How to deal with an MBA application rejection

MBAGRADSCHOOLS spoke with HKU Business School’s Senior Executive Director, Sachin Tipnis, to learn more about its MBA admissions process. He shared some valuable tips and advice to prospective candidates who are considering applying to this top-ranked university in Hong Kong.

In short

HKU MBA Admissions – Tips and advice from Sachin Tipnis

Do you fit the profile?

Every year, HKU Business School (Hong Kong) receives more than 3,000 applications for its MBA programs. Only 130-140 students get accepted into the part-time MBA, while 50-55 are admitted into the full-time MBA.

With such a high number of applications per cycle, Sachin says, “I don’t like the idea of having a particular profile.” (2:40)


“If you start having that kind of a formula in your admissions, you tend to get lookalikes,” Sachin explains. “From the point of view of their learning, from the point of view of actual real diversity, I really think that that is not the right way to move forward for a business school.” (2:52)

Of course, the university aims for a “heterogeneous class” with students from very diverse backgrounds. “At one end would be somebody who was born in country A and went and studied in country B and then started working in country C,” Sachin says. “But at the same time, there [might] be another candidate and this candidate never left [their] country of birth.” One is not better than the other, “but they bring very different perspectives to the class.” (4:23)

The interview: The most important part of the selection process

“The most important component of selection at HKU is actually the interview,” Sachin says. “It’s the interview where we want to make sure that all these things – your application form, your CV, your background, [your references] – really translates into who you are.” (10:39)

Sachin compares the interview at HKU to a standard job interview; the admissions team aims to get a better sense of your knowledge, attitude, culture fit, work experience, and personality – all of which are relevant from a typical HR perspective in any company. “It’s very important to have the interview and at the same time, it’s a great platform for students to really showcase their strengths to the school,” Sachin says. (12:12)

But don’t forget: An interview isn’t just an evaluation of you and your experience. It’s also an opportunity for you to get to know the school better.

“My suggestion to students always is that the interview itself is a two-way street,” Sachin elaborates. “So, also use the interview not just to pitch yourself to the school, but try to understand the school itself. The questions the admissions committee will ask you reflects what is important for that school. The questions you ask the admissions committee and the answers you get will also give you some reflection on what that school is all about.” (12:23)

How to deal with rejection

“Students should really realize that the rejection may not be because that candidate is not a good candidate,” Sachin urges. Rather, “the rejection might be because they don’t fit into the program…And sometimes that rejection is good because if you go into a program which is not the right fit for you, you will be unhappy during your program and you may not be able to get what you wanted from the program.” (14:11)

Sachin emphasizes that it’s just as important for schools not to get a “mismatch because if you are a student who is unhappy, you will be an unhappy alum, and that creates a very unhappy cycle.” (14:58)

He also offers some inspirational advice: “Think of all those successful people who got rejected so many times…I always talk about Walt Disney. Walt Disney was rejected something like 37 times to get a loan…and he went back and back and look where [Disney] is today.” (16:04)

Is your admissions status negotiable?

The short answer: No.

While some universities might be open to discussing your admissions status – whether it’s negotiating one of the admissions requirements or revisiting the amount of scholarship you can receive – HKU Business School draws a hard line against these kinds of negotiations.

“For schools like us which are a part of a larger university which is a very traditional university, we need to follow certain rules and regulations.” (21:03)

Again, it goes back to “what kind of culture are you looking for in your school? What kind of fit? Do you see yourself in [this] school? And that’s what I always throw to candidates…Our answer is always, you decide what’s important for you, and we are going to stick to it. You decide what kind of culture you want to be part of, what kind of school you want to be part of. Simple.” (21:25)

Final advice from Sachin: Invest in the whole process

Oftentimes, students will put the most effort into preparing for the interview, but Sachin argues, students should invest in the whole process and building a strong relationship with the admissions team.

“Candidates sometimes underestimate the communication they have with the admissions team,” Sachin explains. “If you establish a better connection and rapport with the admissions staff, you also would understand the school better. So, don’t treat [the interview] as an inquiry. On the contrary, treat that as your first touchpoint with the school because you’re going to invest a lot of your time and resources into this program.” (22:00)

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