After taking the GMAT, writing essays, and conducting interviews, navigating the waitlist is yet another progressively ambiguous stage of the admissions process. Based on the research I’ve done so far, each school approaches the waitlist game a little differently and each has the potential to change its approach every year. Some schools want you to plead your case and look favorably upon post-decision activities, such as sending additional information, conducting supplemental interviews, and retaking the GMAT. Candidates who are well connected sometimes have their contacts reach out to the school on their behalf. This includes “unsolicited” letters of support, which are “spontaneously” sent from interested alumni.
Wharton, however, has been very clear that the school does not take any additional information into consideration when finalizing the admit class. This was expressed in both the decision letter and a supplemental email to all waitlisted candidates. The adcom has also indicated that the size of the waitlist pool has no correlation with the number getting in. Therefore one person’s admission doesn’t necessarily affect another person’s chances, though I would suspect that the adcom has at least a rough class size in mind. Wharton has been pretty objective in the admissions process thus far, especially given the new interview format.
After getting waitlisted at Wharton, I began browsing the forums on GMAT Club and found that the feedback among waitlisted candidates was mixed. The majority of people who posted were planning to follow the rules and not submit any additional info. But there was definitely a lot of curiosity about what they could do and whether or not the policy was as strict as it sounded.
I don’t blame people for being interested in their options. Based on my own experience, I can definitely say that sitting on a waitlist without any control of your fate is a rough feeling. You start to question everything that is put in front of you. Maybe this “don’t send info policy” is just a test? Maybe the adcom just wants to see how badly I want to get in? People have passed along stories in which waitlisted candidates knowingly ignored the instructions, had some bigshot alumni contact the school on their behalf, and consequently got off the waitlist.
Anecdotes and rumors aside, I personally feel that violating the no information policy is a lose-lose situation. While I really would like to get accepted to Wharton, I’m not willing to sacrifice my integrity to get there. And even if I could boost my chances, I wouldn’t feel right about being rewarded for breaking the rules. If there’s one thing I learned as both a victim and a survivor of the financial meltdown, it’s that a strong and consistent moral compass is worth more than any degree program can provide. Given that I now intend to switch careers and work in social enterprise, I won’t deviate from my principles after getting this far.
It would be nice to have a choice of schools to pick from, but at this point, I already know that I will be going to get my MBA this fall. With Wharton’s no information policy, my influence in the admissions process is officially over. So my waitlist strategy is simply – to wait. But in the meantime, I will definitely shift my focus towards why I’m going in the first place.