Let Sandy Tell You Why You Were Dinged


Their GMAT scores are 700-plus, in some cases as high as 790.

They earned their undergraduate degrees at some of the best universities in the world, including the Ivies.

They’ve worked for such prestige employers as McKinsey & Co., General Electric, Microsoft, Disney, Deloitte Consulting and Abbott Laboratories.

And yesterday (Dec. 11) they were dinged by either Harvard Business School or Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

How come?

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

For one thing, the odds of acceptance at either school are truly daunting. Stanford accepts less than 8% and Harvard less than 12%–yet many believe that as many as 80% of those who apply to top schools are fully qualified to attend and succeed. So luck and execution on an application plays an often significant role. Small imperfections, ranging from a below-average grade point average to an employer who lacks prestige, can torpedo a person who would otherwise be a shoo-in.

Consider Frank. He’s a 26-year-old biomedical engineer who scored a 790 out of a possible 800 GMAT. In his four years at Abbott Laboratories, he has gotten two promotions and won recognition from his leadership team. Yesterday, he was rejected by Harvard without an interview.

Or Aaron. He graduated from an Ivy with a 3.5 grade point average in biology. He scored an impressive 750 on the GMAT, in the 92nd percentile in quant. For the past year and one-half, he has worked in the innovation department of a small healthcare company. And he also tutored refugee children at inner-city schools and served on the board of an HIV/AIDS non-profit. Yesterday, Aaron was turned down by Harvard as well.

Or what about the 26-year-old with a 3.95 GPA and a 760 GMAT. After  a two-year stint at a global investment banking firm, he has worked the past two years at a tony investment fund. The young professional even had a letter of recommendation from an Harvard Business School alum. His fate: Rejected from both Harvard and Stanford yesterday.

Sandy Kreisberg, a prominent MBA admissions consultant and founder of HBSGuru.com, has been analyzing the profiles and raw stats of jilted candidates for PoetsandQuants.com. If you’ve been dinged, let him know your stats and he’ll tell you why he thinks you’ve been turned down. Include the fact of whether you were interviewed by the school. (Please only post if you were rejected. For forthcoming applicants, Sandy’s regular handicapping series will resume shortly. You should post here for his analysis if you are an applicant who hasn’t been rejected from Harvard or Stanford.)

Typically, the most common reasons for getting dinged are varied–and often there is a combination of them. Bad timing. Poor execution on the application. A low GPA. Graduating with your bachelor’s from a less-than-stellar college. Working for an employer that is not known for sending candidates to Harvard or Stanford. No visible advancement in your job.

If you were dinged from Harvard or Stanford, just post your stats in the comment section and Sandy will take a shot at why you were turned down.




For a curated collection of the best ding reports, with complete profiles and Sandy’s analysis, check out “Best of Sandy’s Harvard & Stanford Ding Report


  • Jo

    Hi Sandy
    Dinged at Harvard ( no interview )
    29 Year old Female from India ( International applicant )
    GMAT : 720 ( Verbal – 41 / 94% ; Quant – 48 / 74% )
    Work Experience :
    – 5 Years in Airtel ( Largest Telecom company of India with operations across 20 countries ; 4th Largest Telecom operator in the world )
    – Currently Deputy General Manager handling a team of 9 , Have had a Fast track career growth – Been promoted 4 times in 5 years
    – Education :
    – Diploma in Marketing from a top 10 university in India – GPA – 2.86/4
    – Engineer specializing in Electronics and telecom from a Top 10 university in India – GPA – 8.16/10
    – Stood 1st in state in 12th and 10th grade common examination
    Extra Curriculars :
    – Professionally trained dancer – with over 70 performances
    – Professionally trained singer – Lead singer of college band
    No Interview from HBS – any help with what I could do to improve my profile would really help ! thanks!

  • Crimsonlover

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at both HBS 2+2 and Stanford GSB. Thoughts on why? Any information is appreciated!

    Asian female, College Senior
    GMAT: 690 (49 Quant/34 Verbal/ 7 IR/ 6 Essay)
    School: Top 3 Undergraduate Business School
    Major: Business Major – Finance, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship
    GPA: 3.7
    Work Experience: 3 internships in NYC at bulge bracket banks,
    Activities: Student Body President, Founded/ Run Non-Profit since high school, Leadership in Two Other Clubs (Enterpreneurship and Finance Club)
    Recs: Dean and MD at Bank (both should have been great)
    Current Job: Incoming IB analyst at JPM
    Goal: Venture Capital

  • Nomad

    Thanks a ton for all your help ! 🙂

    I know what next now…

  • hbsguru

    HUh, too many 2nd tier jobs, low gpa fr. non-elite school, and as for entrep. experience, your ace in the hole, the ONLY thing that schools like H and S respect in that regard are
    1. VC backed companies etc. Some proof that 3rd party thinks you are OK
    2. Sale of company for big $$$$ (sorta same as 1 above) or in rare cases, HUGE numbers of users, revenue, press coverage etc.
    other than that, all start-ups are hobbies in H and S mind.

  • Nomad

    Hi Sandy,

    Not sure if this post is active anymore. I will be be hoping for some feedback here:

    Dinged from H,and S.

    Indian, Non-IIT [Top 10 Engg. colleges]
    6.5 Years of work ex (at the time of application) – NO IT
    GPA: 72% (~3.2 [not sure how the schools convert from %age based grading system])

    GMAT: 740

    1. Worked for 2 years with a niche analytics firm (ZS Associates – Reputed in schools like Kellogg) – Pretty Vanilla and something I would like to forget. This was basically an orientation into the real world for me. Did have a few accomplishments though.

    2. Left the company for a startup (worked for 9 months) – Failed.
    Travelled, immersed myself into traditional indian culture ([spirituality, Yoga, Vedas, Ayurveda, etc.] Think Steve Jobs in his earlier life). This phase had a profound impact on my existence as a whole which I explained. Got back to Corporate sector again.

    3. Worked for another two years with another analytics firm (not very well known, but got a good designation): Consulted SVPs of a fortune 500 firm. Worked with clients across 8 countries. Worked on change management project involving about 1000 employees. Left after 2.5 years.

    4. While working on my last job, co-founded a mobile app company with a user base of 25k and a turnover of $75k (pretty amazing by Indian standards, given how difficult it is to do business here) in the domain of social welfare and mobile governance. Trying to sell my stake before MBA. It is pain running it, when I have limited business knowledge.

    1. Quite immersed in Indian traditions (not an extremist, but like to enjoy the best of both worlds)
    2. Avid reader of business books
    3. Marathon runner (amongst the top) – Half Marathon time of 1:22, Hiker (4000m+ – 2 times)
    4. Organised fests in college
    5. Extensive social work – teaching unprivileged kids, giving presentation to college juniors on how to land jobs, etc.

    Future plans:
    Create a firm of my own and run it (back in India). This time better prepared with a relevant skillset.

    Why MBA?
    Congregation of best minds. Wish to enrich my experience. Developing skillset for business. Also use downtime in my MBA to work on another idea.

    My inputs:
    1. No promotions (although the designation jump was pretty awesome)
    2. Male, Indian, Non IIT (the wannabe lot)
    3. Low GPA (not sure how the colleges took it)
    4. Average GMAT?

    H ding was expected, but S was a shocker given I had entrepreneurship, etc. Or maybe I am in a world of my own.

    Also, will you be willing to take my case if I reapply? It’ll be 7 years of work ex this time and not much of a change from previous year. Don’t wish to apply to other b schools because of a lack of focus on entrepreneurship.


  • expectandhope

    Hi Sandy,

    25 year old Indian female
    GMAT: 750
    Undergrad: University of Warwick, UK, High 2:1 (3.7 equivalent)
    Major: Computer Science
    Minor: Business Studies

    Work Ex: 2 years at Goldman Sachs London in Regulatory Reporting.1 year at a social enterprise in India, and now Impact Investing in India.
    Career break: Backpacking solo for 6 months and curating a blog for solo female travellers, contributed to several blogs in this time period. Featured on a few top-hit portals.
    EC: President Univ. Entrepreneurs Club, National Representative for Univ Entrepreneurs UK, Chair of several committees, Volunteering for childrens rights, womens rights, right to play, serving destitute women with social enterprise stint focusing on intellectually disabled adults. Head Girl of school, captain of basketball team – school and univ. Pillar of Women in Finance at Goldman, Committee member of new analyst transition programs.
    Goal S/T: To work in social venture capital addressing global bottom of the pyramid needs combining both my financial and social enterprise experience
    Goal L/T: To set up my own impact firm focused on improving organisational capacity, scale, and incubating social enterprises.

    What are my chances at Harvard/Stanford/MIT/Wharton/Yale. Dinged from Columbia already.

  • remmy

    seriously , why scoop that low immediately ? harvard has accepted students with 2.8 GPA. It is very wrong to to just cry affirmative action

  • AugustineThomas

    Snoooze. You don’t seem to have any good information. You just spout a lot of nonsense confidently.

  • AugustineThomas

    You seem like a real weasel.

  • AugustineThomas

    You don’t seem to know what you’re talking about. Many people from “top-tier tech, consulting and investment banking firms” are complete idiots who got lucky, were good talkers or had some family connection.
    The main reason people with incredible stats get rejected is because they’re not unique. These schools can’t have all bankers and traditional tech guys. They need some diversity.

  • AugustineThomas

    You guys are quite ignorant. There are plenty of people who get into Harvard and Stanford without being the top ranked student at a top ranked school.
    The problem for many of these people is they look exactly the same as every other applicant. If Harvard and Stanford already have 100 top math and science students with the best stats in the country, they don’t need one more. They want someone different who is going to give them diversity so they don’t end up with (as bad a case of) group think.

  • Leo

    Hello, here’s my case:
    Dinged at Harvard (no interview)
    24 yo male European (EU) studied in a different european country (EU)
    GPA: 3.2 BSc from a world top 50 engineering school
    GRE: 155 Verbal 160 Quantitative 4.5 writing
    2 years in the army, promoted from soldier all the way to second lieutenant
    2 years in a top new york based investment bank at a european office
    5 languages

    I want to try again next year and I know that almost everyone that applies is qualified, but I thought it would be enough for them.
    Any feedback would be very helpful and it would really mean a lot.
    Thank you in advance,

  • ruserious

    no problem.

  • JohnAByrne

    Of course! And so can anyone else here. I’m at Byrne332@gmail.com.

  • mba2015


  • mba2015

    Can I pls email you with a couple of questions regarding his admission? Thank you

  • Keith

    Hi Sandy,

    Just read your dinged report and would like to see what do you think my dinged application to both HBS and GSB (no interview for both), and possible ways to refine it when I apply next year:

    25 year old male, Chinese
    GMAT: 710
    Schooling: 3.70 GPA/Cornell
    Major: Public Policy
    Work Experience:
    2 years (as a Legislative Assistant) at the Congress of Hong Kong, 5 months of internship at the New York State Assembly
    Leadership experience: President of Japanese Culture Club and Psychology Club at Foothill College
    Volunteer experience: member of an organising committee of an international competition to be held in Hong Kong
    Goal: To acquire knowledge about the private sector and apply them to my post-MBA career in the government, to enhance the economic competitiveness of Hong Kong


  • Ahmed

    Ahmed here.
    Dinged at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia (no interviews), interviewed and waitlisted Wharton
    26 year old male.
    GMAT 730, about 80 % quant and above 90% verbal, however dismally low IR sore like below 20%
    GPA 4.0 and top of program at undergrad (top university in middle east) , same in masters (UC Berkeley) in civil engineering
    worked 3 years AT Kearney
    always been very confident in school applications, never rejected, always top performer at work also, so struggling to understand the pitfalls in my MBA applications. Is it the IR score combined with AT Kearney’s less strong name?

  • hbsguru

    dunno, could have gone either way, we got OK stats, blue chip work exp. They prob. just liked other LDS (I am assumng) kids more than you, as noted. 3.73 fr. Brig. U is sorta average GPA (could be less than that) for H+S applicants, Not sure how extensive volunteer exp. was, but one prob. with this profile, it is too BUSINESS-Y, undergrad degree in Bus. Management and then Supply Chain work at PG, that either confirms a story, super solid biz guy with real impacts or confirms the same story twisted 15 degrees: slightly boring and conventional guy w. nothing powerful driving him in. IN you case, for whatever reasons, it was the latter. Execution might have counted. Some dumbo What Matters essay about excellence and business efficiency and BYE-BYE.

    After all, not everyone is a Martoma.

  • John

    I also forgot to mention that I applied with experience volunteering for non-profit youth mentoring programs.

  • John

    Dinged at Stanford
    GMAT: 730
    GPA: 3.73
    Degree in Business Management from Brigham Young University. Minor in Philosophy.
    Internship with Walt Disney Company.
    4 years of work experience at Procter and Gamble with standard advancement. Recognized for driving out inefficiencies in supply chain.
    Goal: Develop operational skills further in order to prepare for impacting supply chains in Non-Profit international organizations.


  • hbsguru

    dunno, Oil guys get admitted and dinged at H+S: I hope they were aware of your class rank, is that sorta 5/70 or 5/800? Did you get interviewed? Saying goal of entrepreneurship w. this background was a mistake. If you app. was incomplete as this post, well, no mystery. At Stanford they could have held your, ahem, “low” GMATs against you, as just an easy way for them “to like” other IIT/Oil guys more. “Nothing wrong with you, we just liked other guys more . . . .” famous Stanford adcom BS quote. Truth is —
    They actually liked SAME GUYS with higher GMATs, etc. MORE. 🙂

  • Arun

    Dinged at Stanford and Harvard
    GMAT :710
    CGPA : 3.55 In Indian Institute of technology 5 th in class
    Major : Chemical Engineering
    Work Experience : Worked at shell for 4 years , The shell Graduate Program , Decent growth
    Goal : To become an entrepreneur
    Extra Curricular : Lots of State and National Level achievements in multiple Sports

  • bon1net

    Hi Sandy,

    Not sure if this post is limited to H/S but since I don’t see many comments about dinged after interview, i want to share my application to Columbia and hope you could share some insight about how school make a decision after interview

    Dinged after interview at CBS, Early Decision

    -26 year old asian male
    -B.S. in CS, Chinese college (not the top 4 feeder), GPA 3.1
    -M.S. in Information System, top US CS school, GPA 3.6

    -Work Experience:
    First year: Front Office IT at top i-bank (deal with traders and provide analytics support)
    Second to Fourth year: Portfolio and risk analytics at top 10 hedge fund, direct report to chief risk officer and attend investment committee meeting. Doing portfolio optimization ,risk mgt and modeling for entire 20-50 billion global multi-asset portfolio (don’t want to disclose actual AUM since only a handful of mega hedge funds). Have some significant achievements at work that boost fund performance

    -Community Involvement:
    Executive board member of 501c registered professional association in asset management industry
    Board member of graduate school alumni chapter
    Some normal volunteering experiences
    Mixed Martial Arts fighter (not professional)

    Utilizing CBS’s value investing program and leverage my previous analytical skills to get a Portfolio manager role in asset management firms. Long term goal is to start up a specialized consulting company in Asia to serve local small to medium asset managers.

    Submitted last minute of early decision deadline and got interview pretty fast. Interview went well with an alumni not in my industry. Her response was pretty positive and surprised when knew I got dinged.

    I know every school is different but does it mean adcom think your stats (gpa,school,w/e and others) is ok when they give you interview? I worried about my gpa but thought it should be ok after getting interview. Now I’m not so sure and wonder if I should keep goal to schools around same ranks (Wharton/Booth). I know I’m definitely not gold background (maybe sliver plus?)

  • Albert McFringe

    Ever met Gordon Ramsay?

  • hbsguru

    saying you want to run a Hedge Fund based on no work experience sounds like a teenager jerking off into a Kleenex, in your case, given your 800 GMAT, let’s say you were jerking off into a handkerchief. Same result in a more impressive setting.
    Get a job with an elite financial services bank or company and re-apply in 2-3 years. They will not hold your prior emission against you. 🙂

  • hbsguru

    Not sure, to be honest, military is hard for H and S and other schools because they really do not have a handle on what a successful military career is versus an OK military career–H+S know the diff. between a gold and silver investment banking career/private equity career, but not one in the military. Each school at various seasons and years hauls out some military dude connected with adom, and says, “Oh yes we do . . .” but that is mostly BS. And that guy might not know either b.c. he is too far removed fr. service or dumb, or not in the loop or all three.
    As I have said many times, and I have not been fully contradicted, the best predictor of military success at H/S/W admissions is GPA, that IS something the adcom ladies understand, since they can count to 4. That plus a similar GMAT. Some upstanding military alum or current student at H+S do us all a big favor and find out the typical GPA of academy grads–my guess is, coupla hundred basis points (to be cute) ahead of yours. Most military dudes at Stanford w. 3.5 has some outlier factor–and it aint working with small teams and helping the locals.
    But, let’s get that discussion rolling . . .service acad dudes at H/S/W please check in, what is the GPA of your classmates?
    THe rest of your story was super solid and you seem, by your post, to have ingested the Stanford preferred presentation style of triple bottom lines, etc.
    If you send me the complete app PDF to hbsguru@gmail.com, I’d be happy to take a look, that sometimes add a missing dimension. I’ve made that offer to 3 people and two took me up–in both cases we figured it out.
    For openers, what other outcomes did you get???

  • sixpastnine

    Hi Sandy,
    Dinged at Stanford – no interview. Would most appreciate your perspective:
    -28 year old white male
    -Active Duty Marine Corps Officer (Intelligence)
    -B.S., Economics, U.S. Naval Academy (GPA 3.5)
    -GMAT: 730 (46 Quant, 44 Verbal)
    -Fluent French speaker
    -Work Experience: led teams consisting of 5 to 150 people, both in combat environments (Iraq) and in the U.S.. Multiple team and individual awards for superior performance. Most recent assignment at a strategic command, responsible for military plans and policy.
    -Community Involvement: Mentor for at-risk youth with local non-profit; Class Agent for HS Alma Mater (Phillips Exeter Academy); Volunteer with Naval Academy Alumni Association
    -Goals: Pursue a career as an impact investor, investing with “multiple bottom lines.” Desire to create opportunity for others, very interested in microfinance – felt Stanford was best match due to the school’s focus on social impact.

  • NoWorkExp

    Dinged at harvard and stanford

    21 year old male

    GMAT: 800

    GPA: 3.99 undergrad @major in math, in addition to this I did take some courses in programming and 1 course in accounting

    No real work experience, I did have pretty solid internships, w/ recommendations from tutors, for every summer in uni

    speaks spanish and english fluently, in addition to my native langauge of course 😉

    goal: run my own hedge fund.

    no real extracurriculars.

