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Behind the Scenes: What Happens to Your MBA Application After You Click “Submit”

Sep 21, 2020
The Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions explains how applications are evaluated and what the admissions process looks like from the other side

By Kara Sherrer

Bailey McChesney

Bailey McChesney

You’ve studied hard for the GMAT, edited your resume, and polished your essays until you’re cross-eyed. You finally hit submit on your applications, and then you… wait. Beyond an interview invite, and then a final decision, b-school applicants often have very little visibility into what happens to their applications after they submit it.

Today, we’re changing that by going behind the scenes with Bailey McChesney, Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions. McChesney has almost a decade of experience in admissions; she read every single MBA application to Vanderbilt’s business school last year. She walks us through what happens to applications once you hit “submit”:

Step 1: Submit the Entire Application

McChesney says it’s important to re-iterate this step, because an application is considered incomplete until all these components have been received. In other words, the application can’t be evaluated until the admission committee has seen everything, including any test scores or recommendation letters that might be straggling in.

Generally speaking, you should wait to submit your MBA applications until it is completely ready. However, some exceptions may be made if candidates are trying to meet a deadline for a specific round and the missing component will be available very shortly. If candidates have an incomplete application 2 weeks after the deadline, they will be moved to the next round.

Step 2: Initial Application Review

Like many other institutions, Vanderbilt’s business school offers interviews by invitation. In order to determine if an applicant is a good candidate for an interview, the entire application is reviewed by a member of the application evaluator team. At Vanderbilt Business, about 80% of applicants are invited to interview. “We believe it’s important for students to have the opportunity to tell their story and that (the interview is) a really essential component to that application,” McChesney said.

Step 3: Interview

The interview is conducted by an MBA Recruiting and Admissions Fellow, a second-year students who has been trained to interview applicants. The interviewer doesn’t see any part of the application before the interview, except for the resume. The fellow types up their feedback after the interview, and that information is added to the applicant’s file. “We do blind interviews, so the interviewer will have only seen the candidate’s resume, and that really allows the interview to stand alone,” McChesney explained.

Step 4: Additional Individual Review

After the interview is complete, the application undergoes further review. Members from the admissions team evaluate the whole candidate file, and the application undergoes a Career Management Center review as well. If candidates applied for any scholarships, they will also be evaluated for them at this time. “I would say each application is evaluated for an average of more than an hour after it’s complete, which is a significant amount of time for the amount of applications that we receive,” McChesney said.

Step 5: Committee Review and Decision

Finally, the application goes to the admissions committee, and a final decision is made about both admissions and scholarships. Applicants are notified of the admissions decision and any scholarship award. “Their admit letter includes any sort of scholarship that the candidate may have been awarded,” McChesney said. If applicants are accepted, they will be given time to consider the offer as well as a deadline to either enroll in the school or decline the offer.

What about the waitlist?

If candidates are offered a spot on the waitlist, they will also be given an opportunity to either accept or decline a place on the list. If they accept, they will also be given the chance to write an additional essay to explain anything that has happened since they submitted their application, as well as the chance to submit an additional letter of recommendation. The admissions team regularly evaluates the waitlist and will notify students if they are accepted.

“I think the waitlist can sometimes provide candidates some anxiety, but it’s important to know if a candidate is given an offer of waitlist, it’s because we see potential in their application,” McChesney encouraged. “A waitlist decision means that we are still interested in them, but at the time of the decision, they weren’t as competitive as some other candidates.”

To learn more about applying to MBA programs, check our collection of MBA admissions advice.

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