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How to Reapply to an MBA Program: What to Tell Schools and How to Get In

Responding to business school rejection
Should you reapply?
Reviewing your application components
What’s involved in reapplying to an MBA Program?
What do schools want to know when you reapply?
What to include in your reapplication essay
Reapplication strategies from the experts

Responding to business school rejection

So, the acceptance letter you have been anxiously awaiting from your top-choice MBA program did not arrive. A rejection showed up instead.

Don’t lose hope. If you don’t get into your dream MBA program on your first attempt; you can always try again and reapply.

Remember, sometimes rejection just comes down to the numbers.There are thousands of strong candidates in the applicant pool, especially at top schools, and only so many seats in the class. For the very competitive M7 schools, 75 percent or more of applicants are rejected. 

Because it’s so tough to get in, reapplying to business school is not at all uncommon. For example, typically around 10% of MBA students at HBS were reapplicants, which means one in 10 had to try more than once. 

So if you are not admitted, all is not lost. With some extra self-reflection and effort to address any gaps or weaknesses in your application, you have a good chance of success and turning your rejection into admission.

Future MBA applicants should keep this in mind that it may take them more than one season to secure a spot at your dream school. So factor this into your timeline; it’s wise to err on the side of starting your journey to business school a bit too early than too late

For more tips on timing your MBA, see our advice here.

Should you reapply?

To decide whether or not to reapply, first, try to decode the reasons why you didn’t make the cut. You can approach the school’s admissions committee and ask. At some schools, if the admissions team has time, they will give you feedback on your application. And if they don’t have time and you don’t hear back, asking won’t be held against you.

Next, take an honest look at each aspect of your application and look for any weaknesses. Have you really sold your own story and made your best case? Have you gained experience or new perspectives that leave you better positioned to succeed in business school and beyond?

Reviewing your application components

A great deal goes into an MBA application, and each element must be on target. Review each piece and evaluate: 

  • Is your resume concise? Does it highlight your achievements and the impact of your work experience?  Is it formatted effectively and according to the school’s requirements?
  • Are your test scores as good as they can be, or is there an opportunity to improve them?
  • Are your essays engaging, authentic, informative, and tightly focused on the prompting question? Do they tell a story that goes deeper than the facts on your resume? Do they allow the reader to get to know you, your goals and motivations?
  • Was your interview effective? Did you respond crisply to questions and show that you were a fit for the school? 

Each of these elements should add up into a compelling and coherent story that tells the admissions committee who you are, what you aim to accomplish, and how you will contribute to the class. 

If you feel you didn’t get that message across, it’s worth reapplying. 

What is involved in reapplying to an MBA program?

The process for reapplying to an MBA program and the information you’ll need to submit differs across business schools. Will you need a whole, fresh new application, or just an updated essay? Will you need to interview again?

Reapplication processes tend to fall into three general models — and many variants.

  • Complete application: Some MBA programs like Stanford Graduate School of Business may require reapplicants to submit an entirely new application; they say they ask for this because the details they collect on their application form change each year. That may include updated essays, letters of recommendation, and any other documents the application requires you to complete.
  • Modified application process: Some programs ask reapplicants to update only specific sections of the application, such as essays, and submit any information that has changed since your previous application.
  • Reapplicant Question/Section: Some school’s MBA application may have a specific section for reapplicants to complete. Typically, this will ask about career progress, additional education, or new achievements since you last applied.


If you’re considering reapplying, the first step is to confirm exactly what is required, so you
can plan your time and resources accordingly.

What will schools want to know when you reapply to their MBA program?

No matter what else an MBA program requires from reapplicants, they will all want to know what has changed since you last applied. Usually, you will address this in an essay. 

For example, Harvard Business School and the Wharton School ask:

“Please share with the Admissions Committee how you have reflected and grown since your previous application and discuss any relevant updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words maximum)

Kellogg asks a similar question and adds, “What steps have you taken to become the strongest candidate you can be?” (250 words maximum).   Columbia Business School gives you the most space — up to 500 words — to explain how you have enhanced your candidacy since your previous application and to “detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate how you plan to achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA professional goals.”

Chicago Booth wants to know, “Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? “(300 words maximum)

In your response you will want to share anything demonstrating that you are now a stronger candidate. Briefly highlight your motivation for reapplying, and tie that to your fresh achievements and work experiences if relevant. If your short- or long-term career goals and reasons for seeking an MBA have changed, explain why. 

What to include in your MBA reapplication essay

Fortuna’s expert MBA admissions coaches advise that these are the details you should include in your reapplication essay.   

Professional updates: Report promotions, increased responsibility, interesting projects, or broadened international exposure, or contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. If you have received awards or developed your leadership skills through formal or informal channels, share those details. 

Academic updates: If you have improved GMAT or GRE test scores or have taken coursework in quantitative, MBA-relevant topics since your last application, report the results.

School-specific information: Share anything you may have learned from campus specific visits or insights from conversations with current students, alumni, faculty and admissions team. Demonstrate that you remain committed to and engaged with the school. For example, London Business School explicitly asks, “Have your views of London Business School or the MBA programme changed since you last applied?”

Personal development: Share any new extracurricular activities or hobbies, or any updates and achievements related to activities you have been engaged in. For instance, you might share tidbits like completing your first marathon, achieving yoga teacher certification, or taking up fostering puppies. Focus on the personal growth and new perspectives or ambitions you gained.

Reapplication strategies from the experts

Fortuna’s coaches offer some additional advice and guidelines to shape a successful MBA reapplication.

Show enthusiasm: Express commitment not just to this school, but for an MBA in general. Show that business school remains a critical next step to achieving your career goals. 

Address feedback: If you received any specific feedback from this school, explain how you have addressed this.

Demonstrate growth and development: Every school wants to know why you are now a stronger candidate. Show them that you have grown since your last application, that you have reflected on where you may have fallen short, and made the effort to address those shortcomings and are coming back as a stronger, more mature candidate with more to offer to the MBA classroom and the school community. 

Putting together a strong reapplication takes some deep reflection; don’t shortcut the process, because if you apply with pretty much the same presentation of your profile as previously, you are almost guaranteed to get the same outcome. 

Keep in mind that some schools may refer back to your previous application, and some may not. (In particular, if you have submitted an entirely fresh, complete application, the admissions reader might not dig up your previous application; however there is no guarantee that they won’t). So while you definitely should communicate what is new in your profile and how you have changed in the past 12 months, you don’t want to present yourself in a way that is incoherent with your previous application. Sometimes, it’s a delicate balance to strike, and expert input can be invaluable. 

Let’s Get You In.

Fortuna’s coaches can help you focus a sharp statement to reposition yourself, so your reapplication rises to the top of the pool. Request a free consultation to learn more about how we can help. 

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