  • NoWorkExp

    Dinged at harvard and stanford
    21 year old male
    GMAT: 800

  • Dan

    To cry affirmative action without any other information is a little bit offensive. You don’t know what this person wrote in their essays, or what their reccomenders wrote. Example, he says “to 10% at GE”.. more likely than not his rec (if he was good) wrote “this guy is in the top 1% of hires we have in our program”. Additionally, you don’t know what extra leg work he made. Maybe he went to a lot of info sessions and spoke to profs and made an impression on people that matter. The fact is, you and I don’t know. Could it have been AA..yes, but its also equally likely he was an amazing candidate who did all the right things. (I say this as an African American candidate who was rejected from Stanford (no interview) and HBS with a 3.6 and a 740 (and what I would view as notable extras)). Many things come into play when they make their choice, so don’t down play this guys accomplishment just to make yourself feel better.

  • Fred

    Hi Sandy. I am sure there are not many people with a similar career as mine. Very AVG results perhaps? Career change but worked always in top places.
    HBS dinged
    25 years old male
    Speaks 5 languages, worked in 4 different European countries
    GMAT: 730
    3.35 GPA European University
    Major: Food Production
    Work Experience:
    Chef in 3 Michelin Star restaurants, leading teams.
    Sales AM in biggest UK food distributor and Nestle. 90% Growth in Nestle in 1 year and won major contracts for the business.
    Goal: Business education, career in consumer goods.
    Extra Cr: a few international internships while studing. (volleyball) Former National team player and National champion. Golf and Sports in general. Internship in Societe General (interested in the investment market). Had ERASMUS Schoolarship.
    Let me know what do you think. Many thanks

  • A. Goyal

    Hey Sandy!!!Still awaiting your reply.

  • corp

    What does “Don’t believe it for a minute” mean? What don’t you believe, outlook for ranking movement? Can you specify where you see it going both over the next few years and next decade? And who will they displace on their way up

  • marcus

    distributions are not square.. the trends are clear.. the numbers speak for themselves. it’s the interpretation that is subject to human bias.

  • marcus

    your scenario, while possible, is an outlier scenario and not likely. that’s why you need to take into account probabilities. Your 30% threshold theory doesn’t hold water since correlation exists at higher levels of selectivity. If your theory were correct than Wharton could simple just select the highest GPA/GMAT applicants and have higher averages. I’m still waiting for the Wharton guru to pipe up and say Harvard is more concerned with grades… etc…etc.. Applicants pools are distributed on some version of a bell curve and schools are being selective with respect to the right hand tail that diminishes in number. All schools maximize for grades/gmat as the correlation strongly suggests. There are a limited number of students with perfect grades/gmats and who can bend gravity while blindfolded. So the fact that Stanford has a higher GPA average is simply due to demonstrably higher selectivity and the right tail of the biz school applicant pool.. less to do with the guru’s assertion that Stanford is any more concerned with grades than other schools Because they all are. This year’s admit rate to Stanford is 5.7%. It is statistically demonstrably more difficult to get into Stanford than any other school. The fact it has a higher GPA/GMAT average is expected.

  • hbsguru

    No surprise: EY is not a Stanford feeder unless you are a US minority (Stanford used to admit one or two Big-4 minorities every year for a while, not sure about current record). That, plus lack of anything powerful to push you in, and what seems like no IIT, all add up to no interview. EY status is higher in abroad, but it is still not as powerful a feeder as banking or consulting. Typical admit like you is better college,banking/consulting, higher GMAT, + some X facctor, you may not need all of those, but you had NONE.

  • hbsguru

    No mystery here, what we got is silver or less, not gold, along the total stats chain: schooling, gpa, gtmat, and jobs (well, they were OK but it might depend) Your accomplishments in film and music videos is some X factor that could have pushed you in but did not b.c. schools devalued it, for reasons:
    1. they dont care–anyone can start a music vid company and many idiots have
    2. they dont understand–what is a music vid, what is YouTube and why should we care (yeah, they know, but aint their thing).
    3. You did not present it right
    4. All of the above in some way.
    Film is a word that adcoms treat with great skepticism, often the refuge of the uncertain and the dreamy. Unless you work for Disney. etc. or leading Mega Agency (but even then, adcoms may not be following Nikki Finke as closely as you do).
    Columbia was best bet, given NY, hip locale and outlook (dont believe it for a minute).
    My guess is, low GPA was a zit on their mag ranking they did not want to take on, and all the other stuff I mentioned.

  • hbsguru

    Thanks, let’s finish this off w. one clarification:
    Just for the record, Tier 4-10 school is NOT schools ranked 4-10 at USNEWS, it is schools you never heard of, like Shifting Sands Regional College, followed by gig in local brokerage firm, followed by making lots of money in S+T, followed by trophy application to H/S/W, followed by dings. OK, that is the extreme, just for clarification, but variants of that exist up and down the Prestige Chain. Those are the guys I said you never met. Not some dude from Dartmouth.

  • Dan

    1.The example has nothing to do with probability. It illustrates that both schools have enough good applicants to choose how their class will look statistics wise (all high GMAT/GPA or a mix).Given that fact, and the fact the admissions isn’t done by random number selection, the stats you see are a function of a decision made by either school. On the surface it would seem that Stanford has chosen to have higher GPA/GMAT stats. Whether that is because that how the filtered, or because of a different relationship entirely is impossible to determine without more information.

    2.The whole point is that the GMAT/GPA stats for HBS and Stanford are not because Harvard doesn’t have enough good applicants to fill full class with high stats. Its Harvard for gods sake. Most MBA candidates with nosebleed stats will submit an application. When you have almost 9000 people scoring 740+ on the GMAT the fact one school takes 400 and the other takes 900 still leaves 1000s of people on the board to push either schools stats higher if they so chose (especially when averages are 730ish for both).

  • pzak10

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at Harvard (no interview).
    25 year old male (Indian – US citizen)
    GMAT: 730
    Schooling: 3.7 Engineering (Ivy)
    Work Experience (3.5 years when applying)
    BlackRock / Helped manage ~40 Billion in funds / Promoted from Analyst to Associate / Worked with Leveraged Finance Funds
    Goal was to stay in Investment Management but pursue EM angle, wanted MBA to put me on management track

  • Sam

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at Harvard, Stanford and Columbia (No Interview)
    25 Year Old Indian American Male
    (Born in California, Lived in India for 10 years before college)
    GMAT: 710
    School: Rutgers New Brunswick
    Major Economics Minor Music GPA 3.4
    Work Experience:
    Financial Analyst Program at Citigroup in New York (2 Years)
    Corporate Strategy at Citigroup in London (1 Year)
    Additionally, Cofounded a Film Production company that creates music videos. Have over 500MM views on YouTube and have been featured on prominent media outlets (MTV, VH1 etc.)

    Goal: to obtain an associate position in Media Investment Banking at a prominent Investment Bank. Join a Film Fund in the the long term.

    Your feedback is highly appreciated


  • graduatingin15dude

    I went to Tier 4-10 school (if I am interpreting that correctly as US News ranking 4-10 undergrad). In terms of prestige firms – I’m not adcom but I’d guess MS,JPM, GS are tier 1 then Citi, CS, DB, UBS tier 2 in their eyes. although it shouldn’t be like that exactly. if an undergrad is more internally focused then he might turn down a US bank for a European one, just so he can work abroad. but again, I’m not sure how adcom views each bank specifically. in my 1st yr b school class i think we have guys/girls from all the banks listed above.

    For recruiting in S&T…works the same as banking. Firms come down and give a firm wide presentation. then resume drop for each group (equities, fixed income, syndicate, banking). most kids will apply to both S&T and banking (can’t put all eggs in one basket). It is tough to get any of those jobs, and my two cents S&T is harder simply b/c the industry has shrunk on that side so less spots. typical 2/3 rounds of interviews. I got offers both banking and fixed income at same firm (they allow you to do that)- I did not want to do banking, as excel models for 120hrs for 2 years did not appeal to me at all. My fixed income analyst class was pretty much 1/2 guys/girls think was 35-40 people total.as mentioned 3 went to b school. (so not that many apply, or from what I have seen). Not sure how big banking class was, but i think a lot bigger, since banking is a revolving door with analysts. kick you out after 2 years. someone else might know?

    as for S&T type – I used to do recruiting – and we usually had a soft 3.6 cut off for GPA (so I guess similar threshold for b school?)
    Traders: typically engineering/finance/math background, although some have liberal arts, like history, backgrounds
    Sales: more econ, finance majors. general very personable and more team-oriented people.the days of what you mentioned about “wall street gekko” are long gone. a lot of sales guys now have their CFAs.
    my two cents is everyone in my S&T class could have done banking for 2 years and the bankers could have done S&T for two years, and we both would have done either job equally fine.

    agree its not a kiss of death as people i know you went to business school from S&T genuinely wanted to go to change their lives/careers vs bankers who i think go simply cause its expected. sorry if i came at you hard sandy, i just felt bad for you crushed confussedman over S&T, a decision he made when he was 21.

  • hbsguru

    I did not think he was DOA either, based on schooling, firms and stats, that is why I asked for him to send me his full app. I have asked that of two other slight mysteries on this thread, and in both cases, they sent me the app, and in both cases I convincingly (privately) explained what the problem was. Offer still good to original poster , btw.

    As to S+T–top schools get lotsa, lotsa S+T apps fr. kids who went to Tier 4-10 colleges and work at non-prestige firms, and make a lot of $$$$, and think that earning the big bucks is a ticket for trophy admit. That was not the case w. you or original poster, but it may be something you are unaware of –since you never meet them at H/SW because they do not get in.

    One question you can shed some light on is how top firms recruit Ivy kids into S+T vs. IB???? Also number of females in S+T and if there is an S+T “type.” Yeah, I know, all different, but you seem smart enough to get my drift. My original point was that there is, Jockish /male/Ivy/ and sure smart but that all things being equal, most girlie adcoms (and most ARE!!!) prefer IB to S+T.
    I agree, saying S+T was “kiss of death” may have been overstated, but I was making a point, it can very easily become “kiss of death” if you are not really careful.

  • graduatingin15dude

    I worked in fixed income, so i can’t pitch you any stocks.

    not sure how I am a myth maker, I am just telling you what I know and trying to shed light on the posters situation.

    What I am saying is to confussedman is I had pretty much the similar stats as this guy. (without the international experience). And, I got in. I have friends with similar stats as me that didn’t (but ended up getting into other schools- so be confident) And, I did not have stellar essays, nor out of the world extras. (just fairly standard stuff). I did have(as you harp on) pedigree in both school and firm, and a great gpa, and towards the higher end of the gmat range. i don’t know what, but i guess something in my app just stood out.

    I’m not saying anyone can get in nor that it is totally random. What i’m saying is of those people who have the top potential/likelyhood to get in, that do, often have a little luck. (like myself). why does one banker guy get in vs the other when they are pretty much the exact same person probably. its just random on who the adcom wants to pick out of the two. i don’t think this confessedman guy was DOA when he submitted. I just think it came down to a pure numbers game since a lot of similar llke ppl,or he was like 87th app a committee member read and just wanted.that day to be over.

    good luck and what firm did you work at – you said GS/JPM?

  • hbsguru

    YOUR MAJOR POINT BEING,. AS YOU SAY, “it is a crap shoot. pure luck. If there are lets say 1
    spot for a guy from S&T, there may have been 5 others just like you
    from another bank and it was a coin flip. I bet you if I applied again,
    I’d get “donuted” at some of the schools that i got into. no rhyme or
    reason. pure numbers game.
    Sure, just all random, ALTHOUGH YOU DONT KNOW, AND you “don’t know the numbers,”as you admit, , but have no trouble saying what I say is “pure” BS.
    Got any stock tips by the way??
    ,And the fact that original guy was a career switcher also no big deal, and seemed confused, and actually was half-hearted about applying and did not really want any more feedback, after all, adcoms love S+T guys who want to, er, do something else and aren’t that interested in attending.

    “I bet you if I applied again, I’d get “donuted” at some of the schools that i got into. no rhyme or reason. pure numbers game.”

    HOW MUCH YOU WANNA BET? Let’s make it interesting, not just you, but 100 people just recycle them thru the system next year. My bet is the 2nd outcome IS NOT RANDOM, while bet is that outcomes would be. The myth that is there is no rhyme or reason for admission is the oppo side of the coin that therefore anyone can get in?

    Some of my smarter friends tell me to stop debunking dreamers and do-gooders and myth makers like you, since all those fantasies (it’s random, anyone can get in) fuel my business. The random crowd will hire me because they really don’t believe it is random, no one does, but they do believe that there is NO real strong predictor like grades/gmat/prestige etc. Soooo, why not optimize. The anyone can get in crowd will hire me because they do believe that bullshit along with its follow-on, all I need is a good story and leadership.

    Well, ff i don’t respond to your, ahem ‘rebuttal’ I have probably started listening to them.But bark away.

  • graduatingin15dude

    this thread is complete BS Sandy.To clarify everything before hand, yes i had all the basic…top school, good gpa, gmat score etc. (like most people from finance). I worked in S&T (I came from a top tier shop) and a “top 2” school now. The way you are presenting and analyzing this is completely distorted, disheartening, and wrong.

    1. I got into 2/3 of the “top 3” and had an interview for the one I didn’t get into. I know FOR A FACT that adcom do not even put investment bankers and S&T kids in the same review pool. You cannot compare the two at all. They separate them completely, and no, they do not tier them lower. They know S&T is just as hard and demanding of a job, and they know you are not just making excel sheets but have solid interpersonal skills (especially in sales-roles). It is not a less qualified job like you try to make it out to be. btw where do you think the head of GS started…

    2. It is very common for investment bankers to apply to business school, very uncommon for S&T. If you are good at S&T, and you enjoy it, you can be very successful (and make more than i-bankers) without a graduate school degree. I had discussions with an adcom about this…They know what exactly goes on at banks, and they know that S&T ppl applying are typical career switchers (WHICH they are fine with -case in point- I had a good story, and it shows you are going to B school cause you want to, not cause “its expected”).

    3. this explains WHY there are more bankers than traders at business school. It is EXPECTED for bankers to go to school. They have to in order to get to the next level. I do not know the exact number, but I’d guess for every S&T that applies, there are 10x i-bankers. Given that more bankers apply, naturally there will be more former bankers in your class. But I have plenty of kids from S&T in my b school class. In fact I would be very curious to see what the % acceptance rate is for Bankers for S&T. If schools set aside X number of spots for bankers and Y for S&T, not sure the % acceptance rate would be much different simply because less people from S&T apply. So I will agree that S&T reserved spots at top schools are lower, simply because not that many S&T people apply. For example from my bank’s S&T analyst class of 40, only 3 applied to business school (and all 3 got into either HBS/Stan). I bet if you looked at a banking analyst class, the % who apply is like 75.

    To confussedman – it is a crap shoot. pure luck. If there are lets say 1 spot for a guy from S&T, there may have been 5 others just like you from another bank and it was a coin flip. I bet you if I applied again, I’d get “donuted” at some of the schools that i got into. no rhyme or reason. pure numbers game.

    bottom line is sandy, yes more bankers get in because more bankers apply. but i’d guess the % acceptance rate w S&T is similar to bankers.

  • Random Guy

    Hi Sandy, I got rejected by HBS, Stanford, and now Kellogg. Now I’m wondering where I went wrong and and whether it’s worthwhile to apply to another top tier program. Here’s my bio:

    -3.88 Economics GPA w/University Honors and undergraduate thesis
    -730 GMAT (96th overall; 96th verbal; 70th quant)
    -Brigham Young University; summer study program at Cambridge
    -President of Honors Student Council in college
    -Raised over 10,000 pound of food for local food banks by organizing local canned food drives post-college
    -Lived in Brazil for 2 years; fluent in Portuguese
    -Interned with Goldman Sachs operations
    -15 months at a top-tier economic consultancy
    -15 months at a small financial services company doing strategy work
    -White Latino ethnicity
    -Medium-term goal: management consulting
    -Long-term goal: serial entrepreneurship

    What happened?

  • hbsguru

    Old, low GPA (they dont care about major and grad school so much –they want the full, real GPA for the magazines) odd bits, like teaching (not sure I fully understand in your work-up) 8 yrs at MSFT as developer begins to become a NEGATIVE –combo of all that, I dont think any execution at H or S would have made a diff. You were DOA. And proof that your inspiring and supported goals, at the end of the day, don’t mean sh#t at Stanford, etc. All their heavy breathing notwithstanding.

  • hbsguru

    GPA was fine, employer might be an issue, depending. Goals were perfect, altho expression of them cld be an issue. Not sure what happened but no inter. at HBS is surprising. If you send a PDF of the HBS app. happy to tell you what I think, add any recs if you got them. Admits at other places dont mean a whole lot, given powerful stats. Essay/framing could be an issue but so could HUH, I’M STUMPED TOO.

  • marcus

    now we’re on to marbles.. ok.. How did you get the 30% threshold? I take it you pulled it out of fairy dust. Use the stats available.. ie what’s the likelihood that Stanford is not as selective as Harvard? that these 2 admission rates could happen by random chance? if they could happen by random chance then the guru’s assertion that Stanford is more concerned with grades would hold a lot more water. I would start there. your marble example is not assessing probability… a lot of things are possible… sure the sun may not come up tomorrow.. but is that likely? what’s the likelihood for a given population that Stanford is more concerned with grades than Harvard? at these admit rates with GPA/GMAT assumptions about the admit population (bell curve).

  • epik

    Hi Sandy —
    Dinged at both Harvard and Stanford (no interview at either)
    28 year old female
    GMAT 770
    Schooling: Columbia, 3.65
    Work exp. 4 years as a health policy analyst at nonprofit foundation
    Goal: Transition from policy to health care administration, improve health care value system-wide, fix the broken health care system etc.

    Mediocre GPA? Lack of significant extra-currics? unknown employer? Subsequently was accepted at Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg, so I’m assuming my essays/framing of my story were not the problem…

  • Dan

    There is clearly something you’re not getting here. I said that the kind of cause effect relationship you are mentioning would only be assured at MUCH higher admit rates (when compared to the ~12% rate illustrated by HBS (I used 30% as an example). Below these thresholds HBS would most likely have enough high scoring applicants to maintain current GPA/GMAT levels (if they so chose).

    Example to make it easy to understand: Imagine we have 100 marbles;40 blue (high 730+ ,3.6+) and 60 red (relatively lower).

    scenario 1: you have to pick 12% of the marbles (your choice).

