The GSB MBA Waitlist Strategy

If you've been placed on the waitlist for the GSB MBA Program, don't despair! In this article, we explore tips and strategies for making the most of your time on the waitlist to increase your chances of being accepted.

Posted January 10, 2024

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Stanford University's Graduate School of Business (GSB) is consistently ranked as one of the top business schools in the world. As such, it's no surprise that the competition for a spot in the MBA program is fierce, with many highly qualified candidates being placed on the waitlist each year.

What is an MBA Waitlist?

An MBA waitlist is a list of applicants who have been neither accepted nor rejected from a business school's MBA program. Instead, they have been placed on a waiting list and will be considered for acceptance if and when spots in the program become available. Waitlists are often used by business schools to manage the number of students they admit each year and to ensure that they have a diverse and qualified class.

If you are placed on an MBA waitlist, it means that the admissions committee believes you are a competitive candidate, but they are unable to offer you a spot right at this moment. You may be asked to provide additional information or updates on your application in order to be considered for acceptance off the waitlist.

All is not lost – there are strategies you can employ to increase your chances of being accepted off the waitlist and into the GSB MBA program. The admissions process is very difficult and you deserve accolades for getting onto the waitlist in the first place.

An Overview of MBA Waitlist Strategy

So, you’re on the waitlist. You clearly demonstrate much of what the school is looking for and you have your foot in the door. In brainstorming a waitlist strategy, it’s important to remember what kinds of applicants the top schools want in their MBA programs.

In general, the schools want to admit:

  1. People who are a good fit for that program – Have you demonstrated the values of the school? One of the keys to a successful application is aligning your strengths with what the school is looking for. Each puts weight on different characteristics and you need to have a solid understanding of what those are in order to be competitive.
  2. Those who will succeed with or without the school’s help – The best applicants are those who don’t need the MBA program to succeed, it will just further propel them along the path. The schools see these applicants as partners and better future investments, and are thus more likely to admit them.
  3. Applicants who will accept the admissions offer if it’s extended – For rankings and other purposes, top MBA programs care about yield, or the percentage of those offered admission who actually accept. If Stanford is your top choice, make it clear that regardless of where you are accepted, if given the chance you would choose Stanford.

Look over these points and think about your application. Where are your weak spots? What could you improve? What changes can you make over the next few months that would make a significant improvement?

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How to Get Off the Stanford GSB Waitlist

If you are on the waitlist, here are some things you can do to increase your chances of being admitted.

Provide meaningful updates to the admissions committee

This may include professional changes, for example, if you were promoted, changed companies, or switched roles. Or, it can involve updates from other schools. If you were admitted into other programs, let the GSB know and reaffirm your continued interest in Stanford’s program and Stanford's MBA curriculum.

Get a reference letter from a GSB student/alum

To clarify, this is not an additional letter of recommendation; rather, it’s a showing of support that is simple and to the point from someone with a connection to the school.

Last year, two Leland customers were put on the GSB waitlist. They started working with a current student’s startup who then sent in periodic emails of support. This made a huge difference in Stanford’s eventual decision to admit both of them.

Continue to build a relationship with the school

As mentioned above, business schools want to admit applicants who actually want to get into that program. The more that you can demonstrate your sole commitment to GSB’s specific program, the better your chances of getting off the waitlist. A few ways to continue to build this relationship include:

  • Visit the campus and take tours
  • Get to know the professors and students
  • Make sure you’re signed up for the school’s emails and open/engage with them
  • Attend free events, webinars, etc. hosted by the school

The waitlist is more like a waiting pool. They will pull people off who show the school that they are a good fit.

Don’t overdo it

In all the above steps, it’s important not to overwhelm the admissions team with updates. Be tactful with your inbound; only send information that actually strengthens your candidacy and is meaningful. And, lastly, be sure to consistently check your Stanford GSB application portal for updates!

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

While being waitlisted can be a disappointment, it’s not the end of your MBA journey. Do what you can, but also take a moment to review your career goals. Think about whether you’d like to reapply next year. If so, look for ways to strengthen your application and talk to members of the program’s community. Usually, reapplicants are looked upon favorably because it shows a genuine commitment to the school.

Final Note

In order to make sure that you’re improving your application as effectively as possible, we recommend working with a Leland MBA coach who has experience with Stanford GSB. They’ll be able to provide you with the most accurate information regarding the school’s values and culture. Below are some of our highest-rated MBA admissions coaches; browse all of them here.

Read these articles for additional information on how to maximize your chances of getting off the waitlist and what to do if you ultimately don't:

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