Applying to a B-school that has previously rejected your application is often seen as a waste of precious time, money and effort. Many applicants believe that the damage is done and cannot be reversed. At the other end of the spectrum, some applicants (especially those who were rejected after being waitlisted) naively believe that they can make minor improvements and get into the school by reapplying the following year. The truth is, a reapplication is a great opportunity to submit an outstanding application that is tailor-made for the school, by learning from your previous mistakes and working hard to address genuine shortcomings.
Step 1: Get feedback on the rejected application – Most schools provide feedback on applications and/or interviews. This requires getting in touch with the Admissions office and placing a formal request for feedback. Sometimes, the schools may not be able to provide feedback or may do so only much later, like after the admission process has concluded for the year. In such cases, you can approach interviewers (if you had reached the interview stage) for feedback. Other good sources of early feedback are alumni of the school and professional application reviewers. Worst case, share your apps with friends and well wishers and seek their opinions. They may or may not be able to provide an accurate evaluation, but they can provide a different perspective with which to look at the application.
Step 2: Work on the weaknesses – Once you have quality feedback and have identified where your application is found lacking, take steps to address the issues and build your profile. All schools want to know what re-applicants have done to improve themselves since the last time they applied. There is no dearth of self-improvement activities that you can take up: get more leadership or teamwork experience (at work or outside of work in a voluntary role), take additional certification courses, participate in B-plan and paper presentation competitions, get involved in extracurricular activities, represent your company more often, join an NGO, improve your communication skills, look for new experiences, travel, learn a new language, improve your skills with a musical instrument or at a sport, etc, etc, etc. Choose something that interests you and which would address weaknesses identified through the feedback.
Note that anything you do will have to be done in earnest, with the intention of truly improving yourself and in support of your goals/passions. The Adcom will pay special attention to these activities while evaluating the essays and at the interview. If you took up activities just to dress up your resume, they will get to know!
Step 3: Reapply – Once you have significantly improved your candidature, apply again. Make sure to cover in your essays all the weaknesses previously identified in the school’s feedback. Some schools allow you to rewrite all essays and provide new recommendations while others allow only one re-applicant essay. In either case, include as much new, relevant information as possible. Your reapp package should be truly impressive, in line with stated goals, and should demonstrate your seriousness about the school and its MBA program.