    You could either pick 12 blue marbles or 12 red marbles, or some mix (because you have enough of each to fill the desired group of 12).

    Scenario 2: you have to pick 24% of the marbles (again your choice).

    Again you could either pick 24 blue or 24 red or some mix (because AGAIN you have enough of each to fill the desired group of 24)

    Scenario 3 (where the relationship you’re talking about comes into play): you have to pick 45% of the marbles.

    In this case you can still pick 45 red (there were initially 60), but you cannot pick 45 blue (there were only 40 available).

    As illustrated above, the required drop in blue marbles chosen only takes place IF the percent required (admit percent) is above a certain threshold. As I pointed out earlier there are 8500-9000 740+ GMAT scorers every year (and scores are good for 5 years). Most people would agree with the fact that a 97%+ gmat is harder to get than a 3.6 GPA (especially given grade inflation). Ergo, it is likely (not assured, but likely) that HBS and GSB have enough high GPA/GMAT applicants to fill out a class with nose bleed stats if they so choose. That is why the link between Admit % and GPA/GMAT score that you are drawing is not necessarily true. At the 12% admit level the averages you see are a result of choices the school made about what they want their classes to look like. Its not due to a lack of applicants to fill your 7% or 12% admit rate.

  • Ms. European

    Thank you! Your prediction was spot-on, btw, I also got into Wharton and Insead. I blew my LBS interview, which you could not have predicted, and thus only made the WL… I think you also often say something like “don’t shine – just don’t blow it” for interviews. So true! At HBS and other places, it seems.

  • c’est la vie

    The vehemence is proportional to your pettiness. Here and above.

  • DeniedWithoutInterviews

    Original poster… would really appreciate any feedback from Sandy!

  • Hemanth

    Hi Sandy,

    Rejected from both Harvard and Stanford (no interviews at either).
    30 year old male
    720 GMAT

    BS from Cornell University in Electrical and Computer Engineering (3.39 cumulative, 3.6 in-major)
    MS from University of Washington in Computer Science (3.79, while working)
    Masters in Teaching from Northwest University (3.9 while working)

    Work Experience:
    8 years at Microsoft as a developer
    6 years as a state-certified teacher at a local public school – I teach 2 periods (math, AP computer science) every morning at the high school level before going into my job at MIcrosoft.

    Volunteering in inner-city school districts.
    Founder and coach of school’s debate team
    Principal violinist in community orchestra

    Combine my experience in tech and education to go into a leadership role at an education-focused tech company. I want to help reimagine / reinvent how technology is used in schools, both for teachers and student learning.

    Reading your comments below and on other threads — too much work experience / too old? If that’s the case, c’est la vie, but curious if it could be something else. I was hoping that my education + tech background would get noticed.

    Thanks for taking the time and providing your insight!

  • marcus

    let me make it easier for you if class size was quadrupled will GPA scores remain the same? and how did you arrive at admit percentages over 30%… how did that meet the standard of threshold or extreme? make plausible statistical assumptions based on available info and make the statistical argument with numbers that would justify your assertion that it’s different this time. otherwise you’re pulling numbers out of fairy dust.

  • Dan

    You keep saying its “more likely” as if you have some stats basis for your assertions. Underneath a certain threshold both schools have the room to increase class size and maintain both metrics (perfect example is the dinged profile on this website and others like beattheGMAT and Gmatclub). There may be a definite cause and effect at much higher admit percentages, but when you look at the top 20-30% of applicants I think you’ll find enough high GPA/GMAT score to fill a class (ex. about 8500-9000 people score a 740 or better on the GMAT per year and the scores are good for 5 years). Don’t let correlations at the extremes (admit percentages of over 30%) skew your view of smaller subsets.

  • Jilted in VA

    Dinged at Harvard (no interview), Stanford, and Wharton (both with interview)

    31 yrs Asian male

    GMAT: 780 (51V, 49M)

    Schooling: BA Princeton Woodrow Wilson School (3.4 GPA) MA Georgetown School of Foreign Service (3.9)

    Work experience:
    2 years overseas as a school teacher (prior to MA), learning a difficult East Asian language.

    4 years doing national security analysis, including a tour to a war zone during which I was selected to lead a team of individuals who were senior to me – was successful in an extremely adverse environment. Promoted within 1 year. Briefed a number of senior US military officials, with analysis impacting Presidential decisions.

    1.5 years at a Big-4 doing financial services consulting (already transitioned to private sector). In line for promotion this year.

    Story crafted around desire to broaden and deepen perspectives in the private sector, transition towards work in turnarounds.

  • marcus

    across the examples given selectivity correlates with GPA… what’s more likely Stanford doubled its class size its GPA would stay the same or.. .. HBS doubled its class size… GPA would stay the same… MIT doubled its class size and GPA would stay the same. its more likely based on overall correlation that GPA would decrease in each and every case.

    the question is whether one school is more concerned with grades as the guru pointed out. his assertion don’t jive with the underlying math. it’s more likely to be due to selectivity.

  • Will

    wow …. should HBS be making mistakes like this?? wonder how many similar mistakes they make for each cohort?!!!

  • Dan

    The correlation exists but, we have no large scale information on which side is the cause (or if either variable even IS the cause).

    Ex. Selectivity ,with the exception of HBS, is often times a function of how big the program chooses to be (list below) .And HBS could decide to cut its admitted class in half (a la Stanford) and end up with a dramatically low admit rate (and those it chooses to admit could be those with the highest stats or those with the most compelling stories or both).

    Stanford-466 admitted-7%

    MIT-599 admitted-13%

    Hass-420 admitted- 12%

    You seem to be creating a causal chain without adequate proof.

  • Rejected

    Additional info: I’m Indian with undergraduate from the top 10 leading institutions in the country.

  • Rejected

    Hi Sandy,
    I was rejected from Stanford’s GSB without interview.
    I am a 25 year old female, with 2 + years of experience with EY, including one promotion and 2 awards.
    Prior to that I received a Masters in Environmental Engg from Stanford and NTU in Singapore (worked as a researcher after post graduation and was promoted within a year, had one paper in my name as well).
    GMAT – 720. GPA – 3.7/4 (Grad school) and 8.87/10.0 (Undergrad)

  • marcus

    the correlation with higher gpa and lower admit rate is high across the board.

    stanford 3.73 7%
    harvard 3.67 11%
    hass 3.61 12%
    mit 3.5 13%
    wharton 3.5 18%

    sure you could rationalize a lot of scenarios… but the more selective the school the higher average GPA. the numbers speak for themselves. it’s not a case of one school more concerned with GPA.. Fact is they all…but the more selective you are the more culling you have to do..

  • Mr. Impact Investor

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at Stanford (no interview) but want to take-away learning / insights for my HBS and Wharton applications in R2 (Columbia, Booth too)

    27 year old male / India / US resident
    GMAT: 740 (Q49, V41)
    GPA: 3.76 / undergrad at top-20 business school program on the east-coast – major: Economics, with a lot of Quant & Advanced stats classes on the side

    Work Experience:
    -3+ years at Goldman Sachs / Morgan Stanley in Asia (working in capital markets and investment banking divisions, top ranked analyst in Asia Pac)
    -Quit MS to co-found a startup in Asia (c. $0.5M revenues by end of this year), however, quit due to falling out in founding team – spent ~3-4 months traveling (total engagement at start up of 5-6 months)
    -Won a fellowship at TechnoServe to Africa working with rural entrepreneurs – helping them pitch for and win funding (1 year fellowship and present gig) – had 4 months in at time of R1 application and 9 months at time of R2
    Total work-ex at matriculation: <5 years

    -Founded & launched a family startup – women's clothing-retail store (still operational and now regionally renowned)
    -group leader and production team assistant at the Landmark Forum (its a global personal growth organization)
    -volunteered at a teach for india school (helping organize field-trips, soccer workshops) – my brother was a TFI fellow at the school
    -At college – VP of investment banking club (led a team of 10), Manager at the Quant Resource centre (led tutors & graders)
    -Award: won an award at school for quant achievement, graduated in top 5% of class

    Goal: To work at the intersection of my passions (entrepreneurship, finance and social-impact) as an impact investor (ala Acumen fund)

    My concern: Is impact investing a taboo goal to have? I understand that the industry is nascent, the salaries arent the best and there're just too many question marks there. Do you think it's a risk to keep going with this background + goals combination (it's what I really want to explore – but I'm looking for someone to tell me what the ground reality is in the AdCom office!)

    Thanks a ton in advance!

  • fdsa


  • hbsguru

    Not sure to be honest, 2+2 plays by its own rules with a set of shifting agendas. For the recent past they have favored STEM kids, engneers, etc. Although ultra prestige bankers and consultants continue to get in (but some pwerful kids are dinged). If I had to guess, aside from bad execution, etc. it is that 1. being an entrepreneur, as you seem to be, is hard for HBS to judge, who knows what those companies you set up do, and how ‘real’ they are. You also seem focused on social entrepreneurship but goals are rather traditional, build out or extend family business, so perhaps that bugged them. You would have been better with a bunch of standard Prestige internships and a straight line into family business, e.g. it all fits together, you worked at a bank or consulting company and want to use that to build out family business. The standard wisdom is stand out, but the truth is, it is better to FIT IN. IN your case, to have all this FIT IN some easily recognizable narrative. All that is TRUE< but to be honest, if you told me you GOT IN, I could easily believe that too, that would be case of them ignoring your presentation and just going with the DNA, which is very high. They often do that as well.

    Hope this helps and it cert. good advice for others.

  • hbsguru

    Low GPA and lack of super status jobs — and the 3 jobs you had were on a downward slope in the status hierarchy–and one too many (you had 3 jobs, ideal is 2, exceptions but ….) plus no dramatic leadership, and goals that seem random–that would do it at Stanford. Are you a US Citizen and therefore a counted minority? I could see this ding either way, but just an issue readers should be aware of. Stanford is OBSESSED with ultra prestige jobs, esp. for kids in banking, and high stats, and only rare cases will anything overcome that. As to being Non-Traditional, those kids go to Marcus University but not Stanford. You just did not have enuf Non-Trad firepower to overcome the muddled career, low stats, and confused goals.

  • hbsguru

    good point. slow learner here.

  • hemisphericles

    Hey there,

    26 year old ethnic male, from English speaking LatAm/Caribbean (third world) but went to Exeter/Andover and 3.2 GPA (pretty good story behind the low GPA incorporated in essays) from H/Y/P, 710 GMAT. Internship and 2 years at bulge bracket [DB/CS/Barclays] bank in NYC, one year doing leveraged finance at an Asian bank in NYC, last 1.5 years been working at startup financial advisory firm in home town here I’ve pretty much been the MVP. Member of committee of student consultants for non-profit in college, edited college business magazine, currently involved in non-profit that provides support/mentorship for inner city youth in home town. Goal is to work for M/B/B then transition to entrepreneurship in home country/region in medium-long term.

    Figured I fit the non-traditional mold and perhaps they didn’t know what to do with me? Also, low GPA and average GMAT?

    Dinged at Stanford without interview, didn’t apply to HBS.


  • BH

    thanks for the reply.

    i think the 1-3-1 was explained ok in the app (originally was going directly into i-banking from college, then global financial crisis caused the bank to defer my start date, did the consulting gig during my deferred year)

    the firm I am with currently just sent 2 associates to HBS last year (you actually worked with one of them)

    i am currently in my 2nd year at the firm, so applying during associate year 2 (par for course)

    my guess is the goal portion/execution screw up

    wasn’t expecting Stanford regardless

  • marcus

    while statistically possible Dan.. same could be said with a State School BS in your analysis.. it’s not statistically probable.

    when your admit rate is that much lower than other schools.. rationalizing that Stanford is more concerned with grades is faulty logic. this is more a stats issue.. not a conjecture/rationalizing exercise.

  • Bot

    Can’t you see that marcus is a bot or, more likely, someone with a bot-like brain (or someone pretending to be that). Can’t argue with an automated messaging service that takes some phrases from your response, mixes them with “be a leader/creator/founder” and some bs of that sort, and spews the result back to you for you to respond to it. Don’t waste your time.

  • marcus

    you need more than good grades/gmats to get into Stanford. readers want to know how to get in.. and this thread is full of folks who have great grades/gmats who didn’t get in.
    the answer is if you look like everyone else and do the same B School song and dance you’re like everyone else. Be a founder/creator/leader type (shown through your actions) to stand out.

  • Dan

    1.The selectivity of a school has very little to do with the subsequent traits you are trying to link it with.

    Ex. If Stanford wanted, it could admit a class full of 3.0 650 applicants and still remain as selective. And in that case selection criteria would have changed while the selectivity did not.

    2. Harvard technically has “more culling” to do. Yes, they admit a bigger class, but they also receive over 1000 more applications per year. Meaning they have to reject more people.

    3.Both of these schools get enough stellar applicants they could have Uber GMAT/GPA stats if they so chose. What you see with the averages is a function of what they’ve chosen to weight more heavily

    4.Stanford seems to lean towards higher GMATs and GPAs,though on an objective numbers basis its entirely possible you could selected a subset of HBS students (equal in number to the GSB admitted class) and they would have equal or better average GPA/GMAT stats.


    wonder why the hell you tried HBS while you have IIM-A?!

  • marcus

    Many schools outside the US are way more selective and more difficult to get into.. so in order to get into these schools you have to A. better grades. B. higher test scores. so in order to get into your engineering school you most likely had to score extremely high on a test. Stanford is more selective and harder to get into than any other BS in the US is fact.. so rationalizing that Stanford is more concerned with grades than other schools is faulty logic. that’s stats, not BS, and not a myth.

  • hbsguru

    Adios, my good friend, and good luck on your journey.

    For those of you interested in the status Totem Pole in the finance business and Wall St, this is must reading:

    Big Bonuses, but a Shift in Who Gets the Biggest


    In a shift of rainmakers on Wall Street, asset and hedge fund managers
    are edging out bankers when it comes to the size of year-end bonuses.

  • hbsguru

    Thanks, super helpful, and gets right to the key facts w. no BS.
    This is what it is really like there–although I am sure McKinsey would have a very different explanation,

  • bingo13

    I’m no expert but most of the folks who make it from India are either from the top 5 IITs (which are known in the US) or from a US undergrad program.

  • bingo13

    As for jobs, the whole McKC thing is poorly set up. Exit options are poor. People move to PEs or financial institutions as research analysts (again not in an investing role).

  • bingo13

    McKinsey Knowledge Centre is a KPO which supports the McKinsey consultants across the world. So, it is a large setup with >1,000 employees with hundreds being recruited every year from tier 2 colleges in India. This is in contrast to the 10-20 people McKinsey recruits in India from the top few IITs and a few other tier 1 colleges. Those in the knowledge centre have minimal client interaction and do fact finding- report searches, pulling out annual reports etc. This combined with the fact that there are so many of them makes it extremely hard to get into a decent US B school. The best outcomes I’ve heard are to INSEAD. 1-2 girls do get into Wharton or Kellogg but that’s rare.

    P.S. I was a BA in McKinsey India who is in HBS now. My knowledge comes from seeing fellow applicants here for the last 3 years.

  • bingo13

    Find the whole logic of just using acceptance rate to say something is more selective flawed. I went to an Indian engineering college where the acceptance rate is 0.5%. Does this mean that it is a better engineering college than MIT or Stanford? Given Stanford’s smaller class size, more people might self select compared to Harvard. I agree with HBSGuru’s view that the whole “change the world” tune is a little bit of bullshit. In India, they picked a bunch of PE/VC folks (even among this, they picked the lease startup enthusiastic ones), consultants and those whose bosses were funding Stanford. Please stop spreading myths.

  • hbsguru

    Someone give Marcus some more Kool_Aid, he seems to be stuck in replay mode. Marcus, I know lotsa, lotsa, lotsa Stanford admits with really high GPA and GMATs and golden Jobs on Wall St and at PE shops and who sound humble and have the right Stanford attitude –but that is ALL. They ain’t really done nothing else major but a lifetime of great academic and professional performance and the usual marginal extras which they and we have thrown into the their story. That, I would reckon to say, is the typical Stanford admit, altho, fer sure, 20-30 percent of the class in indeed truly extraordinary, as they are at HBS and Wharton.

    You can yell and keep repeating how selective the place is, we know that, what readers of this thread want to really know is what is the basis for their selectivity? More than anything else it is Prestige schooling, mega grades and gmats, prestige jobs, and some PC overlay.
    Get it??? Or is the next round to Kool_Aid intoxication kicking in.

  • politicalindian

    Hi Sandy,

    I am Indian who had applied for HBS 2+2 . Was expecting an interview atleast ! – No interview (dinged) !
    GMAT – 750 ( Q 52 V 41)
    GPA – 3.8 ( One of the 3 IITs ) – Top 1% – Rank 5
    Experience –

    1. ITC Ltd. Intern

    2. Founding first Telemedicine set-up in Northern India
    3. Founding 2 more social entrepreneurial ventures
    4. Helping an NGO with girls education
    5. Entrepreneurship Cell Head
    6. Student welfare board head of the institute

    Plans – Set up Pharmaceutical industry using family business set-up
    Strong recommendations !

  • Jimmy

    I am happy for your happyness but this situation is outrageous. It shows clearly that monarchy still exists and your birth, not your merit, will enable you to join Harvard. Worrying…

  • A. Goyal

    Hi Sandy,
    I was dinged at Harvard, Columbia, MIT & Tuck (w/o interview). I applied last year (2nd rounds).

    GMAT: 750/800 (Q:90; V:93)

    Undergrad: Manipal Institute of Tech. (Manipal University, India); Major: Electrical Engineering; GPA: 9.2/10 (I guess it is equivalent to 3.8/4.0). I was ranked 2nd in my branch.

    Work Experience:

    After college (May 2011- Present), I have been working in my family business (hi tech industry). Since then, I have made several changes in my firm- both managerial and technical. Financially, our revenue has tripled in last 2 years and through innovations our input costs have come down by 4-5%.

    My essays were all about the difficulties I faced as leader when i changed my traditional company into a professional one and how I convinced people to change their conventional thinking.
    Apart from this, I have done a lot of 1-4 months internships at large technical companies like L&T ltd.
    I worked as a project coordinator in a local environment protection organization for 3 months. I worked as TA for a college prof and took maths classes for undergrad students. I organized various events at college level. I have also played table tennis at state level.

