Blog post

So you’ve been rejected for graduate admissions. Now, what?

June 8, 2022
By Keum-Yeo Brochet - Manager, Graduate Recruitment & Marketing

MB Building

You’ve spent a year preparing for an MBA or Master’s admissions process. You’ve passed the dreaded GMAT, you’ve gotten stellar references from your former managers or professors and you’ve poured your heart and soul into your CV, admission essays or statement of purpose. You might’ve even gone through an interview or two and you sincerely believe you’ve put your best foot forward. You wait a few weeks and finally, a notice appears in your inbox. As you read the first few words “We regretfully must inform you…”, you realize it is not the response you were hoping for or expecting.

It’s important to realize that, contrary to what can be observed on LinkedIn or social media, this type of rejection happens to a significantly larger number of candidates than the opposite. After all, MBA and Master’s programs receive way more applications than they have spots available and, as graduate admissions are getting ever more competitive each year, encountering a candidate who meets all requirements, but still gets a refusal based on competition, is increasingly more common.

Now, in case this happens to you or to someone you know, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1)     It’s not personal.

Applying to graduate school is not only a matter of how competitive your profile is. Of course, you should do everything in your power to submit a competitive application: have a competitive GMAT score, write a compelling essay, ask the best referees to write about you, perform at the top of your abilities in your interview, etc. However, no matter the program you apply to, whether it is a world’s top-ranked program or the community college next door, a rejection does not mean you are not “a good applicant”. Ultimately, it is a numbers game and, every year, graduate programs are forced to make incredibly difficult decisions when it comes to admissions.

Sometimes, you meet (perhaps even exceed) all the requirements and did well in all areas, but there are just not enough spots to accommodate all the great candidates who do apply. At the John Molson School of Business, we take a holistic approach to assessing all aspects of an application yet the margin for that selection can be quite small.

2)     It’s not forever.

You’ve applied this year to a John Molson graduate program and it didn’t work out. Unless you’ve done something unethical or treated our admissions committee unprofessionally, it doesn’t mean we are blacklisting you forever. Sometimes, you fell short in just one area of the process, but you can still improve. The easiest way to find out is to do some introspection; compare yourself to the class profile and, in the end, you can always just ask us for feedback!

In my experience, candidates who have humility and the determination to make significant improvements from one year to another can assemble stronger applications than first-time applicants. This is because previously-rejected applicants get to concretely demonstrate how they respond to feedback and how they move forward in a positive and persevering way. On the other hand, the opposite is also true; candidates who have been rejected, but do not show any improvement (due to a lack of time or motivation) may be hindering their chances of admissions the second time around. Ultimately, the ball is in your court.

3)     It’s not career-defining.

No one likes to feel rejected, whether it’s for a job, program, relationship, or any other area of our lives. However, the one time you didn’t get selected does not mean this will define the rest of your career. You should take the rejection as an opportunity and not brand yourself with it.

I often see people who forego graduate education altogether thinking that, because it did not work out once, it’s not meant for them. Perhaps it’s true that an MBA / Master’s is not the right fit, but perhaps it was just not the right time. Perhaps the socio-economic conditions for you to start the program will be optimal a year from now. Perhaps this is going to give you the opportunity to continue what you are currently doing to build an even stronger profile, both academically and professionally.

Whatever happens, whatever you decide, you are going to be just fine. If you ask any MBA or Master’s graduate, or even any senior professional, they will tell you that there is no single, proper way to go at a career and start a self-improvement journey. Bear in mind that they’ve all had to overcome some challenges which led them to exactly where they were supposed to be.

Keum-Yeo Brochet, Manager - Graduate Recruitment and Marketing

So now what?

You’ve got some time ahead of the next admissions cycle. What can you do?

  • Ask for and be open to feedback: Be open to hearing what you may not want to hear. You can only improve if you’re willing to admit there are areas that need improvement. This feedback can be from the admissions committee or the recruiter you were in touch with. Feedback could even come from a mentor; they can take an objective look at your application documents and let you know what they would’ve done to improve it.
  • Improve your GMAT score: You meet the minimum requirement. Now let’s try exceeding the average. If you already exceed the average, try being in the top percentile. There is no shame in retaking the GMAT one or two times to boost your score. A significant test score improvement will not go unnoticed. Also, don’t forget to look into individual category scores. We typically recommend 40Q, 30V and at least 5IR. (But personally, I get more impressed with a 8IR than with a 50Q).
  • Use your time productively: Typically, I recommend candidates not apply within the same application cycle, so that they have the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned from the process and to showcase improvements made over a year. Use this time to pursue a different designation, take some online classes, further your work experience, learn a language, etc. Any improvement that you can showcase will have an impact. And, worst case scenario, it’s not time wasted.
  • Find out more about the job market: Much of the time in graduate school is spent connecting with a variety of individuals in the hope of gaining an understanding and an advantage when entering the job market. Candidates often underestimate the importance of looking into the job market ahead of time to understand whether their profile is suitable for the types of positions they want to apply to. Preliminary research about the job market, your field, and roles of interest can spark additional interest when connecting with school representatives, helping you stand out during the selection process.
  • Network and connect: Whether it’s for a feedback session, a piece of advice, or just an interesting conversation, it’s always worth connecting with the people you know or wish to build a professional relationship with. As for me, I am happy to connect to discuss John Molson's graduate business programs or any of your questions about MBA / Master's applications in general, so don’t hesitate to reach out! 


For more information on the full range of John Molson graduate business programs, visit our website. Then connect with a recruiter to arrange a one-to-one meeting or participate in one of our many online information sessions.

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