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First Year Perspectives: Navigating Reapplications and Waitlists as an International Student

About Gabriel: Gabriel Alvarez was born and raised in Mexico City. The oldest of three brothers, he studied Chemical Engineering following the footsteps of his father, and grandfather. After university, he worked at a strategic management consulting firm focused on the energy industry for four years, doing a little bit of everything, from financial valuations to market entry strategies. Looking to pivot away from strategic work into implementation he joined Scale AI as an Operations Program Manager. As a part of Scale AI, he worked on accelerating the development of AI applications across multiple industries through operational efficiency in data labeling. He developed a strong skill set across data analytics, product, and operations. He chose UCLA Anderson for its strong academic focus on technology and deep connections within the industry.

I’m thrilled to share with you my unique journey to UCLA Anderson. My name is Gabriel Alvarez, and my path to becoming an MBA student at Anderson, unlike that of many other students, involved applying three times (making me a two-time reapplicant). I was interviewed and waitlisted on all three occasions, rejected twice, and finally accepted on my third try. Whether you’re just embarking on your MBA journey or you’re a seasoned reapplicant like myself, I hope my story offers you both insights and encouragement.

First Try

The first application to Anderson was a blend of excitement and anxiety. After submitting what I felt was a well-crafted application, I ended up on the waitlist. It was disappointing, yet I also perceived it as a sign. The admissions team recognized potential in me, but there was something that could be improved on my story. As I look back, I’ve pinpointed two main issues with my application at that point:

Clarity of Purpose: While many successful applicants don’t have their post-MBA career fully mapped out, they have a clear direction and a contingency plan—something I lacked. With nearly four years of consulting under my belt at that point, I knew I wanted to pivot industries, but I had no clear end goal or alternative path. This can be an issue because recruiting happens fast once you are in the program and not knowing where to go might limit your options.

Communicating My Story: Admissions committees gauge your ability to tell your story and market yourself to potential employers. They were correct to keep me waitlisted. I struggled to communicate my story and experiences effectively, likely due to my lack of clarity of purpose. This would have been an issue when recruiting and especially interviewing, you will be applying to companies that are looking for exceptional people and you need to be able to communicate to them what makes you special and why you will be a good fit for them.

Second Try

Rather than being disheartened by my first rejection, I was motivated to improve. I immersed myself in research, engaged with alumni, and consumed a plethora of content about the MBA experience. I pivoted to an Operations Program Manager role at Scale AI within Tech. Joining Scale helped me find what it was that I wanted to do post MBA and helped sharpen my narrative. Despite this progress, I found myself waitlisted again. I still couldn’t fully articulate my goals and how Anderson would facilitate this transition. I spent countless hours networking with students and gaining a deeper understanding of Anderson’s culture and opportunities. It is important to have a clear guide of what you want to do and the resources you will leverage to get there, since as soon as school starts things begin to move quickly.

Third Try – Success!

By my third attempt, my purpose was crystal-clear. I understood why I wanted an MBA and how I would leverage what Anderson offers. Yet, I was waitlisted once more, this time without an interview. As an experienced waitlisted candidate, I revisited my application, identified gaps in my narrative, and sent monthly updates to the admissions committee. It wasn’t until I scrutinized my CV that I noticed it lacked the necessary detail to convey why I was an outstanding candidate and how I would achieve my goals. After a comprehensive revision of my CV and sending the updated version to admissions, I received an interview invite within a week. Following my interview, I was finally accepted at Anderson from the waitlist in Round 3. This comes to show that everything you submit in your application will be reviewed and will help you highlight your story to the admissions committee.

To those embarking on this challenging path, I offer my story as a beacon of hope. Embrace the experience, effectively communicate your story, and address any gaps. The journey to an MBA can be daunting, especially as an international student or a reapplicant, but I’m living proof of what lies beyond the horizon of persistence. Take that first step, confront the challenges, and hopefully, one day, you’ll join the ranks of Anderson as well.

For those on the waitlist, I leave you with three easy to follow tips:

  1. Visit and Experience: There’s no substitute for experiencing the MBA environment firsthand.
  2. Identify and Address Gaps: Honestly assess the weaknesses in your application and take concrete steps to address them.
  3. Stay Connected and Update: Regular communication with the admissions team can potentially improve your chances.

  • Student Blogger: Gabriel Alvarez ’25
  • Undergrad: Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de Mexico ’18
  • Pre-MBA: Operations Program Manager at Scale AI
  • Leadership@Anderson: Director of International Outreach at Anderson Admissions Ambassador Corps, Director of Admissions at Latin American Business Association, Director of Member Education at Video Game Club, Technology Business Association (member), Entertainment Management Association (member), John Anderson Golf Club (member), Soccer Club (member)

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