    I gave my GMAT in late November and I decided to apply in 2nd round (not a very wise decision). I just had 20 days to prepare applications for all 4 schools. My applications were obviously not as good as they could have been if I had more time. In my rejection letter from Tuck, they had asked if I wanted to receive a feedback call for improving future application. I accepted it and they said that they liked all parts of my application and the only piece of advice they had was that i was too young for their MBA program and i need to wait for at least 2 years before applying and apply in earlier rounds.

    I want to know if i was rejected from other schools for the same reason or there are some other things missing from my profile. What else I could do to make my profile stronger?

  • guest

    I think you got trolled

  • marcus

    Stanford is more selective and harder to get into… than any other BS in the US by a demonstrable margin.. admitted applicants to Stanford have higher GPAs and stats than other schools because of this.. less selective schools are going to have students with lower GPAs. it’s not my opinion it’s statistical fact.

    if you want to get into Stanford you’re going to have to stand out. high GPA and high GMAT scores are not going to cut it. that’s cookie cutter.. show you’re a leader.. a creator.. a doer.. in addition to all the usual suspects. Stanford is the school to go to if you’re interested in teaming up and starting the next big company. Stanford has helped developed the most successful and envied startup ecosystem in the world. no wonder so many want in.

  • hbsguru

    “but all other things being equal 4.0 GPA etc etc.. the candidate that
    shows leadership, creator founder qualities is going to be the one that gets admitted to Stanford.”

    Singing a different tune here Marcus than your original Stanford love song. Re-read your original post. You are now reduced to saying IF ALL OTHER THINGS WERE EQUAL, Stanford wld take the leader, sure, if all other things are equal, why not take the guy who has some leadership . . . that wld be true at HBS too. The rubber meets the road when all things are not equal, and in cases like that, Stanford goes for the …………….STATS.

    As to numbers and selectivity …they are what they are but they DO NOT explain, and in fact support my claim, that Stanford is grade and gmat obsessed. With all those apps and fewer slots to give out, it is more likely that they could find any of your upworthy sort of solid but not blow-out stats pie-in-the sky leaders and take them, stats be damned, But they don’t !!!!! Stanford is sorta like a dumb guy looking over a blind date: first thing is the stats, the soul stuff can wait, and if stats are big enuf, the male brain goes into freeze mode, and not much else matters. Sorry to be so aggressive about this but the world is full of professional Stanford image makers and apologists , we don’t need volunteers.

  • sauteedmushrooms

    Dinged at HBS 2+2 (without interview)
    Male International Student, currently undergrad senior
    Top 25 US university – Computer Engineering and Business/Finance dual degree
    GMAT: 750 Cumulative GPA: 3.85
    Work Experience (most recent first): Top group at reputable investment bank, Big 4 Financial Advisory, Software analyst at big Financial Services company
    Leadership: various E-board positions in a range of campus organizations, including business/engineering societies, honor societies, recreational sports and TA for a class (no president/founder or anything though)
    Essay: talked about how my various academic/work experiences helped me realize that I want to go home one day and lead family business and use it as a means to impact my community in a positive way
    Recommendations: pretty good I thought, specific examples and stories were used

    I’m guessing I got rejected because of my leadership, which I thought was good, but not spectacular. Putting a lot of effort into starting a new club this year though, and am considering looking at other deferred admissions programs at top schools such as stanford, wharton, sloan etc. for round 2/3. Thoughts?

  • bob

    agree totally w dan’s read on this

  • marcus

    Stanford is simply a more selective school – 50% more difficult to get into than Harvard so I would expect that the average GPA would be higher too. simple stats and not a question of Stanford being more concerned with grades. Don’t get me wrong Harvard is a terrific school but it’s not as selective (12% acceptance rate is pretty high). Stanford has more culling to do.
    but all other things being equal 4.0 GPA etc etc.. the candidate that shows leadership, creator founder qualities is going to be the one that gets admitted to Stanford.

  • confussedman

    Thanks for the honest opinion -no point in sending app to you for review -I am not going to apply to HBS/Stan next year as I’ll most likely find out in the next few days on other schools.(hopefully they have a different opinion!)

    S&T -tougher job to get than investment banking…by sheer number. sale&trading for fixed income takes maybe 20 students in their undergrad. i-banking takes WAY more – just a two year rotation (of excel spreadsheets) and they kick you out. so in terms of selectivity i’m sure the offer to applicant rate is way lower for S&T.

    in essays – anyways I did spin how I was more cultured than a “greasball”

    Why being VP an issue? Thought it would be a sign that I am smart and do a good job- not a negative…at the bank I work at, the associate in our group went to HBS/Stanford last yr..the reason she went is our MD made it clear to her that she would NOT be getting VP, so she applied to school and left. we were always curious who wrote her rec.

    and – not sure why a career change coming from me is no bueno…MOST students that apply write about wanting to switch careers. i’ve read friends essays who have gotten into top top schools, and they outline how and why they have had a change of heart in their profession. Why would we go to business school to stay in the same gig?

    anyways life goes on but was just irked by your S&T comments, but i understand your rationale.

  • hbsguru

    -these adcoms are smart enough to know what an FX salesperson does…


    Not so sure about this “kiss of death” thing. I have quite a few
    friends from banks from S&T that got into HBS and Stanford (and this
    is over the past few years – not just one offs – speaking to them
    inspired me to apply)

    …Why do you think they do not like S&T ppl?

    and i thought I had a v good story – (had a consultant read over).






  • confussedman

    Yes am in fixed income S&T – but explained i wanted a career change, and i thought I had a v good story – (had a consultant read over). don’t get what you mean – “presented this way.” my job is my job – I can’t fake any of my responsibilities -these adcoms are smart enough to know what an FX salesperson does… Not so sure about this “kiss of death” thing. I have quite a few friends from banks from S&T that got into HBS and Stanford (and this is over the past few years – not just one offs – speaking to them inspired me to apply)…Why do you think they do not like S&T ppl? It is a teammwork oriented job and is for people who are decision makers, not followers. If you look at the ceo’s of these banks, they came from S&T. Maybe its my title as VP…the ppl i know who were accepted were Associates?

  • JC

    My extracurricular activities are like this guy’s; would appreciate breakdown Sandy.

  • hbsguru

    sorry Marcus, I know the total profiles of 100s of Stanford admits, and have, ahem, helped create several of them. Stanford is actually MORE concerned with grades and gmats than HBS and is also more open to admitting ‘connected’ kids, altho both schools are deeply interested in that. Your ‘change people change the world mantra’ is part of their FIGHT SONG but given the choice between someone who has done something dramatic with so-so stats and someone who has bullet proof stats, they more often go with the cookie and not the cutter. Lots of terrific peeps at Stanford, including many friends of mine, and the school can stand by itself, but I draw the line at volunteers coming on here and basically repeating this myth about change the world as if that really really counts, It does not count much without the stats and even then, without amazing prestige stats from either the usual suspects or the PC inventory of prestige events and places. Derrick Bolton is paid to varnish this story, that is his job and he does it very well. What is your excuse??

  • marcus

    So basically if you didn’t get into Stanford

    Harvard is a good safety school. Sorry a 12% acceptance rate is not selective. It’s much more difficult to get into any medical school (acceptance rate for all med schools is 8%).

    For all those who wonder why you didn’t get into Stanford.. it’s easy.

    it’s less about grades (everyone has good grades).. job (investment banker, management consultant yada.. yada.. yada).. tutor this.. tutor that.. you know what these all have in common?? cookie cutter candidate.

    how about identifying a need.. organize a team.. get funded and implement.

    show that you’re a creator, founder, leader CEO type.

    that’s what it takes to get into Stanford.

  • AS


    There are knowledge centers in the U.S. as well.

  • Dan

    This cannot be true, I highly doubt HBS would take someone from a DING to a rd 2 interview invite (before the Rd interview date). Furthermore I doubt that a person who happened to get THAT lucky would spread it around on the internet…on a website which the adcom will probably read…….i’m calling it…..TROLL.

  • Clifford Colvard

    I was rejected by HBS: 3.87 GPA, Undergrad through Urbana University, employed by Urbana U.

  • hbsguru


    Hi Sandy,

    I was dinged at HBS, GSB and Duke (no interview)

    24 year old female from India

    GMAT: 690

    Undergraduate: 74% (3 year average) from a top commerce college in India; captained an athletic team; won scholarships throughout and led a student organization

    Currently enrolled in a masters program (it is highly selective and well renowned in India)

    Work: 2 years 9 months

    2 years at a top tier consulting firm as an analyst

    9 months at a sports agency (given an early promotion)

    Co-founder of a start up in the sports industry

    Eventual career goal: To create my own sports management firm in India

    Do you suggest i need to wait a few years and retake the GMAT?

    SANDY: Bunch of small things, low-ish GMAT for HBS and Stan. Non-feeder Indian college, my guess, not sure how to judge grades, what was class standing? 2yrs at ‘top-tier’ consulting firm could mean a lot of things, in most cases, at HBS and Stan that means McK, Bain, BCG (MBB) and was that in India or USA. If India, other firms like PWC etc. are considered selective as well, in some cases, depends what you do and say you do. Not sure what to make of sports agency, or how selective it was, Being back in school now is odd, and may damage your job narrative. Are you still employed, your timeline is confusing and annoying. Dings by H and S totally expected for all the above, Duke was in the running, if your execution was clear, but just too many open questions for me to get down and dirty with this. sorry, but H and S are unlikely with this DNA so far, and that is not likely to change.


    Hi Sandy

    Thanks for getting back. So I spent 2 years at McK (at the knowledge center as an analyst working on live cases with global case teams) in India and graduated from Lady Shri Ram College (Bachelors in commerce) in New Delhi (It is a highly competitive program to get into. I believe SRCC, St Stephen’s and LSR are well know Delhi University colleges). I worked at a small sports agency in India – it was a 20 member organisation but the exposure and quality of work I did was immensely satisfying.

    I am not currently employed – I am a full time student. I enrolled in this masters fellowship to get a better sense of the socio political situation in India as I am interested in the grassroots development of sports. However, I feel a MBA from an international school will do me well as I want an accelerated learning environment as well as the networking opportunities (which will hopefully help in eventual funding). Working for a few years in consumer products firm also excites me immensely.

    I hope this provides more clarity.

    Would you still suggest I let go of H & S? What would be the schools you feel I should focus on? Also, should I retake the GMAT?

    Thanks again


    Retake the GMAT and get a job, that is my kind and tough love.

    An interesting question is outcomes fr. kids at McKinsey Knowledge Center in India, anyone know what typically happens to them as e.g. 2nd job or MBA apps???
    I am aware that one in one-hundred get jobs in USA for MCK. but those are deep outliers.

  • hbsguru

    Retake the GMAT and get a job, that is my kind and tough love.

    An interesting question is outcomes fr. kids at McKinsey Knowledge Center in India, anyone know what typically happens to them as e.g. 2nd job or MBA apps???
    I am aware that one in one-hundred get jobs in USA for MCK. but those are deep outliers.

  • Toto

    I think you are a troll 🙂

  • Comeon

    Lizenfrance…like I said, you don’t even go to HEC. You go to a third tier school…stop embarrassing yourself. People would mistakenly think that you go to a top business school in Europe. I don’t know what happened to my second post, which was somehow deleted.

  • LizEnFrance

    Yes, just an observation. I’ve spent a number of years being paid to judge and improve the writing quality of people who were working on tight deadlines (as was I). In my experience, “writing at supersonic speed” simply tends to reveal weaknesses that were already present. I don’t really understand the vehemence of your reaction.

  • LizEnFrance

    Close but no cigar. Thank you for playing!

  • hbsguru

    Dirty little secret, or maybe not so secret: S+T is KISS OF DEATH at both H and S. Is that what you do??? If yes, and if you presented that way, that would explain it.

  • hbsguru

    dunno on facts given. HBS admits profiles like this, Was 3.8 at MIT out of 5–that could be part of it, and your not saying so on this post could have been another, if app had similar ANNOYANCES!!!!!!!!!! and brevity and omissions, e.g. were you interviewed?

  • Wam

    Hi Sandy

    Thanks for getting back. So I spent 2 years at McK (at the knowledge center as an analyst working on live cases with global case teams) in India and graduated from Lady Shri Ram College (Bachelors in commerce) in New Delhi (It is a highly competitive program to get into. I believe SRCC, St Stephen’s and LSR are well know Delhi University colleges). I worked at a small sports agency in India – it was a 20 member organisation but the exposure and quality of work I did was immensely satisfying.

    I am not currently employed – I am a full time student. I enrolled in this masters fellowship to get a better sense of the socio political situation in India as I am interested in the grassroots development of sports. However, I feel a MBA from an international school will do me well as I want an accelerated learning environment as well as the networking opportunities (which will hopefully help in eventual funding). Working for a few years in consumer products firm also excites me immensely.

    I hope this provides more clarity.

    Would you still suggest I let go of H & S? What would be the schools you feel I should focus on? Also, should I retake the GMAT?

    Thanks again

  • Deepak

    I don’t get it. What is your point? Just some observation? Or are you trying to say that you can type at “supersonic speed” without grammatical (btw the first time i tried spelling the word, I typed in “gramatical”) errors. If so, here is the recognition you deserve….BRAVO!! Now, lets try to be reasonable and let the man do his job. You already had your fair share of your opinion and we all respected it. Move on.

  • Osman

    another HBS ding, GPA: 3.8 MIT EE, MPhil Financial Economics, Oxford
    GMAT: 760
    WE: 4 Ys with World Bank, D.C
    Age: 26.
    Male, Turkish-Swiss
    goal: MC in Turkey.

  • Comeon

    Actually..not even HEC…some third tier school in Aix-en-Provence…a simple google search on your ID reveals who you are, Liz. Stop embarrassing yourself. People think you go to some top European school in France..

  • Comeon

    Something makes me think that you go HEC. Now maybe you don’t have a profile to go to top schools wherever.

  • Sud

    Thanks. Will do 🙂

  • Matt

    Just throwing it out there, but Sandy probably does this because it generates lots of new business for him. It isn’t just out of the goodness of his heart, not that I’m saying his heart is not good (I don’t know him well enough to make such a judgment).

    I do see your point about him commenting fairly for the “first 100 times.” I’ve been in situations like that too and yes it can be easy sometimes to lose your cool. As a person who is representing multiple professional services, it might pay to be a little more tactful, but to each their own eh? It would be interesting to hear what John thinks about this, not that I’m holding my breath. 🙂

  • confusedman

    Hi curious why I didn’t get an interview
    27 year old white male
    GMAT: 770 (good splits)
    Undergrad: Princeton 3.8 French and Econ maj. Also played varsity sport there.
    Work: VP at top tier firm (think GS/JPM) – Fixed income. Work 1 year London, 1 year HK, rest in NY
    Denied interview at Stan/HBS
    Had solid solid recs. my guys told me they ranked me top in almost everything. Both didn’t have MBAs tho cause its not required/not common in S&T.
    Essay were also very good – spoke about my cross cultural experiences working for bank abroad and tied that how I wanted worked to work in intl strategy at top 500 firms.
    Extras: didn’t start a non-profit but did put in a lot of time volunteering. ( maybe this is an issue – but to be honest i think a lot of applicants really embellish/overexagerate this, and i didn’t…maybe i should have?)

    Thought I had some stardust/gold experience? Had friends w lower scores/gpas/less promotions get in.

  • hbsguru


  • hbsguru


    Also, think of readers, once you get going on this thread, you want H +S ding stories and you want to take them in, and immerse yourself in dings and my explanations, that is the whole point. When you go to a Folk concert you don’t want a guest appearance from Sarah Brightmam, as great as she is. You want to immerse yourself in Folk. When you go to the Opera, you don’t want Jackson Browne showing up for a cameo.

    This is Branding 101–it goes beyond Branding, it is called Genre.

  • hbsguru

    dunno, 1+3+1 the way you did it is slightly odd, if there was anything else offbeat, e.g. you say firm has good record, but it seems very small, and you applying in associate year 1 or2?? (if one, another odd-ish piece, you just got there) and tepid goals, and nothing beyond the usual driving you in, this is not a surprise. it would depend on how you explained it, what they think of firm, or just bad luck or execution screw up–as I often say, they don’t like complex stories, and this was a little complex, which given not super pluses, could be enuf. .

  • Corp

    Supremely rude? Was nice about it the first 100 times, but when attacked he only responded in kind – fair game. Some guru? Actually, yes, he is. I’ve still no idea why he does this, but the man is on here day in and day out giving advice of the highest order FOR FREE to all who ask. I can think of 5 different detailed responses I’ve received from Sandy since I started looking @ B-school this summer. He’s received nothing for his time, unique information and trouble: $0 from me. Didn’t engage his firm (or any other but that’s not the point).
    Asking friends or colleagues for this kind of help, if any of them happen to know anything at all, doesn’t come close to the advice of ad consultants. It becomes clear when scanning comments by other ad consultants he is the best by far…imagine the foremost authority in any other field giving away their product gratis. Now think, would you treat this firm/person with respect, or nag at them because the FREE good/service they’ve given isn’t quite what you wanted. That’s called entitlement and I’m not sure where South Asians get it, but this Q&A is only enforcing a negative stereotype of them as pushy and rude.
    This kind of crap makes it harder for those of us that understand English to find our comments and check for responses by clogging up the comments so it’s hard to empathize. The man has said, “I will take the time out of my day – away from revenue-generating activities and paying clients – to give you ‘odds’ for free. All I ask is post in the appropriate place”
    This is officially the longest piece I’ve written on this website, but it’s just ridiculous. And Sandy, I’ve no clue why you do this but thank you. If I had $5 or 10 grand to burn on a consultant, I’d give it to you.

  • Corp

    Lesson learned: if you can’t follow basic instructions you don’t need an expert to tell you your chances. Your odds are:

    H: 0%
    S: 0%

    Writing about what YOU want to talk about and ignoring the given topic annoys the reader. Always.
    If this is an essay, this annoyance led immediately to you being dinged.

  • hbsguru

    No surprise here, climbing Mt. Everest (and scratch golf) could turn gold minus into gold but not silver into gold, and what we got here is solid silver [low-ish gpa, LEK., Barclay’s, all solid but not a 3.9 Goldman/KKR etc. ] There was nothing really driving you in, in a ultra cohort, healtcare was a plus. Funny, going to Penn and getting a solid 3.45 vs, going to Harvard College and getting a 3.8, the average gpa, sorta, right there is a flag for how unfair the world is, and for better or worse, how impt. it is to get IN at a top place. Don’t get me wrong. many success stories from outside HYP and even outside the Ivies, but everything is just so much harder more uncertain.

  • LizEnFrance

    Your casual use of the word “retard” as an insult clearly reveals certain unflattering aspects of your character. You might want to rethink it.

