Everything was pointing to an admit and…
It’s a waitlist.
Some schools are unfortunately overusing the waitlist these days because there is so much uncertainty on their side of the admissions marketplace. Part of that is a factor of how many applications every applicant seems to be submitting, which throws everything into question for the admissions officers. They extend offers to X number of applicants, but which of those applicants will actually say yes and become students?
That uncertainty, especially in the middle tier of top schools — places like Duke, Yale, Tuck, and Berkeley — means that lots of very strong candidates end up in limbo, uncertain of what their fate will be at a school they really really really want to go to. This is happening especially badly in Round 1, and it seems to be an increasing practice among those “really good but not the best” MBA programs.
Harvard has a stage called “Further Consideration” which some Round 1 applicants have been in since October, so some folks have been dealing with this no man’s land for months already (though to be clear, technically, the FC bucket isn’t a waitlist).
The waitlist truly sucks. You’re so close… and then this. It can be a harder blow than just being rejected, in some cases. It’s like the athlete who wins the silver at the Olympics; that person typically is very, very upset. You’re a runner-up in a game where being close doesn’t count.
And it’s grueling, the stress of it. With the waitlist, you’ve been waiting waiting waiting, already three months of waiting — and now what.
Does it mean you have to put in more apps for Round 2?
Unfortunately, the prudent answer to that is “yes.” 🙁
Does it mean you will, or you won’t, get in to this waitlisted school?
Unfortunately, the answer sitting here right now is “who knows?” 😕
Some schools seem to have gotten almost sloppy, or greedy, or lazy, in how they’re using the waitlist. They are putting lots of good candidates into this bucket, in the wait-and-see stage, just to figure out how their roster will shape up. There was a time not that many years ago where being on the waitlist was basically a “no chance in h3ll” place. Not anymore. For many schools, it’s just this inconvenient holding ground where you have to apparently pay your dues before they eventually give an admit.
Of course, there are still many schools where the waitlist is no guarantee at all.
For this season, we expect Harvard (no surprise), Wharton (ditto), Stanford (again), and also MIT to be in this category (and MIT seems to be waitlisting a LOT of people these days). If you’re waitlisted at any of these schools, don’t bank on an eventual admit. 🙁 Sure, it’s very possible it may happen, but the chances are near-impossible to read at this stage.
For certain other schools? Chances are way higher. There is a very high likelihood that a strong candidate sitting on a waitlist offer right now to a school like Booth or Berkeley or Tuck or the others we already named could end up making it in before all the cards are played.
But when that might happen is anybody’s guess.
If you want to enlist our one-on-one help, we can share what we know, based on BSers in past seasons we’ve worked with through this stage.
The limbo is truly awful. It feels like you can’t make any plans. Like you can’t move forward with your life in any respect. Which isn’t true, but making decisions with this hanging over your head can really put the pressure on.
And if you get in to one or more of your other schools — yet not The One that you really really want to go to — what do you do?????
All of these questions are harrowing, and for anyone who ended up with a “Hey we like you! Just not quite enough to say ‘yes’ to you yet” non-answer answer, we sympathize. And we will totally be there for you to work through these weeks and months if you need some objective advice and personalized support.
For now, we’ll direct you to this in the ‘snarchives covering the basics of getting off the waitlist, and invite you to update your School Targets in SnarkCenter so we can see if there are any pointers or insights we can offer to you based on the exact school that you’re in limbo on, which others you have pending, and what your thinking might be for Round 2. We also have a Getting Off the Waitlist Strategy Guide in case you want something to dive into, to channel that horrible feeling into a sense of productivity.
Most important — well, two things really.
One is, don’t beat yourself up. You submitted the best app you could at the time. Lots of applicants are super well qualified and they still end up waiting around in this in-between stage, instead of sliding in straightaway.
The other thing is, don’t give up hope! It may feel like the glass is half empty right now, but you’re still in the running. And, there are steps you can take — if you’re careful, and you create a level-headed strategy, with the long view in mind (again, we can help with that if you want!).
The tl;dr is: The waitlist SUCKS!! And, there’s totally reason for optimism. We’ve seen lots and lots of Round 1 BSers make it into their favorite schools from the waitlist in recent years. It can happen for you too! But it may be a slog.
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