Got rejected from your dream business school? Here’s how you bounce back

A rejection letter from a business school does not mean it's the end of your journey. You can still change the outcome.

By U2B Staff 

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So you’ve put in countless hours perfecting your personal statement. You’ve spent months studying for the GMAT exam. You’ve reached out to several people for letters of recommendation in hopes of securing one well in-line with your goals. Finally, you’ve planned your next move once you receive that letter of acceptance from your dream business school. 

However, what came in the mail was not very welcoming. In fact, it was the rejection letter you never thought you would receive. You start to ask yourself a series of questions with the most challenging one to answer is: What’s next?

The first step to recovering from rejection is to understand the facts. If you worked hard on your application and studied the characteristics of a strong candidate, it’s highly likely you did nothing wrong. Rejection is normal in the college/university admissions process – a hard reality a majority of business school applicants must face.


Within the process, aspiring business school students should always begin by assessing just how competitive their dream business school is. Many wish to gain qualifications from Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia, or other prestigious top 25 schools.

What do many of these schools have in common? Extremely low acceptance rates. These rates dramatically affect your likelihood of getting accepted (or getting rejected). Harvard has an acceptance rate of 5%. So does Columbia. Princeton, Yale, and the University of Chicago have an acceptance rate of 6%. Meaning, at these institutions and most among the top 10, applicants have a whopping 90-95% chance of getting rejected. 

With more and more students applying to business school every year, the chances of rejection increase. This brings us back to the question: what should students do next if they are denied entry from their top choice? 

Your next step should be to analyse your profile. Did your qualifications match up? Were your standardised test scores high enough? Did you have enough work experience or extracurricular activities to showcase? Identify what you’re lacking as a candidate.

After that, evaluate your application. It’s hard to objectively judge something you’ve spent months trying to perfect, but it has to be done. If you feel like you cannot find the missing link, ask a graduate to be a second pair of eyes. This would cost far less than hiring an admissions consultant.

Ensure you’re reaching out to someone who has achievements similar to your goals and that their perspective is one that can help. Especially if you’re planning on reapplying, this step is crucial. Once you’re aware of the changes that need to be made, make them. 


While doing this, it is important to re-examine your business school choices. If you have your heart set on the institution that rejected you, there’s no reason you have to give up. It may be time to reconsider your timeline. Many admissions offices happily give feedback on applications, especially if an applicant has come in for an interview. 

If you come to find that your GMAT score did not measure up, start studying to retake the exam. You can take the GMAT up to five times in a calendar year and up to eight times in a lifetime. However, you must wait 16 days before retaking the exam.

If you were told the reason was a lack of experience, it could be beneficial to take a gap year and gain real-world experience, utilising the time to keep building on your application. For example, consider taking an accounting class or show initiative by taking on more leadership responsibilities at your place of work. Especially if tough competition was your problem, meaningful volunteer work, impressive side-projects, successful apprenticeships, and unique capabilities often set candidates apart.

If you are determined to fast-track your business school experience and come up with a solid plan b, look for business schools that are still accepting applications. 

The business school experience will always be there and the process should never be rushed. This is a fact that brings us to our final recommendation: never forget that a business school rejection might delay or modify your plans, but it should never demolish your aspirations. Decide what you’re going to do differently and move forward.