  • LizEnFrance

    I don’t go to IE, but I would like to add a plug for international business schools — they can be a good option if you would like to work overseas and/or lead international teams in the future.

  • LizEnFrance

    Given that GMAT scores are no good after three years, it’s doubtful that your old GRE will be accepted if it’s that far out of date by the time you apply. Study up!

  • LizEnFrance

    There are people who can write at supersonic speed while maintaining their usual grammatical standards. Speed is not an excuse (unless you are a non-native speaker, and many of the non-native speakers I’ve met are in fact more careful to get their English right than native speakers often are). Maybe Sandy is just more of a quant than a poet? There’s nothing wrong with that — the working world certainly tends to place greater value on the former.

  • LizEnFrance

    Even MORE importantly: If you beat the odds and do get in, it might well be a snobbery shared by your cohort. Are those REALLY the people you want in your network (let alone as friends)? If so, go to it, and I wish you the best. If not, you may want to think twice before saying yes.

  • LizEnFrance

    I have no problem believing this. 740 GMAT (can’t remember the specifics, but it was 68th percentile quant, 99th verbal, 6/6 on the essay), 3.58 GPA (film studies) at big state school, 8-year career in journalism with management experience. My lack of funds (alas, my father did not have the foresight to make a pile and donate a chunk of it to HBS, so a phone call would not have helped me as it did an applicant above), unusual work experience, so-so GPA, age (31 at time of application), and — I think — essays that lacked conviction doomed me to the “reject no interview” pile.

    After reading this summer’s NYT stories about the general experiences of female and/or middle-class students at HBS, I have to say I’m really, really thankful. We would not have been good for each other. Being turned down by HBS and other (also very expensive) top schools gave me the opportunity to ponder more deeply the question of what I truly wanted out of an MBA, and it turns out that that’s quite different from what I wrote in my essays the first time around. I’m now happily in the midst of a one-year program at a pretty decent school in France for which I’m paying less than a tenth of what HBS tuition costs (and improving my French to boot), and the class size is much smaller. I don’t feel like anyone is waiting for a chance to stab me in the back. This was the right choice for me. Call it sour grapes if you will, but I suspect I would not have been happy at HBS. I’m happy here, and I won’t have to sell a kidney to pay off my loans!

  • Philles34

    Dinged at HBS and GSB.
    Likely returning to Upenn.

    740 GMAT.

    Undergrand: Penn ’08

    Major: Finance
    GPA: 3.45

    Indian American

    2 Yrs at L.E.K (tons of PE due diligence and healthcare) and 3 Yrs at Barclays IB (healthcare fund) – London and New York.

    Interested in VC/PE in the healthcare space.
    Decent community involvement and advised (invested in) two startups by fellow Penn grads.

    Varsity crew. Scratch golfer. Scaled Mt. Everest (May 25th 2012).

  • Ron

    Hi Sandy, thanks for getting back to me. Why is being unemployed such a big deal? And I did mentioned in the essays that I left in order to help out my family’s business which is in line with my previous work experience. Because I am thinking applying to Booth and just write about how I want to switch my career focus to investment banking since I like the challenge in analyzing a volatile market and I have the knowledge and network in the resources industry. Would love to hear your opinion.


  • hbsguru

    “I know this is isn’t the right board for this . . .”


  • hbsguru

    (although I quit in order to prepare for gmat as my work was too demanding)
    applying to B school while unemployed is often reason enuf for getting dinged at HBS, esp. in light of the above, there are exceptions, Working for Chinese State Owned Enterprise was an interesting angle and might have been exploited on apps. Goals need to be refined and personalized, even if made-up a bit. Adcoms like a certain amount of detail in general management stories.

  • hbsguru

    glad this worked out in the end. thanks for the report and insider info. Wharton is giving essay by essay feedback, that is rich. Liked two and two were average? What a crock, they liked your GPA and GMAT and employment prospects and Wharton admissions is increasingly focused on those elements. “Process is subjective.” Giggles all around. Apply with a 690 GMAT and 3.4 GPA and see what kinda subjective treatment you get. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

  • hbsguru

    Bunch of small things, low-ish GMAT for HBS and Stan. Non-feeder Indian college, my guess, not sure how to judge grades, what was class standing? 2yrs at ‘top-tier’ consulting firm could mean a lot of things, in most cases, at HBS and Stan that means McK, Bain, BCG (MBB) and was that in India or USA. If India, other firms like PWC etc. are more impressive and more selective. Not sure what to make of sports agency,m or how selective it was, Being back in school now is odd, and may damage your job narrative. Are you still employed, your tmeline is confusing and annoying. Dings by H and S totally expected for all the above, Duke was in the running, if your execution was clear, just too many open questions, sorry, but H and S are unlikely with this DNA so far, and that is not likely to change.

  • Ms. European

    Thank you!! 🙂

  • hbsguru

    🙂 no apologies needed. “Snappy,” wonderful ‘

  • hbsguru

    you is my kinda lady, Ms Euro, congrats!!!!

  • Ms. European

    In! No mention of Sheryl Sanberg / Lean In anywhere… I do think she’s great etc. but you have to courageaous and a damn good writer to go with such an overhyped topic – I would never!

  • Wam

    Hi Sandy,
    I was dinged at HBS, GSB and Duke (no interview)
    24 year old female from India
    GMAT: 690
    Undergraduate: 74% (3 year average) from a top commerce college in India; captained an athletic team; won scholarships throughout and led a student organization
    Currently enrolled in a masters program (it is highly selective and well renowned in India)
    Work: 2 years 9 months
    2 years at a top tier consulting firm as an analyst
    9 months at a sports agency (given an early promotion)
    Co-founder of a start up in the sports industry

    Eventual career goal: To create my own sports management firm in India

    Do you suggest i need to wait a few years and retake the GMAT?

  • Albert

    That’s a pretty low GPA to be trying to get into Harvard. I mean, it is Harvard after all. My cousin that got into Stanford was the highest ranked undergrad at his university, pretty much a perfect GPA with a honors degree, 95+ percentile on the graduate entrance exam, prestigious internship, served on a nonprofit board, etc). I don’t even think my other cousin would get into Harvard despite holding an honors degree from an Ivy with a few years experience at a prestigious wall street bank. Those are the kind of people you would have been competing against.

  • Maybach

    I followed this discussion with interest.

    Here’s the background.

    1) Non-citizen
    2) BS in Electrical Engineering abroad – no GPA. First class with distinction
    3) MS in Electrical Engineering at UT Austin. GPA: 3.68
    4) Worked at HP, SGI, and founded a boutique consulting company.
    5) GMAT – 720. Had taken GRE and the GRE subject tests.

    Applied to Harvard, Stanford, Kellog, Sloan and Wharton – each 2 times unsuccessfully.

    Wharton gave me feedback saying that out of 4 essays, they liked two, but the other
    two were average. One of those they did not like was the Why MBA, Why Wharton,
    What do you plan to do etc.

    I applied to Wharton a third time. As luck would have it, Wharton changed the essays
    and dropped those that I had written well. I thought long and hard and decided that
    I could not really improve on my Why MBA essay. So, I sent it in with minimal changes.
    Got accepted.

    I asked the Director for Admissions and the Vice Dean “What gives?”. They both said
    that the process is subjective.

  • PNW Coffee Addict

    I’m trying to figure out if I even have a shot at getting into a top b school. I looked at your profiles of candidate types, and I didn’t see one that really fit my unusual background. I’m one of those “non-traditional” people. I’m a Latino (with an Anglo name, my mother remarried and my step-dad adopted me, and pale face) disabled vet (my military job was scientific/technical), parents are immigrants, I’m a first-generation college grad who graduated with 3.1 in econ and math from a state flagship school after a fair number of hardship withdrawals due to medical reasons. I was highly active in student life and community service as an undergrad, received awards for volunteer efforts from my university, and I’ve worked in engineering (both at a federal agency as a summer intern, and for my university immediately post-graduation in a research lab) and have for a few years worked as a freelance tutor once my lab job laid me off. My GRE scores were (164v (670 old scale), 158q (740 old scale), 4.5 essay), so generally solid, but of course an outstanding verbal score. My interest is doing operations management post-grad school, but what I am uncertain about is whether or not an MBA or a Masters in Industrial/Systems Engineering would be the best fit, because I know I can use either to work in the operations management role, but it seems that applying to grad school in Ind/SysE is the better route given the fact I’m not an Ivy Leaguer, have mindblowing test scores or a really high GPA. Thoughts?

  • hbsguru

    Love your sign-in name. Catch-22?
    I guess that is the way the cookie crumbles for you.

  • hbsguru

    glad I could help. 🙂 Check back for a mock interview and we will chuckle over this




    I did over 100 mock interviews for HBS in Rounds 1 and 2 and 3
    last year. Over the past 10 years, I have probably done over 800-1000
    HBS mock interviews. My knowledge of how to prepare you for an HBS mock
    interview is based on those experiences.

    I know typical HBS questions, including questions often
    asked of investment bankers, private equity, venture capital and hedge
    fund associates, and questions asked to those employed in non-profits,
    the military, manufacturing, and technology.

    I know how to help you formulate your core story in ways which can be applied to many questions.

    I can predict trouble areas in your application and help you come up with talking points to deal with them.

    I can sense what your particular needs are in terms of
    presentation, for example, if you don’t get to the point soon enough (a
    possibly fatal habit) or if you appear too aggressive or too arrogant or
    confident in the wrong way for often thin-skinned (and just plain thin)
    HBS interviewers (some of whom are predisposed not to like bankers).

    I can help you create a back story for your goals which creates a solid platform for Why MBA, Why HBS?

    I can help you prepare a strong answer to the question “Why
    should we take you?” This questions is often asked in several forms:

    “What can YOU contribute to case method discussion based on background and experience?”

    “How will your classmates remember you?”

    “How have you grown as a leader?”

    I can calm you down, although that will not be the first thing that happens.

    I can help you formulate answers to ‘ice-breaker’ questions such as:

    “I already know you from your application, just tell me what you think the three defining moments in your life are?”

    “Pretend I have not read your application and I just met
    you. Tell me who you are, what you’ve done, and where you want to be
    15 years?”

    I can help prepare you to face such recently popular questions as:

    “What is one thing that is not immediately apparent about you to others?”

    “How would your friends describe you?”

    “How has the financial crisis impacted you, your friends, your industry and your goals?”


    If you want a mock HBS interview, send me an email to hbsguru@gmail.com,
    telling me
    when your interview is, what time zone you are in, what days and
    times are good for you, and attaching a resume. I will reply back w.
    dates and times, etc. Then you send me a pdf of your application. Mock
    interviews take about 60-70 minutes. The price is $450.00 dollars USD.
    You pay me when we speak and do the interview.

  • politicus

    Thank you very much Sandy!

    I did as you said and got my father to get me in touch with the admission so I could ask them the reason (he has plaques in his name on both sides of the Charles so I guess that the least they could do indeed). They said they may have had a mistake with their system and moved me to R2, promising an interview for the inconvenience. They apologized.

    Now I’m in great shape, thank you so much for your advice.

  • Justice for Trolls

    I think that screwed me too… 4 years of Bio research after grad

  • Justice for Trolls

    Like I said, the interview, and recommendations…
    all the stuff the gripers don’t mention.
    My wife got screwed by a recommendation, it kept her out of Hopkins school of Public Health. Folks just assume that they check the box, and are in… it ain’t that easy friends lol. There are more 750+’s on the GMAT than HBS can let in to their school…. period.

  • Justice for Trolls

    Less than you would think. I had similar credentials and didn’t get an interview. (Slight better GPA and GMAT), but my major was biological sciences. Started a couple orgs, was a student athlete etc etc
    GE Top 10% is a big deal… since GE loves HBS folks.

    Most Corporate progs don’t do beyond top 10 % so recognition is serious.
    He may of have also slayed the interview.

    Also if his recommendations were from HBS alums affiliated with the GE Corp prog… you have your answer…

    being black shouldn’t hurt him… but think of it this way… there are plenty of black people who are qualified that get turned down… I’m one of them… I went on to another top 10 MBA…

    C’est La vie

  • Guest


  • TFA-alum

    Hi Sandy,

    I know this is isn’t the right board for this, but I posted on your “what are my chances”column and am not sure you’ll find my story.

    My gig in TFA was unique because I was the only corps member to create, pilot, and scale (to 3 other high schools) a 2-course Film curriculum. I was also awarded a national teaching award (40 Under 40).

    I’m now working at a leading learning company ($10B+ range) doing digital/product strategy and investments in growth markets. In a rotational program too.

    Went to UC Berkeley, 3.6 GPA, Political Economy major, 730 GMAT. While at Berkeley I worked for 2 summers in South Africa – first doing refugee work for the UNHCR and then completing fellowship research (competitively granted) for Berkeley.

    Extracurriculars: Started and coached my TFA high school’s debate team, co-founded a scholarly journal at Berkeley, coached youth basketball for 3 years

    What do you think of this post-TFA job and my chances for H/S?

  • Yossarian

    40 year old MIT alum here. Dinged by HBS a long time ago (99 percentile GMAT, 4 years in the consumer electronics industry, stellar UG GPA). No – I’m not reapplying. Just wanted to chime in to say that this blog and the comments above have been really useful for me, though in a somewhat different way. The big take away for me is – Avoid hiring Harvard and Stanford kids like the plague. Going by Sandy’s responses above, they all seem seem to come from the same cookie-cutter. And its not even my favorite brand of cookie.

  • Ron

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to hear your opinion:

    Dinged at Harvard and Columbia without interview.
    27 year old male
    GMAT: 720 (V40, Q48)
    Undergrad: 3.56 GPA/UC Berkeley
    Major: BS in Business Admin, BA in Legal Studies
    Work Experience: 3.5 Years at a large Chinese SOE as business manager (started out as associate and promoted to more important roles handling market analysis, sales/trading of resources, contract negotiation, and project development of large scale resources projects.)
    Goal: To acquire skills in management and finance to make me a leader for upcoming large scale projects (although I quit in order to prepare for gmat as my work was too demanding); long term wise growing my own international business in resources development and investment.
    Other: since first round, already taken MatLab class and plans to take linear algebra and matrix in the spring at community school.

    Community service: virtually none. Although just started getting involved with volunteering as basketball coach.

    I suspect the low quant on gmat? I wanted to apply to Booth, MIT, Stanford and Haas for my 2nd round. Although I have refined my goal to be to switch career focus to resources investment banking/trading, can you tell me what are my chances?

    I’ve read CBS round 1 admit stats, and average work XP is around 5 years, 80% 3 to 7 yrs. That seems like a shift from previous years. Does it mean I should acquire more experience before I apply again?


  • Kane

    Umm, even in this very thread, there are people with better profiles than Rob above (e.g. poster politicus below or the Asian kid with a 760 GMAT or the girl with 760 GMAT and kickass entrepreneurial record).

    710 GMAT with 3.6 GPA and experience at GE? With just top 10% of class (not even 5 or 1)? That’s above average but far from stellar for a Harvard admit. Of course it’s all affirmative action. To think otherwise is disingenuous.

  • hbsguru

    from nervous and uninformed posters on this board, duh, the source of many silly rumors. (some rumors, however, are credible, , but I will denote that in passing them along) As to passable post-TFA gig,,lots of things, depends on your prior educ and experience and goals.

  • SC

    where exactly is this rumor coming from? and what post-tfa gigs would be passable for a school like hbs/gsb?

  • Malesela Samuel Mogale

    I think it is a calling. For example, Harry Porter did not apply to Hogwarts. Hogwarts called him again and again. Some things are not meant for everyone!

  • Content at community college

    I wasn’t asserting that everyone overworks themselves. I have a lot of friends that aim for those schools and are totally fine. That post was more of a reaching out and saying to those that did spazz themselves out, that they’ll survive. A lot of my fellow students would’ve had a literal mental breakdown had they been rejected. It’s a great opportunity and can be an immense help.

  • hbsguru


    I do not think HBS has a position
    on TFA alums this year, nor do I think pure TFA alums, e.g. peeps
    applying in their 2nd TFA year, are a big cohort to begin with. For TFA Plus types, e.g. If you
    are post grad year 4, with first two in TFA, well, obviously what matters a
    lot is what gig you get after TFA. That cohort’s outcomes wld be
    interesting, but my guess not revealing of any HBS thinking. Just sort of random.

    A stat I would really like to know is the admit rate of people who mentioned Sheryl Sandberg + Lean In, in their essays.

  • hbsguru

    I do not think HBS has a position on TFA alums this year, nor do I think pure TFA alums, e.g. peeps applying in their 2nd TFA year, are a big cohort to begin with. If you post grad year 4, with first two in TFA, well, obviously what matters a lot is what gig you get after TFA. That cohort’s outcomes wld be interesting, but my guess not revealing of any HBS thinking.

    A stat I would really like to know is the admit rate of people who mentioned Sheryl Sandberg in their essays.

  • hbsguru

    sorry, this is case based, just like HBS, readers want to know your actual final GMAT,, your essay approach and if you got interviewed, otherwise the whole point of the series becomes diluted. It;s called branding, something else you will learn about HBS.

  • Matt

    I would rather go to school with someone posting a harmlessly inappropriate question, than someone that attacks people the way you are (calling them offensive names and the whole 9 yards). It’s not just so unprofessional, but sadly you are far from the only person that acts this way on Poets&Quants. It’s sad to think that these are the kinds of “world changing” people applying to top business schools.

  • Matt

    I agree with your point, but this is extremely rude!!

  • Heart Broken

    i thought Sandy had posted a reply to my profile. Did it get deleted?

  • JC

    Read the fucking title; this is meant for candidates who have already applied to H/S AND were rejected.

    I live in Brookline, if you really intend to hold up your $1 payment Sandy lol.

  • JC

    His instructions are VERY CLEAR bro.

    Hate to be non-pc, but I am a noticing a correlation between the users mindlessly posting profiles/asking for review, and a certain over-represented minority.

  • WTF

    Sandy has been extremely patient, are you a fucking retard? Can’t you even read what this column is about?? Sandy has been analyzing profiles in his other columns on this website. If you can’t even read, don’t bother applying for any Bschool.

  • Anonymous

    Supremely rude – some guru you are.

  • Sumanta

    Dear Sandy,

    Well thanks anyways, I did know that the column is for people who have been dinged, but I believe in the end it is the lessons learned which is most valuable.

    Kind regards,

  • politicus

    I did 6 months at entry level before becoming an associate. I had the credentials for that. As you said it’s unusual so I’d rather not spread my case on the internet.

    A friend told me HBS would ding TFA alums quite heavily this year, wondering if you heard similar rumors.

