You’ve Been Dinged…Now What? |

You’ve Been Dinged…Now What?


Updated June 16, 2020 Updated June 16, 2020

Getting into top business schools isn’t easy. If it were, there wouldn’t be hundreds of consultants earning a living by helping applicants do just that. So if you’ve been rejected, the first thing to remember is not to feel bad about yourself. You entered a tough race with a lot of fierce competitors and there can be a number of reasons you got dinged as well as steps you can take to better your MBA application the next time around.

Don’t get stuck on a specific school

Perhaps the top business schools to which you applied simply aren’t your top business schools. Each school is unique and looks for something different in prospective students. Harvard Business School, for example, has been said to place value on achievement while Stanford GSB has been known to emphasize applicants’ ideals. If you are sure business school is right for you, then you may need to do more research in order to discover which program is more suited to your needs and will most appreciate your MBA application.

Be realistic

Your top business schools should be a match not only for your personality, strengths and aspirations, but for your quantifiable assets as well. You can easily research any program’s class profile to learn how your GMAT score, GPA and level of work experience compares to the average accepted candidate. Of course there are ways to compensate for less-than-desirable scores throughout your MBA application, but there is a limit to how far you can stretch. Be realistic and search for a school that will appreciate your achievements. 

Strengthen your application

Another possibility is that you have applied to the right schools, but simply haven’t done yourself justice in your MBA application. The application process can be long and draining and it isn’t always easy to put your best foot forward. Perhaps your essay didn’t quite answer the question or you chose poorly when it came to recommenders. Before you reapply, go online!

There, you’ll find hundreds of sample essays that demonstrate the kind responses schools are seeking as well as unlimited tips from experts regarding letters of recommendation, interviews and representing yourself well throughout your application.  

Stand out

The unfortunate reality is that many MBA hopefuls get dinged for a reason beyond their control – there are too many applicants like you. You may fall into an overcrowded demographic or come from a background that is similar to those of many other candidates. The good news is, like everyone else, you are unique. You just have to show it. Admissions committees flip through thousands of applications and standing out is crucial. Dig deep, get personal and show them who you are beyond your quantifiable experiences and achievements. In short, make them remember you.  


If your application isn’t strong enough to impress the admissions officers of your target school, why not improve it? Earning impressive marks in a voluntary course may make up for a shaky GPA and prove to those who matter that you’re capable in the classroom. A second or third attempt at the GMAT may also be advisable if you truly think you can raise your score. You can also enhance your portfolio by involving yourself in extracurricular activities or taking on some volunteer work. 

Some of history’s most remarkable individuals have been driven to greatness by their failures, by accepting disappointment with dignity and viewing getting dinged as opportunity. In the words of Bill Gates, “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

This article was originally published in March 2016 . It was last updated in June 2020

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