Are you wait-listed or planning to reapply to business school?  If so, you may be offered feedback. These sessions can be incredibly useful, but also nerve-wracking. How should you prepare? Do you have to do what they say? Also, what is the admissions committee really trying to tell you? Here are suggestions to help you leverage your business school feedback call.

  • Review your application.  There is a natural tendency to want to move on from your previous application.  However, the admissions committee has just spent a great deal of time reviewing your file, and will expect you to discuss it in detail.  Tuck, for instance, starts their feedback calls by asking candidates to list their strengths and weaknesses.  It is important that you demonstrate self-awareness and perspective on your relative strength within their pool.
  • Don’t be defensive. Sometimes, the committee has a different take on your candidacy than you had hoped.  For instance, they might tell you to clarify your goals, or that your essays lacked depth. This can be tough to hear, especially if you totally disagree with their assessment, but it’s crucial to listen to their impressions without arguing. The person conducting the call will most likely include their overall summation of your candidacy in your file.  You really don’t want them to conclude that you are argumentative and unable to take criticism.
  • Be prepared to follow their advice. If your dream school tells you to retake your GMAT, to enroll in accounting or to rewrite your essays, please be prepared to do so if you want to strengthen your candidacy.  Ignoring tangible advice actually diminishes your chances the following year – the committee will see that they took the time to make these practical suggestions, and that you chose not to follow them.
  • Listen more than you talk. Please resist the temptation to sell yourself during this conversation.  You want to be gracious and attentive, as well as sincerely enthusiastic about the school.  However, your primary goal is to take advantage of this unusual opportunity to see behind the veil, and to understand the committee’s perspective on your candidacy.
  • “It’s a really competitive year.” Sometimes, it can be hard to understand what the officer is really trying to tell you.  What does it mean if they say that it was a really competitive year, that they don’t have a sense of your team skills, that you need to demonstrate more enthusiasm for the school, or that you should choose recommenders who know you better?  These are all common bits of advice that can be translated as follows: You don’t stand out enough within the pool, they are concerned that you can’t get along with other people, you wrote generic essays that could apply to any top program, and your recommendations were flat, so choose different people next year. If you hear a phrase that you don’t understand, write it down and ask someone to help you decipher the true meeting after the call, when you have time to reflect.
  • Don’t ask if you are going to get in next year.  The admissions officer can’t tell you – they really don’t know, it depends upon the pool and your new application, and it puts them in a terrible position.  You don’t want to make the admissions officer feel uncomfortable, or to display poor interpersonal judgment.  Although it’s natural to want this type of definitive guidance, I suggest taking detailed notes during the feedback session and then asking an experienced admissions consultant to help you evaluate your chances.