    Great idea. We will give a call to the admission office and let you know.

  • Terence

    I was just trying my luck with my post when I asked for feedback. Damn. After reading the response to Chaitanya, that seems unlikely.

    However, is it possible to just assume that I got dinged from H/S, and comment? So I know what I are the potential weak spots I can improve on before actually applying. Thanks.

  • jaynu

    “C’mon, Snappy. This is for the H/S folks. Hold your shorts and wait your turn.”

    Truly apologize about hijacking you guys’ thread.

  • hbsguru

    “IF you don’t mean what you write, just remove that sentence then”.

    because I do mean what I say, did you read the title, LET SANDY TELL YOU WHY WERE DINGED????????

    Did you read this,

    “If you’ve been dinged, let him know your stats and he’ll tell you why he thinks you’ve been turned down. Include the fact of whether you were interviewed by the school.”

    sorry, but I am not going to tell fortunes or pick lottery numbers either, for this column, for this week, I am going to tell people why they got dinged from HBS and Stanford, and that is all I am going to do, and that is what the FUCKING title of the story says I am going to do, and THAT IS WHAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF READERS WANT ME TO DO.

  • Terence

    Hi Sandy,

    I know this post is for those who got dinged to get feedback, but I will really appreciate it if you could help me out too.

    I’m a 28 year old Asian- Chinese from Singapore.

    Work Experience: 2 Years in Standard Chartered Transaction Banking (Mainly Trade Finance and Cash Management), started out in their International Graduate program that rotated me across back to front office functions and fast trekked to Associate after year 1. Worked in Singapore and another major financial hub over the 2-3 years.

    Education – GMAT: 670 (planning to retake and aiming for at least 700)

    Undergraduate : First Class Honours in BSc Banking and Finance from University of London International Program

    PostGraduate: Distinction in MSc Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics

    Extra Curricular Activities: During my MSc program, I was a part of the committee of a career society in my school, where I linked prospective employers to graduates. I was also part of their competitive basketball team. Upon graduation, I was actively involved in both my undergrad and postgrad alumni, and often helped to plan and execute events. In Standard Chartered, I am actively involved in their volunteering efforts.

    Goal : Transit into MBB in short term for experience and credentials. Longer term, want to proceed back into financial services and help further develop/manage the business in emerging markets as a regional head.

    I am going to apply for Stanford, HBS, Wharton, INSEAD and London Business School.


  • Matt

    Hi Sandy,
    Dinged at Harvard/Stanford (no interview)
    26 year old male
    GPA – don’t have that as I study in Europe. Grades were low in first 3 years but then picked up and graduated in top 5 of my class
    4 years work experience at P&G, in sales and market strategy. Fastest track career seen in last years in my division + promoted to twice to biggest roles in the organization at my level.
    A project I worked on the side had been picked up by C-level and deployed around the world,

    Goal: To enhance my management skills with finance and marketing knowledge, building on my sales background. Then evolve towards general management in consumer tech or CPG.

    Extra: extensive history as a volunteer, president of a charity organization. Leadership positions in multiple organizations with proven impact

    I think my GPA was the main obstacle. Any other perspective?

  • hbsguru

    Someone tell this lad what I am going to say and then send me your address and I will send you a dollar bill. Honest.

  • hbsguru

    I giggle. As to grammar, well, this is being written at supersonic speed in a telegraphic and often ungrammatical, but I HOPE VERY CLEAR WAY. So shove that one. I am responding at great speed and insight to several issues in what I hope is a valuable way. You can read grammatically correct boilerplate by other consultants, one is in this very issue of PQ, and it is worthless, so which do you prefer? As to spelling, ‘dunno,’ is that a spelling mistake in your book?? As to legit spelling mistakes, meah kulpa.

  • hbsguru

    Not lack of real work experience but might be lack of putting your powerful set of stories together in some B school friendly way. Your post was inchoate and confusing as to timeline and what you did, if app. was like that, Adios. Guys like you get in with a clear road map of the past and future.

  • hbsguru

    Thanks for the inside info, you two, dunno, I deal with lotsa, lotsa, HBS and Stan apps. and the vast majority of them are not connected in any powerful + pre-emptive way, but they do have prestige backgrounds at schools and companies they entered via merit and in many cases, upper middle class values and upbringing. . Yes, some are connected for sure and they are often quite charming and accomplished as well. The idea of the Playboy son of the CEO applying to B school for two years of skiing and sex is really a movie myth, if even that.

  • hbsguru

    Sounds great. after you apply and get rejected, post on this thread and let’s see what we got.

  • hbsguru

    hope I have, a lot depends on the TFA-KKR issue, that typically does not happen, and how it was explained, etc. App. needed to be positioned correctly, as other guy suggested, from the sound of poster, hmmmm, that could be an issue.

  • hbsguru

    You went from TFA to KKR???? As a what????? That is slightly unusual.

    As for Dad, apparently he did not give enuf money, or you don’t know how to

    play that card. If this is not a spoof, and it might be, have Dad get you a phone call w. Dee Leopold, not all that hard to do, and she will tell you what you need to do for next time. Do it. Hire me, I usually don’t solicit on this board, but rich out-of-it kids with high GMATs are a sub-specialty of mine. Not kidding.

  • Chaitanya

    Why bother writing “Just post your stats in the comment section and Sandy will take a shot at it.” when you don’t mean it Sandy? Bloody rude to flat out say “apply – get rejected – etc”.
    IF you don’t mean what you write, just remove that sentence then.

  • MBA applicant

    Hi Sandy,

    23 years old black male.
    GMAT/GPA: 730/3.3
    Undergraduate: Stony Brook University/BS: Computer Science & Applied Mathematics.
    Work Experience: 2 years as a algorithmic trading in equities in Goldman Sachs(Just received a promotion)
    -Co-Founded a non profit currently mentoring high school students in Haiti and reviewing their college application(Similar to teach for america), mentors graduated from top business schools and IV’s including Wharton, Standford and Harvard.
    Top schools: Columbia, Duke, Darthmouth, University of chicago, Upenn, NYU, Kellog, UVA(Darden), Yale school of management
    First generation College Graduate.



    Share ›

    MBA applicant MBA applicant

    • 11 hours ago

    Forgot to mention, first generation college graduate and planning to go for an MBA to transition into private equity in the TMT sector(Tech, Media, Telecomm).

  • hbsguru

    got it,my above remarks still hold.

  • hbsguru

    GMAT? Assuming over 700, this could have gone either way, you have a totally solid profile, Skidmore and Ebay are classy resume lines, computer stuff is valued, alto software developers are not prized and must make a special effort to present themselves as software MANAGERS –saying goal was MBB was right on. Could be execution issue, recs (software types often inexperienced) or just bad luck. Age not helping.

    Your dreams of MBB can cert. come true at Insead, those firms hire there, IF you want to go back to Europe!!!! My guess is, they hire for Euro offices.

    Reapp at age 29 to HBS is pssble but odds grow longer. You would need a real make over and some luck.

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, I get your point, but Bill and Steve did have MANY milestones in their careers before they started hiring MBA’s–and Bill, if I may call him so, is on record about the need for most people to go to college, including, he hopes, his own kids.

  • hbsguru

    Apply, get rejected, read the flippin instructions, post later.

  • hbsguru

    thanks for sharing. no argument with your thinking.

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, spoken like a real Stanford grad, why don’t you get a job in admissions, and sing that song, you’d be in the choir, that is fer sure. What really counts is high GPA and GMAT and prestige background, and the right BS. Sorry. Altho in your Stanfordy way that is what you were almost saying.

  • hbsguru

    Could be that you cannot actually pose a question. What happened? Did you get interviewed? Whatever happened, age 34 is an outlier.

  • hbsguru

    Apply. Get rejected. Post your story in this column. Duh, this is for peeps who HAVE BEEN DINGED.

  • hbsguru

    yes, but more importantly, a snobbery shared by H and S adcoms.

  • hbsguru


  • hbsguru

    great, are you the same poster who said she was dinged R1 at HBS?

  • hbsguru

    versus feeding the baby, no. This is, to H and S, a weird profile, and I don’t mean mat. leave. Age, Masters, and Goals are all non-conforming. With 8 yrs work ex. and your degree, you can raise money or not, start with friends and family and esp. partners at your current firm. If they wont give you $$, well, why should anyone else? Anyway, I dont see need for MBA and fact you are even thinking about it is troublesome. Sorry for the tuff love, but this is really confused as presented.

  • Tina

    Dinged at Harvard.
    32 year old Asian female, GMAT 710, GPA 3.5 at good Aussie school, 8 years IB and PE work exp (BB and Big-4), currently completing Masters in Oil & Gas Engineering while on maternity leave, want to raise an energy PE fund in hometown where oil & gas is big.
    Should I bother applying for R2 at Stanford?

  • Mom

    Hi Sandy,

    – 32 year old Asian female with Australian citizenship
    – GMAT: 710
    – Schooling: 3.5 from a good Australian university (Bachelors in Engineering and Bachelors in Commerce)
    – Work experience: 8 years of investment banking and private equity experience (6 years with global IB, 1 year with BB bank, 1 year with Big-4). Currently completing Masters in Oil & Gas Engineering while being on maternity leave
    – No real EC as have moved around a lot over the last 8 years (Australia, UK, India, US)
    – Goal: To enhance my qualification and networks so that I can start my own PE fund in the Oil & Gas sector based out of my hometown of Perth (the city is a prominent player in the world LNG market, but surprisingly attracts very little venture capital)

    What do you think are my chances to get into R2 of Harvard / Stanford? Would I be wasting my time?

  • JB

    Sandy: Invited at HBS and Pepperdine as non traditional student at age 32…GMAT 730, BS Bus dual major Finance/Marketing 3.5 Gpa from small Midwest liberal arts college. Attended one class and dropped out and used the tuition money to start my own business.

  • MarionL

    “Graduating with a bachelor’s from a less-than-stellar college.” Assuming the college is accredited, Let’s be honest about what that is. Snobbery!

  • jrb-dirt

    One reason perhaps: Not a Minority??

  • PerfectEnglish

    I guess “shoe-in” for “shoo-in” is a give away about what might be lurking in your app essays! Sorry to be so harsh, but where there is one roach…

  • Julie

    probably the poor gpa at a state school..

  • LightBlueChip MBA

    Whoops – McK/BCG/Boston – a simple Wikipedia search would have done it for me..I guess that’s why I am a “LightBlueChip” MBA ! 🙂

  • Puck

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m sorry you think this way. I only meant to refer to the perception of “H/S or bust”. This attempt at satire obviously fell deaf to your ears 🙂

    Have a good life.

  • Rosell

    I attended HBS >10yrs ago and even then was shocked at the level of ‘connectedness’ in the class. Now I look back and see that, agree or disagree, they were training us for how the world works.

  • LightBlueChip MBA

    OK, what’s MBB? Pardon my ignorance

  • DontBeARetard

    Why are there so many retards asking to evaluate their chances of getting into H/S??? Are you a retard?? This column is to analyze why you are dinged!

  • mbawannabe

    I’m curious too, on paper, politicus have one of the most perfect stats… do enlighten us Sandy.

  • BH

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at Harvard and Stanford (no interview at either).

    28 year old white male

    GMAT: 740 (42V, 49Q)

    Education: 3.73 GPA/Columbia University

    Major: Economics / Math (joint major)

    Work Experience:
    1 year financial advisory consulting, 3 years at in bulge bracket international investment bank (corporate finance/IBD), 1 year as associate at +$5bn PE fund with a good track record at HBS and several HBS alumni at the firm (3 partners, 1 VP)

    Goal: Return to PE (my guess is this is where the issue was)



  • Sumanta

    Hi Sandy,

    All your comments make me wonder if my credentials are in the target range of HBS and Stanford

    25 year old male from India but currently based in Germany
    Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering (Mumbai university, India): GPA n.a. but 62% overall
    Masters in Space Sciences (International Space University, France): GPA 74.1/100

    Professional background:
    Junior Investment manager in a leading early stage high tech VC firm in Germany since last 2 and half years
    Promoted to Investment manager from 2014 onwards
    Actively involved in technology transfer from European space agency
    Board member in 3 high tech companies in Germany and Belgium
    Business advisor and Mentor to 3 other startups in France, USA, and Chile
    Goal: Near future – To understand the different ways of conducting successful business in different continents Europe and USA throught the VC perspective
    Long term – Leverage my networks and learning to successfully start my own startup and evenutally my own fund

    Gmat Score expected around 750 (through the tests I give at the moment)

    I am aiming for the admissions in 2015. Do you believe my credentials will be in their target student group?

    Any comments/advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards,

  • Martin Erlic

    Do you people actually do anything important with your laurels or is all of what you show for your hard work at the end of it a feature of runaway selection for conspicuous signalling?

  • Tazz Mania

    Is it because I’m English ?. Grammar school education with 10 GCE ‘O’ levels graded @2 x A 2@A- 3@B+ 3@B……..4 ‘A’ levels @age 18 all A Grades :Politics, Economics, English, Geography Attended University College London to read for a B.Sc in Political Science and Philosophy. Ist Class Honours achieved……..Worked for the British Civil service for 8 years and qualified as a memenber of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) with distinction. Now working in Media Relations for the British Broadcasting Corpoartion as Director of Communications …. I am 34 years old .

  • Bernard M

    I graduated from Stanford, but was also accepted at Harvard. My undergrad degree is from France, but I also had an MS in ag economics from UC-Davis. My GMAT scores put me in the top 2 pct. I had 2 years of work experience as an IT consultant in a French firm. In my experience, it is not so much the depth of the candidates that matters as much as their breadth. Sure applicants must be smart, have good grades, etc, but the schools know that these things are only moderately correlated with business success. What makes a difference are the softer skills that are not conveyed by test scores, GPAs, or letters of recommendation. Things like creative thinking, broad interests, artistic pursuits, willingness to stray from one’s comfort zone, one’s ability to address problems using multiple pathways. It is these softer skills that candidates need to get across in their applications, but it’s not easy.

  • JF

    You might start by working on improving your writing skills. You have a number of punctuation and grammatical errors in this post. I run a company that provides admissions assessment support to top schools in the US. If you submit something written like this, they will “ding” you in less than a minute.

  • LED

    the assumption here is that the quant results will lead to acceptance. I guess the common pattern is that a high % of applicants come from consulting, finance, marketing with a very similar successful numbers and companies. So what really differentiates them?
    I applied to Columbia, I must say with average GMAT, with a successful career in MKT at CPG companies in LATAM. Career advancement, people management and with a single reason to go there. Long story, short: NOT ACCEPTED.
    But life gives you chances and I was interested in Design Thiinking, something I thought a MBA program could give me. Ended up at IIT Institute of Design in Chicago, now working on innovation strategy in Spain, doing what I really love. And what I learned at Design school and I think I wouldn’t have learned at B-school is: Users are people, not markets.
    So not everything has to be a MBA. As long as you really follow our passion. That’s what I learned the hard way (my ego was really affected, I should say) 😉 – good luck all!

  • Harvard Kennedy School is probably a better bet than HBS if you’re serious about getting into politics.

  • Ryan S.

    You sound like a douche, maybe they just have really good ESP and didn’t need to interview you to find that out.

    “God forbid lesser schools”, I can only imagine how you came off in your application.

  • Chaitanya

    Thanks “Content” – would be great if you’d shared your name – I don’t agree this is true for everyone. For example I love doing what I do – and F500 may be ambitious but is a very genuine goal for me.
    I know for a fact that with my commitment and capability the label of “Stanford” would help me a lot; however even without that I will certain accomplish my goals. Through these superb grad schools would help me put this on the fast track and to begin my intended value-creation sooner rather than later.

  • Chaitanya

    Hi Sandy, was hoping you’d help me out with an overview of my profile possibilities as well. I intend to apply in Rouhd #2 for 5 univs: Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Michigan (Ross) & Darden

    1. Average scores (50-60% range – we don’t have GPAs). GMAT 670, only one attempt (9th Dec 2013). Done a correspondence MBA with a 70’s range score.
    2. 8 years work experience – 4 years entrepreneur (IT services consulting) then ~2 years each in tourism and a non-profit (NGO). Currently at the NGO.
    3. Focused on creating an internet goverance platform/foundation to springboard SMEs to international success – meantime I will become the CIO of a Fortune 500 by the year 2020.
    4. My thoughts on the topic have been endorsed by other members of the Internet Society (Pacific Island Chapter), plus I’m a member/admin of the Internet Governance Caucus and member of ICANN’s Capacity Building working group. I’m also a member of the Think Tank “Pasifika Nexus”, Internet Engineering Taskforce, High IQ Society (missed MENSA by 1 percentile – will get there next year!!)
    5. Heavy into computing-related extra curriculars – as a Physics grad I aced computing competitons (beat the IT dept kids), was invited a year after my grad to adjudge the same competition, then during my consultancy stint trained 1st year BSc IT students at a nearby college, trained at a computers training centre (Karrox), helped a restaurant setup technology (CRM, etc),
    6. Hobbies – gardening, games programming, I make wine, soap, etc at home – been doing this for ages now.
    7. Married my college sweetheart (so yes I’m married – not sure if this is against me? 🙂
    (few other things but this is getting rather like an essay so will stop here)
    Look forward to hear what you feel about my chances Sandy!! And thanks!
    Best regards,

  • ag

    Princeton-woodrow wilson school. As I said I’m keeping my option open to public administration as well.

  • Princeton doesn’t have an MBA program. I assume you would be looking at some other course there.

  • Content at a community college

    These schools have every right to include and exclude whomever they wish. What disturbs me is the youth today who put so much pressure on themselves and put in twenty hours a day between school, volunteer programs, work, and other activities that they do not because they enjoy them, but because they want to get into a school such as Harvard, Stanford, or whatever other school students think they have to get into to be successful. Kids literally drive themselves insane, attempting to psychologically bend over backwards and deny their basic psychological, social, and sometimes even physical needs such as sleep or a healthy diet. I’ve always been labeled as a slacker, being the kid in the back that understood the material, just rarely did overly laborious assignments that required extensive hours outside of the classroom. Personally, I don’t much regret it being that I escaped with my sanity and an independent sense of self worth. I am totally content with where I’m at and am still right on schedule to achieve my ambitious goals. I guess the primary reason that I’m writing this is to urge those of you that are still in high school (or even middle school at the rate of pressure that kids are under anymore) to relax and take everything in stride. not to stress yourselves out, and above all, to tell you that you’ll survive if you don’t get accepted into an ivy league school. That there’s more to life than “success.” After all, success is happiness, right? Not money, a degree, or a certain job with a certain fortune 500 company. I suggest that you take a retreat, relax, and find/do something you enjoy. Get away from the grades, books, and “to do” lists. Just live life. Good luck to those of you applying and I do hope that you achieve everything you set yourself out to do, just realize that these schools are NOT the end-all of your “success.”

