HBS Taking Up To 50 Waitlisted Applicants

Harvard Business School today (March 29) disclosed that it planned to accept between 25 to 50 applicants among some 178 who are on its waitlist. The disclosure of both the number of people on the school’s waitlist as well as how many are likely to be admitted from it is unusual if not unique. Admission officials generally keep this information under wraps.

It’s yet another example of the transparency that Harvard has been trying to bring to what is often an enigmatic admissions process. The numbers were in an email sent by HBS Admissions Director “Dee” Leopold to first round applicants who had been wait listed and were asked to stay on the wait list until May.

“It’s March 29, the date we are notifying all Round 2 applicants of their status,” wrote Leopold in the email obtained by Poets&Quants. “You have every reason to expect a “final” decision today. After all, you applied in Round 1 and have been on the wait list since mid-December.

“Instead, I am asking if you will remain on the waitlist until mid-May. I can say with certainty that we will be making more offers to Round 1 waitlist candidates, but not until after our Round 2 response date of May 3.

You are a “qualified” candidate for HBS…no doubts. This is about the challenge of shaping a class, which is more complicated than evaluating the capabilities of individuals.

“I can’t assess your individual chances of being offered a place. If it helps, you are among 178 candidates on the waitlist; this includes both Rounds 1 and 2 applicants. I predict that we will be able to offer admission to between 25 and 50 waitlisters – but this is just my prediction.”

Some MBA admission consultants cheered the openness of the communication. “HBS has certainly taken the lead in terms of disclosure and empathy with a great letter like this,” said Sandy Kreisberg, of HBSGuru.com, who closely follows admissions at Harvard. “They are miles ahead of Stanford (despite all of Stanford’s PC-BS about empathy, their adcom process is still a black box) and Wharton (where no one expects anything but communications vetted by PRAVDA anyway, both in tone and information). Dee deserves a medal, this is a great letter and a helpful one.”

Admission officials at several other top schools, for example, responded by either issuing a no comment or simply saying their policy is not to disclose details about their wait lists. Wharton believes the release of this information would only cause applicants to feel greater pressure than they already do. “We don’t disclose our waitlist numbers as it creates anxiety among applicants,” said Ankur Kumar, admissions director at Wharton, told Poets&Quants in an email. Stanford MBA Admissions Director Derrick Bolton had no comment. “We don’t disclose that information,” added Allan Friedman, a spokesman for Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

In the email, Leopold also told applicants that Dana Scalisi of Harvard’s admissions staff would continue to be “your contact person.” She asked applicants to let her know via email if they would like to remain on the waitlist or remove themselves from further consideration.

“We sincerely appreciate your patience and will do our best to keep you informed,” she wrote.