to show that the idea has moved on to the first phase of product market testing, mentioning entrepreneurial experience is not the best strategy. We have also seen the other side where folks with experience in leading small family businesses and enterprises have succeeded by submitting proofs such as LORs from vendors and clients and P&L statements.

Feel free to reach out should you want to discuss your chances as an applicant/ re-applicant to Top Business Schools
Aanchal Sahni (INSEAD alum and ex-admissions interviewer)
WEBSITE: |LinkedIn | Message: +91 9971200927| email-





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