The HBS Waitlist Strategy

On the waitlist for HBS? Read this article for information on your chances, how to get off, and what to do in the meantime.

Posted May 17, 2023

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Harvard Business School is one of the most prestigious graduate programs in the world. If you are on the waitlist, congratulations! Applications are difficult and you have got your foot in the door. Waiting can be difficult, especially when it’s for such a momentous decision. However, there are certain things to do, and not do, to continue improving your chances of gaining admission.

What is an MBA waitlist and why are you on it?

MBA programs use waitlists to manage the influx of applicants that apply over several rounds to ensure that they get the strongest class possible at the end of the application cycle. Waitlists are not a death sentence and can actually signal a promising application. The school may not be completely ready to extend you an offer, but they like what they see.

There are many different reasons why an applicant is placed on the waitlist. Some of these may involve hesitancy over the applicant’s profile, including such factors as age, experience, and uniqueness. If you applied for an earlier round, the school could also be holding spots for applicants of future rounds. Regardless, the number of MBA applicants is growing and programs are becoming more and more competitive leading to longer waitlists.

Harvard Business School Waitlist

According to the HBS website, an invitation to join their waitlist is “a positive indication of our Admission Board’s interest.” The Admissions Board does not “rank” waitlist candidates nor is there a specific target for the number of candidates placed on the waitlist. Decisions are all made on an individual basis and the number of applicants placed on the waitlist varies drastically from year to year. The board will review candidates on an ongoing basis as spaces become available and the decision schedules do not follow the formal application round schedules. All decisions will be made by the end of July.

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HBS Waitlist Strategy

After being put on the waitlist, there are steps you can take to make your application more competitive and increase your chances of MBA admissions success.

1. Accept and Confirm Your Waitlist Placement

Show your commitment to the program by accepting the waitlist place and keeping your tone professional throughout the process. This will show that you are dedicated to the program. At HBS, you can sign up for activities to get to know the campus better here.

2. Update Your Contact Information

The primary means of communication from HBS regarding your admissions position will take place via email. Make sure to keep your email address and mailing address up to date on your Applicant Status Page.

3. Review Your Application

Assess your complete application, from the essays to test scores and recommendation letters. Ask for help from peers and mentors to identify potential places of weakness. If your GMAT or GRE score is below the school’s average, it may be worth it to retake the test and increase your competitiveness in that area. Harvard Business School also allows you to submit updated information in March. More information on how to do so will be provided via email by the waitlist manager, Eileen Chang.

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4. Follow the Program’s Rules

Each school has different waitlist policies and it is imperative to follow the specific guidelines. Some will not want any communication from applicants while others will encourage profile updates. Read any information you receive from the Admissions Board carefully and follow their instructions.

5. Offer a Supplementary Letter of Support

In order to show that you are a good fit for the school, consider having a mentor or member of the school community send in a letter of support to the Admissions Board. A one-page email is satisfactory; sending in a flood of emails or communications may backfire and hurt your application. If the school doesn’t accept any additional materials, accept that policy and refrain from sending anything in.

6. Have Hope, and Consider Plan B

Being put on a waitlist can be a disappointment, but it is not the end of your MBA journey. Do what you can to show your commitment and excitement at joining the MBA program. However, it will also benefit you to review your career goals and whether you would want to reapply to the program next year. Look for ways to strengthen your application and talk to members of the school’s community for insights into the application process and strategy.

Read more about waitlist strategy at How to Get Off the MBA Waitlist: Insider Tips for Admissions

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