  • va

    Bill and Steve are not even graduates and they don’t even have any
    prestigious mile stones in their career,but they hired people from Harvard and
    Standford universities into there organizations,this is one stupid article just market their education

  • va

    Bill and steve are not even graduates and they don’t even have any prestigious mile stones but they hired people from Harvard and Standford this is one stupid article just market their education business

  • Andre

    GMAT – 720

  • Andre


    Dinged at Harvard without an interview

    28 y.o Romanian Male

    Education :
    Undergrad in Mathematics and Comp Sci at Skidmore College, with full fellowship granted only to 5 incoming freshmen every year. That is all I could afford at the time coming from Romania.
    Undergrad GPA – 3.9
    Grad School – MS in Comp Science – UT Austin
    Grad School GPA – 3.6
    Worked as a research assnt to fund graduate school.

    Extra Curriculars –
    Nothing Impressive. Taught underprivileged high school kids mathematics and acted as a mentor for them helping them apply to college for ~ 1 year

    Work Experience:
    4 years – software development at Ebay – Bay Area and Now Austin. – Been promoted twice

    Objective Post MBA :
    To transition into management consulting hopefully with MBB

    I’m considering applying to INSEAD next year for their January 2015 start and moving back to Europe .

    Do you think its worth re-applying to Harvard for a 2015 start or is INSEAD a better bet.

  • Vicki

    You’re kidding me, right.

  • Albert C., MEM

    Tucker and Sandy,
    I have a different question here. What is your recommendation for someone like this who has a MBA-like but not an actual MBA degree:

    3.5 BS Chem Eng from Columbia Univ
    3.6 Masters of Engineering Management (MEM) from Duke Univ
    2 years Project Engineer at JM Eagle, world’s largest plastic pipe manufacturer
    Has participated/led over 15 projects while at JM Eagle with the largest at $2M

    Should someone like this be even considering going back to MBA if they already have similar education? Should they go back because people know what an MBA is, particularly one from a good school?

    Thanks for the advice,

  • ag

    Hi Sandy,

    Not dinged. Going to apply next year. International student from India. Male. Considering MBA and MPA/MPA-ID

    GMAT 710

    UG: B.E Electrical Engineering (from top college in India).

    UG GPA: 7.1/10 (I have not converted this is to american standard)

    PG: Masters in Political Science (Distance program, alongside job)

    PG GPA: 4.5/5 (I have not converted this is to american standard)

    XP: 1.5 years in SanDisk (as Design Engineer) then 2 yrs at a Non profit working on urban planning and policy with Government of India (public policy and law advocacy). I would have 3 years xp here by the time I apply.

    HOW I made the transition: Volunteered with number of NGO’s over 4-5 years before taking it up full-time. Realised I had to do this. I have worked on poverty, tuberculosis, renewable energy, livelihood development, urban planning etc.

    Goal: Make a career in Indian politics.

    Do you think there is a good chance for me at Harvard, Princeton or columbia?

  • admissioncritical

    TFA might be seen as a resume builder. Need to know more info on essays. Could be poor career planning or lack of true passion or interest.

  • politicus

    Hi Sandy,
    I need to know why I got dinged at H/S, no interviews

    GMAT 780
    UG: Princeton 3.9GPA
    XP: 2 years at KKR
    Volunteering: 2 years TFA
    My dad is a successful HBS alum, who gave a lot of money to HBS

    What do you think?

  • MelMelxMelody

    Barely. Affirmative action is theory. It helps more when you’re legacy.

  • MelMelxMelody

    What was your major? What school(s) did you go to? What is your background?

  • Gretchen Gottlich

    Hmmm, maybe like Ender the powers that be are looking at how a person accepts rejection?

    It’s a thought….

  • MBA applicant

    Forgot to mention, first generation college graduate and planning to go for an MBA to transition into private equity in the TMT sector(Tech, Media, Telecomm).

  • MBA applicant

    Hi Sandy,

    23 years old black male.
    GMAT/GPA: 730/3.3
    Undergraduate: Stony Brook University/BS: Computer Science & Applied Mathematics.
    Work Experience: 2 years as a algorithmic trading in equities in Goldman Sachs(Just received a promotion)
    -Co-Founded a non profit currently mentoring high school students in Haiti and reviewing their college application(Similar to teach for america), mentors graduated from top business schools and IV’s including Wharton, Standford and Harvard.
    Top schools: Columbia, Duke, Darthmouth, University of chicago, Upenn, NYU, Kellog, UVA(Darden), Yale school of management

  • Jon

    I think it is safe to say that a very high number of people accepted to these schools also have incredible connections. I have about 12 friends that are currently at HBS or GSB. 8 of 12 of their dads are C-Suite execs at fortune 500 firms, or politicians. Success bread success, or success open doors?

  • Ruchika Gupta

    There are soo many famous personalities in the world who have made a difference in the world economics and development. All of them are not HBS alum. So, one still has a chance!!

  • Sam

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at Harvard and Stanford, (neither interview)
    25 year old male
    GMAT: 780
    School: Columbia University 3.7 GPA, MS from Vanderbilt University 3.8 GPA
    Major: Mechanical Engineering
    Work Experience:
    1.5 years work as a Graduate student in Vanderbilt, doing research and publishing 2 papers in the field of artificial intelligence/robotics
    1.5 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mexico, started a local NGO to make prosthesis using 3d printed parts, Working with national university to reform computer science education at national level, worked with rural mountain community to start 3 small businesses.

    Also spent last 2 years working part time with fellow columbia alumni as director of an education non-profit, managing their education content/model and raising over $100k in seed funding.

    Goal: Create a successful social venture out of the MBA, using one of two ideas I’m currently developing

    I’m guessing it might be due to lack of real ‘work’ experience?

  • Mic

    So far Sandy and Frank both have gross misspellings and grammatical errors on their responses as well as on the article. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the rejection. By he way, I went to University of Houston, and still managed to put that together.

  • Betsy Wilton

    Why because if you read the statistics, if you are not able to pay full tuition OR your employer is footing the bill, it isn’t about grades and scores. It is about fees. Why didn’t you mention those stats in your post? Seriously? Do you want me to send you that…pretty easy to find….kind of surprised it isn’t even mentioned as the major factor? Back into it the other way…ask the schools how many of their students are asking/needing financial aid and then how many are NOT….? I bet the “numbers” look very different when you add that into the mix.

  • jaynu

    Hello, Sandy. Thanks for keeping up with our requests! Here are my stats:

    27 Asian-American Male
    710 GMAT
    2.64 GPA, University of Texas at Austin
    – No excuse. I spent all 4 years building a fraternity and served on National Council afterward to continue my work. It was something I truly cared about and still work on today.

    2 years at a small Equities Trading firm. 3 years at Apple managing a Sales Team of 13-18 after 2 promotions here. Strong letters of recommendation by a former boss and a Senior Director.
    2 years President of an Alumni Association at UT. 1 year National President of Fraternity.

    Dinged: Stern 2nd Round
    Applying this year: McCombs Part-Time. Fuqua Full-time

    Curious… with a profile similar to mine, what would be a believable post-MBA career goal? Thanks again for evaluating my profile.

  • hbsguru

    if you get dinged, write back. This is the DING report.

  • hbsguru

    well, the new CEO has an MBA fr. Stanford.

    and they used to have an outreach program to auto execs.

    Stanford Daily | GSB alumna named first female CEO of General Motors stanforddaily.com/2013/12/11/gsb… via @Stanford Daily

  • DeniedWithoutInterviews

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for taking the time to review our profiles!

    Denied at Harvard (no interview), denied at Stanford (no interview). Also denied without interview at Sloan and Wharton.

    25 year old white male
    GMAT: 730, single attempt
    Schooling: 3.69 GPA/University of Pittsburgh
    Major: Computer Engineering

    – A little over 3 years at Deloitte Consulting at time of application, delivering state government technology projects.
    – Sponsored full tuition for my MBA
    – Have significant work experience in both deeply technical roles as well as “business analyst” type roles with a lot of client interaction. I had plenty of small-team leadership experiences to discuss.
    – Huge range of experiences, getting to do an unusually-wide variety of work on my projects
    – I had what I believed to be strong recommendations from co-workers and managers

    – I focused on discussing a side business (technology product) that I am developing in my spare time. This had taken up the better part of a year of free time outside of work at the time of application

    – Supplement project delivery and product development skills with business fundamentals
    – Return to consulting after graduation and transition from state government client service to technology clients
    – Longer goal of moving on to entrepreneurship after consulting (a few years after graduation), but planned to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities at both schools.

    – I used my Harvard essay to discuss my passion for learning, and specific instances where it has helped in my career. I transitioned into why it leads me to pursue entrepreneurship, and what I want to get out of Harvard
    – Stanford essays expanded on the points I made in the Harvard essay, with what I felt was a much stronger case for why specifically Stanford would be a good fit.

    – My story of Consulting to MBA to Consulting to Entrepreneurship may have seemed confusing?
    – Not blockbuster stats, or a really standout undergraduate school
    – Since my side business had not launched, it may have sounded fishy or unrealistic? Or maybe my goal of going into entrepreneurship seemed unrealistic in general?
    – I did not have (or try to pretend I had) significant community service work

    Thanks in advance!

  • Taylor

    I noticed that article about the new CEO of GM, pretty neat stuff. Also it seems like a rare thing to have a CEO that has been a company “lifer”. On another note are there any MBA programs that you know of that have close ties to the automotive industry from a recruiting standpoint?

  • Allen

    Hi Sandy
    Ding at both (no interview)
    25 yo white male
    730 GMAT
    3.7 GPA (ACC school) Computer Engineering
    Deloitte Consulting

    Story: Entrepreneurship (started small web business, looking to grow to large ventures)

    Thanks for doing this.

  • Vin

    HI Sandy,

    I’m out of college for two years and am planning to apply to stanford/harvard in a year or two. I would like to prep myself well before I’m applying.
    general background:
    education: graduated from UC Berkeley with 3.6 GPA Economics major
    work experience: working a top consulting firm for 2 years out of college
    GRE score (old): 800/800 Quantitative and 640/800 Verbal (92 percentile)
    I have a few questions to ask –

    1) I took GRE (the old one) right after graduation, I heard most schools do accept GRE scores now. But is it true? Especially Harvard or Stanford?
    2) if I should take GMAT, how much weights do schools put on integrated reasoning and writing scores?
    3) In general, how many years of work experience for harvard or stanford? Is 2-3 year too short?
    4) Should I switch to another job before applying? I heard it’s better to have worked at two different jobs before applying.
    5) I’m US and Australian citizen, does it make a difference at all applying using either citizenship?
    6) I haven’t involved in any volunteers after college. I spend most of my time off work taking coursera classes or learning programming myself as I’m interested in starting a start-up/ joining tech companies. I’m worried I might not be able to write a sounded personal statement.

    SInce I still have one or two years before I’m applying. Any recommendations for me?

    Thanks a lot in advance

  • William

    No interview for HBS or GSB

    Gmat 730/5.5/8
    Top 10 liberal arts school, 3.4 GPA (probably it… GPA was better after freshman year)
    Varsity Athlete, national merit scholar, some other partial scholarship

    Google 4 years, 2 in sales, 2 in sales management internationally (asia)

    Previous consultaint for 9 months, laid off in GFC (essay topic)

    Extras: Worked with two socially responsible tech startups strong recomendation from one for GSB, play sports, travel
    Goal, start my own socially responsible for-profit company

    27 Male, declined to state race

    Seems to me there’s plenty of people with great backgrounds. Crazy to have my GPA follow me 6 years after graduating. I was hoping international work would stand out.

    Thanks for taking a look!

  • ross009

    Hey Sandy,

    dinged at H with no interview.

    26 year old male
    GMAT: 750
    School: 2.9 in Econ at a state school (created an alternative transcript…took 4 classes and got A’s)
    Work Exp:
    4 years at an international not for profit that provides aid to kids in Africa. Was promoted twice, youngest guy in organization.
    leadership position at another not for profit/strong involvement in undergrad.

    Is the gpa just too low?

  • romi

    What is importance of having a backround of Harvard being sucessful in Business?

  • Big Ten Engineer

    Hi Sandy,

    Rejected from HBS and GSB, no interview
    26 year old male
    GMAT: 740
    Education: 3.94 GPA Chemical Engineering, Big Ten school
    Work: 2 years, Shell/ExxonMobil/Chevron, Engineer in technology development
    Recs: Two likely good. One probably mediocre.
    Activities: in college, board member in Habitat for Humanity, leader of international service trip.
    Currently, board member in local alumni chapter in major city.
    Goal: make the jump to entrepreneurship. (probably left some on the table here. Had a tough time connecting the dots from why I’m at a huge oil company, and why I want to go into entrepreneurship.)

    When asking for recommendations, how important is the supervisor from the current company? I asked mine, and he did write one, but he told me he didn’t see why anyone would go to get an MBA. It didn’t get me much confidence.

  • Shail

    Hi Sandy,
    Reject from Harvard, Stanford
    24 year old Indian
    GMAT: 760
    Schooling: B.E in Information Technology from one of the Top 10 universities in India (GPA ~ 3.6)
    MS in Comp Science from one of the Top 5 Engineering schools in USA (GPA 3.95)
    Work Experience:
    2 years as a Software Engineer with eBay
    Good Letters of Recommendations from some well known Profs in Comp Science.
    Goal: To combine my technical skills with the managerial/financial skills I would be acquiring to become an effective leader in the tech sector.

  • Crosby_FTW

    Hi Sandy,
    24 yrs old
    4.0 GPA in Business/Marketing from SEC school (not Vandy)
    GMAT: 740 (quant 51)
    Work experience: Golf professional for the past 2 years
    Post-MBA career goal: Private wealth mgmt
    White male
    Target schools: HBS, Stanford GSB

    What are my chances for R2?

  • Corp

    which one below? these are organized in no specific order I’ve ever heard of…what’s the guys name you responded to

  • Kane

    It helps that you’re black too.

  • Alan

    Hi Sandy,

    Actually, I haven’t applied, but I’ve been considering it. I still need to take the GMAT, but some of my stats are:

    28 year old male; Hispanic/Caucasian
    Undergrad: B.S. Accountancy and B.S in Computer Information Systems at Arizona State University 3.71 GPA from Barrett, the Honors College at ASU.
    Masters: M.S. Accountancy at Arizona State University 3.94 GPA
    Certifications/Accomplishments: Certified Public Accountant; Certified Internal Auditor; Member of American Mensa (99.14 percentile)
    Experience: Currently 2.5 years at Deloitte & Touche, LLP in Complex Financial Accounting Advisory as a Senior Consultant

    I realize I haven’t taken the GMAT yet as I’m still mulling it over, but combined with a (hopefully) good GMAT score, does my candidate profile fit someone who might possibly get accepted to HBS or Stanford? I’m wondering if I should take a shot. Or will the lack of prestige from where I received my undergrad/grad degrees pretty much squash any chance of being accepted? Thanks, Sandy.


  • Guest


  • RR

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for helping the community out. Would love your feedback. Dinged from Stanford without interview.

    25 year old Asian-American male
    GMAT: 760
    GPA: 3.9+
    School: Top state school (think UVA)
    Work: First employee at an angel-funded startup while in college. Then founded a tech company at 22 years old, raised several million in capital from notable investors, sold to major software company (think LinkedIn, Twitter)
    Leadership: Student government officer, started several organizations, won highest academic / leadership awards in college; leadership in startup community and entrepreneurial organizations post-graduation
    Essay: Wrote about how taking risks was most important to me because it helped me grow and lead my startup with success
    Goal: Network in a highly-entrepreneurial ecosystem school-wide and develop broader business and leadership skills so that I can scale my next startup more effectively
    Recs: One investor, one former supervisor, one co-founder

    Thanks for taking the time, Sandy!

  • AS

    Hey Frank, I’ve got a 2.4 GPA and I was admitted by Columbia and Wharton, so you won’t have a problem!

  • ColoMBA

    Hi, I am from Colombia/Ecuador.
    I got rejected from Stanford, no interview.
    Stats: 3.4 GPA from engineering in top nation school / 690 GMAT (intense family story to work at college)
    Work: 3 yrs Samsung / 3 yrs Microsoft (youngest in similar roles for Latin america)
    28 yrs
    Goal. plan to transition into new markets working in technology and consumer. Return to my country directing a tech company and applied to increase nation education levels.
    Rec letters: supervisor and a cliente who is a nation account owner.
    Extra. part time teacher for undergrads, supporting child organization founder.
    High salary: ~140k USD (I am easy employable w/ or w/o MBA)

  • hbsguru

    I said exact same thing about DC.

  • Bob

    OK. I guess I didn’t realize there was such a difference between PWC and Deloitte. At my college, they were considered equal. I actually turned down deloitte consulting.

  • hbsguru

    OK, now I am really confused. 🙂

  • Bob

    ty u responded below. I cant delete this post

  • hbsguru

    SO-SO stats, no-name first job,
    leading to PWC,which is not a feeder firm in general to H and S (it is
    for outliers, minorities,etc. ) odd career and year off + unclear goal
    and you did not get interviewed? You are in consultant cohort and many,
    many high performers there, so this profile did not add up.

  • hbsguru

    SO-SO stats, no-name first job, leading to PWC,which is not a feeder firm in general to H and S (it is for outliers, minorities,etc. ) odd career and year off + unclear goal and you did not get interviewed? You are in consultant cohort and many, many high performers there, so this profile did not add up.

  • Bob

    Dinged at H, no interview

    3.6 finance gpa big state school, 700 GMAT (high Q low V)

    1 year as a consultant at a small firm focusing on financial institutions
    2 years as a consultant at a pwc consulting, private side for financial institutions

    then traveled for a year to the middle east where I studied arabic at a local school
    come back and applied.
    goal: project finance overseas (ideally middle east)

  • Frank

    Thanks alot Sandy, one question I did have is how closely these adcoms look at the transcript. I did Withdraw two classes and even failed another one. That type of disastrous trasncript makes me wonder whether I am competitive at any top 10 school.

  • GuestB

    also white male.

  • hbsguru

    SAME ANSWER sorta as one below:

    Some of this might turn on what schools think of current job and how
    your company stacks up with other IM companies in their mind, has it placed peeps into HBS, etc. Does it hire HBS grads and recruit on campus. .
    There are many accomplished/ high stats/, etc. guys like you, at some
    point it becomes very, very subtle or just a small lottery. Recs and
    positioning and not screwing up the inter. can be deal breakers as well,
    but sure, on the face of things, this looks like a lot of admits and a lot of dings. GPA and first job being slightly off vs. IB, etc. could have made things easy for them, no reason to take you and that –and just other, better apps as reasons to ding.

  • hbsguru

    Dunno, this sounds like a coin toss, did you get interviewed?

    Some of this might turn on what schools think of current job and how your company stacks up with other Funds in their mind, despite its history of placing people into HBS (how many??). Recruiting alums ? DO you mean, hire on campus or hire recent grads? That is what counts most. There’s a lot of accomplished, high stats, etc. guys like you, at some point it becomes very, very subtle or just a small lottery. Recs and positioning and not screwing up the inter. can be deal breakers as well, but sure, on the face of things, this looks like a lot of admits.

  • hbsguru

    haha, that jargon is amazingly stupid. That kind of Po-Mo nonsense was once the standard in The Academy. This was before the recent Crisis in the Humanities, when most folks and parents and kids alike, realized it was all stupid and led no place, and would not get you are job or even a good critical explanation of why you don;t have a job–which was worse. The actual point, of course, is quite simple. The world of applying is not an ideal speech community because, duh, it is tainted by the fact the adcoms are powerful and the applicants are not. The world on this blog is an ideal community, for the most part, because we are all equal and not trying to get something.

  • free advice

    I’m not a professional but here’s my $0.02: you don’t need an MBA. Most people who want to go to Stanford to so because after 2 years and 200 stacks they want to END UP like you are now (company founder w/ successful acquisition? 30 under 30 in tech? see the point?). Maybe in the long run you are better off not going to Stanford — sounds like there is nothing you would have learned there that you have’t already figured out for yourself.

  • Guest

    Hi Sandy – I was able to understand once you clarified the ‘Po-Mo’ jargon you first posted. I thought understanding that was some sort of proxy for gauging ones chances at H or S. I was DINGED by HBS myself, so thanks for clarifying and for taking the time to respond.

  • hbsguru

    Not sure what happened. 790 GMAT is an eye-catcher and Abbot Labs is something, well, I have heard of. Med devices is what your major was, and that is about as good a major as exits in God’s man-made world, you should have done a convincing job of saying you wanted to be innovative, value-adding, poor-peeps serving leader THREE. Saying you wanted to be CEO of Abbot Labs showed a, ahem, lack of imagination and in context was generic. Not sure if that actually damaged you, it depends on how you did it, If essay sounded over generalized, and recs were not curated properly (some of those med device lab guys are not experienced writers) and then if we start focusing on the low GPA and Rutgers!–not a fav. HBS school, not prole enuf, not Springsteen enuf, mostly just affluent-y/upper blue collar NJ types, –hey who likes that (save the hate mail, I am similar deal fr. Long Island)–well, drop by drop all that small stuff can add up, esp. if the small stuff begins to form a negative picture. At that point, the 790 actually starts working against you, they begin to suspect Brainiac w. limited social skills. just speculating, but…………….all that said, this is me mouthing off post-ding. If I came across this cold, I would have said odds were 40-50 percent, given 790/Abbott etc. I would have predicted an interview.

  • Corp

    Hi Thanks for doing this. Not being admitted isn’t too much of a shocker for anyone, but no interview surprised. 780 3.5 Finance/econ @ private LAC not well known
    2 years WE @ F100 Corporate Finance (basically other side of the table from IB)1 year WE @ Inv Mgmt co, 12+ figures of AUM, nothing too exciting
    Higher-ups for LORs; not the problemExtras mediocre – volunteer thru work now, 2 years heavy volunteering in college; currently do impact work but informal & not catchy AgeRaceGender all minor drawbacks; standard age for 3 years of WE
    Thank you!

  • hbsguru

    “As a side note, I’ve noticed GSB has an awful track record for women in tech matriculating.”

    Oh Boy, light my fire!!!!!!!!!!! If there is any chance at all of piling on and accusing Stanford B school of hypocrisy, well, I am ready, willing, and have done so many times in the past.

    Before we do that, however, could you clarify work history -do you have 10 yrs work ex? How big was your company, what did it do? If you send me a PDF of your entire app. I can look it over (at supersonic speed) and use that as a basis of a more full, but still generic reply. hbsguru@gmail.com If not, dont think GPA was the issue, it might have been, as you suggest, unknown companies, OR YOUR FAILURE to explain them well enuf.

  • Heart Broken

    Age: 30 at matriculation

    GMAT: 690 (Q:70%, V: 84%)

    Canadian Citizenship, but East Indian birth

    Dinged at HBS w/o interview.

    Education Background:
    Mechanical Engineering w Welding Specialization from University of Waterloo
    (think MIT of Canada); 75/100 GPA (top 10% of my class; not sure what this
    translates into 4.0 scale)

    Work background: 5.5 years of
    operational background in Energy (Canadian Oilsands). I have had 5 different
    roles since graduation and seen / done everything within my company. I work for
    Enbridge (largest pipeline operator in North America).

    Extracurricular: started a
    non-profit to assist immigrant youths in my city ( I related this start-up to
    my own troubling experience growing up); started another non-profit in a
    developing nation to help streamline how people pay their energy bills.

    Essay: I opted for the essay
    and focused on how and why i joined the Canadian Energy Industry and why it
    means so much to me, highlighted my accomplishment (only highlighted one with
    detail), and my desire to transition from industry to consulting side of Energy
    and focus on operational efficiency.

    Recommendations: Used
    my current and former supervisors for recommendation. They were armed with a
    lot of examples to illustrate my maturity, decision making ability, ambition,
    and emotional quotien

  • Heart Broken

    Thanks for doing this Sandy. I am sure this will reduce anxiety for some of us. I will highly appreciate you responding to my post.

    Age: 30 at matriculation
    GMAT: 690 (Q:70%, V: 84%)
    Canadian Citizenship, but East Indian birth

    Dinged at HBS w/o interview.

    Education Background: Mechanical Engineering w Welding Specialization from University of Waterloo (think MIT of Canada); 75/100 GPA (top 10% of my class; not sure what this translates into 4.0 scale)

    Work background: 5.5 years of operational background in Energy (Canadian Oilsands). I have had 5 different roles since graduation and seen / done everything within my company. I work for Enbridge (largest pipeline operator in North America).

    Extracurricular: started a non-profit to assist immigrant youths in my city ( I related this start-up to my own troubling experience growing up); started another non-profit in a developing nation to help streamline how people pay their energy bills.

    Essay: I opted for the essay and focused on how and why i joined the Canadian Energy Industry and why it means so much to me, highlighted my accomplishment (only highlighted one with detail), and my desire to transition from industry to consulting side of Energy and focus on operational efficiency.

    Recommendations: Used my current and former supervisors for recommendation. They were armed with a lot of examples to illustrate my maturity, decision making ability, ambition, and emotional quotient.

  • hbsguru

    OK went to Google–dig this, it actually explains in Po-Mo jargon why DINGED is actually good:

    As well, Habermas argues that it is the INTERPERSONAL SITUATION in which we converse that provides the necessary context for informed opinion.
    In formulating the concept of an IDEAL SPEECH SITUATION, Habermas
    stresses the need for adequate opportunity for people to speak,
    adequate opportunity to challenge the rules or the topic of discussion,
    adequate opportunity to acquire the skills of discourse (including those of the media), and
    adequate opportunity to be free of violence and other forms of coercion.

    These observations should remind us that THE REPRESENTATIONS OF SOCIAL REALITY we receive depend upon organised, international effort for their production and dissemination.

    HUH, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN. It means the community of people who use the word DING is attempting to set up some IDEAL SPEECH situation, and free themselves from a world where their only options would be to say
    I was rejected or declined. That is adcom talk, but adcoms can never use ding, and we can. Get it???

  • Jon

    Wow, that’s a really strong profile. Maybe too little WE?

  • MBAHopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at Stanford (no interview, reapplicant)
    27 Female
    GMAT: 760
    Undergrad: 3.5, “Baby Ivy” school (top 20, east coast private)
    Major: Biology/English
    Work Experience: 5 years across 2 startups (with funding and major press) in head of marketing and operations roles. 5 years international work experience. Founder of my own company which was successfully acquired. Led teams of up to 15, my direct reports have gone on to be company managers. Great recs.
    Awards: 30 under 30 in tech for international magazine, named awards from two industry leading corporations
    Extracurriculars: youth volunteer work, programs engaging women in science and tech.
    Goal: To run a startup accelerator with a focus on accelerating companies internationally.

    Honestly I’m at a loss. Even students and faculty there thought I’d be a shoe-in? My guess would be GPA and unknown companies? As a side note, I’ve noticed GSB has an awful track record for women in tech matriculating.

  • Jon

    Congratulations on your acceptance to HBS!

  • Jon

    I hope Sandy answers this, but I think it goes beyond your GPA. IT appears that you lack the leadership and prestige in your work experience that the top M7’s look for. It is obvious you are very smart, but that doesn’t equate to a future business leader. Business schools are very risk adverse and know that those from top-tier tech, consulting, and investment banking firms produce successful students and alumni.

    Outside of H/S/W, I think you have a decent shot at top 10 schools, but you need to really craft your story well. Also, have you looked into establishing an alternative transcript to compensate for your lower GPA?

  • hbsguru

    It is a vernacular term that I did not invent but cert. helped popularize over the past 20 years and it is a way for rejected applicants to make light of the fact they were rejected in exactly this way: You don’t own me adcoms, therefore while YOU use fancy words like denied or rejected I will come up with my own word, DINGED, a term that I and other applicants can use, BUT YOU CANNOT. And this shows that I still have control, and make light of your rejection, and that I will move on (well, I may also re-apply and perchance get ding-donged).

    I am no linguist but I am sure there is an actual term for that type of word formation. Oppressed groups (OK, H and S dingbats are not slaves but still oppressed in their way, hey, they do not call applying to a school A SUBMISSION for nothing) often have private vocabularies, sometimes for self-defense, so master cannot understand, sometimes for reasons of pride, and oddly, DINGED is a badge of honor in its way.


  • hbsguru

    3.67 and 760 is not silver, it is very thick gold plate. I assume Chicago/Cornell/Duke is genre of your college, and you did not attend all three. 🙂

    Working for outfit like Vanguard and other big Fund Families, is, as you suggest, silver and not gold, just based on the selectivity of getting that job, I got little idea what peeps do there, but then again, I don’t know what kids really do at GS either, and how different it is. NOR DO THE ADCOMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I do know that kids in IB make more $$ and prob. spend more time at work (versus working harder!). And that in general, adcoms like them more –for no other reason than those jobs are hard to get, and Goldman puts more time into hiring kids out of college than HBS can put in screening 9500 applicants. And after the smoke clears, Goldman and HBS kinda looking for ~ things.

    Big funds are feeders to H and S for outliers–, minorities, hicks (first gen college, poverty narrative), Internationals, where those jobs are way more selective, e.g. Fidelity Kiev office (if that exists) etc. Plus the fact that your career was inside baseball (“Helped design and manage rollout of several new investment research capabilities”) did not help. Jobs which make money for the firm are often more highly valued by both adcoms and the firm itself.
    R2 Stanford will be a Hail Mary for reasons noted. You don’t have the extras or personal narrative to break out of the BIG Fund planet gravity force field. All that said, if you had gotten into HBS, I would not have been floored either–but it prob. would have taken some thread-the-needle execution with a story about Funds and how they can help poor people in the future, not to mention, do good as direct investors. Does Fidelity still own a Black Car service, or has that been Uber-ed to death? OK, a more salt of the earth set of investments. Saying you want to be a consultant is usually good advice, but prob. not in this case. YOU shudda said innovative Fund exec, and ran w. that, but to be honest, you may have been dead meat at the starting line for H/S–but ONLY those two.

  • Guest

    Why is ‘dinged’ part of the vernacular on this site and in the community of b-school hopefuls? A rejection is a rejection, no?

  • hbsguru

    Thanks feel free to post a link for anyone interested.

  • hbsguru

    Thanks. I think this list of talented folks who got dinged is useful for the reasons you state–both to prove that there is life after being dinged and also to show in some granularity what H and S are looking for. No article full of general blah blah (believe me, I have written them) could make things more clear than these profiles.

  • hbsguru

    see last commnet –and follow suit!

  • hbsguru

    Hey buddy, this entire column is for folks rejected fr. HBS and Stan, you can post this in our normal My Chances column, which I suggest you do.

  • Sud

    Hi Sandy,
    I am looking forward to applying to top 5 MBA schools in the US for the Class of 2015.

    School: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), India (GPA – 3.3)
    GMAT: 760
    Extra Currics: 2 time student representative of the institute. Founded the Business Club for the school and ran it successfully.

    Work Ex: 2 years + work ex at Seattle based start-up in their Indian office. Joined as Software Developer and got promoted as the youngest Product Manager in the company.
    Internships at India’s largest FMCG firm and a notable educational start-up.

    Do you think I have any chance ??

  • jim

    Hi Sandy,

    I have built a successful real estate tech start up company, raised capital, and on my way to a successful exit. I am 22.

    I do not have stellar grades or come from an ivy league school.

    I have been published multiple times by several major publications and have been accepted into several distinguished accelerator programs.

    I have built several successful mobile apps and built a 2nd successful business in the drone space.

    I have thought about applying to HBS and Stanford next year with pretty much the sole purpose of networking and learning to manage a business better.

    How does Stanford and Harvard look at my type of application?



  • Sage

    Hi Sandy,
    Great job and idea to help people feel human again. They are so much more than accomplished, albeit rejected, individuals with their whole lives in front of them. It’s so important. I wish the best in all you do. Health and happiness to you and your family.

  • Tucker Lee

    HI Sandy,

    Any chance some of these rejected applicants might be interested in a different b-school experience? These are fantastic candidates and these schools are losing the opportunity of having them as part of their programs. I recruit for IE Business School in Spain, and I would be delighted to pitch a different world to them.

    Tucker Lee

  • Puck

    Hi Sandy, thanks for doing this!

    Dinged at HBS – no interview
    Interviewed at (God forbid) “lesser” schools including Sloan, Booth

    24 yr old Asian American male

    GMAT 760

    BA Economics, GPA 3.67 at Chicago/Cornell/Duke
    –graduated 1 year early while doing odd jobs 20+ hours a week, so GPA suffered a bit.

    Work: 3 years as business analyst (business development) at buy side firm (think Vanguard), promoted twice in last 2 years. Helped design and manage rollout of several new investment research capabilities.

    Story: Want to influence at broader level, not just working with internal projects. Desire to enter consulting. Wrote essay on lessons learned and growth leading 20+ person project teams.

    Teach at weekend school to high school students
    Co-chair of Asian employee resource group at work

    I suspect my ho-hum company & job title prestige, combined with lack of exciting leadership/diversity story may have had a part in this. Your phrase on silver vs. gold rings quite poignantly… Still, I am considering Stanford R2 as a Hail Mary attempt, but do you think it’s even worth a shot?

  • hbsguru

    Just an aside here about autos and HBS, The woman who is now first CEO of GM went to Kettering College, GM’s internal college for future managers (as all stories noted, she is GM super lifer and her dad worked their too). Kettering. which I had never heard of til a couple of years ago, , came up as huge surprise as a feeder school to HBS 2+2 program (it still is). That is the purest case for having an auto-centric story and HBS seems to like it. Of course, skimming the cream off a place like Kettering which gets the non-Ivy crowd fr. the Mid-West would be an HBS natural move — you clean up the rubes and if you get any real good ones, send em over and we’ll teach ’em ballroom dancing. It’s a Norman Rockwell dynamic and, well, I’m a big Rockwell fan.

  • HBSandGSBApplicant

    Hi Sandy,

    Dinged at HBS and GSB – any insight?

    -760 Gmat (q 50, v 46)
    -3.95 GPA (mid-tier university)
    -4 years work experience (2 years IB at top international shop –> 2 years at an investment fund) no promotion yet at the fund (i.e. potentially junior sounding title)
    -My fund has placed people into HBS before and actively recruits HBS alumni
    -Letter of recommendation from HBS alum
    -Excellent extracurriculars and volunteer experience in local and global community activities (involvement in leadership program for top non-profit organization)
    -Strong involvement in undergrad (president of various clubs and involved in school community and sports)
    -White male (26 years old)
    -Involvement in sports and personally involved with a start up company recently sold to a public company
    – Career focus was to switch into a technology industry related role

  • FMP


  • SEA Techguy

    Hi Sandy,
    Dinged at both HBS and Stanford (no interview at both).
    26 years old – South East Asian Male
    GPA: 6.8/10 (already explained to them the reason, still in top 25%) from national top university.
    GMAT 710 (Q50,V37)
    Major: Int’l Business
    Work exp: 2.5 years as a venture capitalist in internet industry at a Asia leading VC firm, promoted twice, solid performance in getting and exiting deals, mentoring new members, and expanding the business to a new country. Before the VC job, worked for a year as a financial officer for an oversea bank and a commodity firm without any significant achievement.

    Extras: President of English club at university; founded a social activity team at a portfolio firm; volunteer tutor at a children protection center.
    Goal: want to invest into life science startups (now only internet ones) and innovative teams (now only teams with proven business models)

    I do not hope much at HBS but do a little for Stanford. Stanford, however, does not show enough interest in my VC background in emerging countries. Will appreciate if you can give any insight for my dings.

    A P&Q User

  • GuestB

    Dinged at H, no interview

    3.6 finance gpa big state school, 700 GMAT (high Q low V)

    1 year as a consultant at a small firm focusing on financial institutions
    2 years as a consultant at a pwc consulting, private side for financial institutions

    then traveled for a year to the middle east where I studied arabic
    come back and applied.
    goal: project finance overseas (ideally middle east)

  • Taylor

    Thank you for the follow up. These are definitely some things to keep in mind as I try again with these and other schools next year.

  • all good

    Hi Sandy, dinged at GSB (no interview), FC at HBS

    760 GMAT / 3.8 GPA in econ from T20 US college

    3 years top BB IBD (JPM/MS/GS), will have worked in PE for 2 years by next fall


    -In college: varsity sport (4 yrs), led a major student group

    -Post college: lead alumni chapter, organized pro bono career mentoring organization

    Recs: believe they were all strong/supportive

    Story: stay in PE

  • hbsguru

    sorry, I had it backwards, makes ding slightly more mysterious,but not a real head scratcher, nor btw, would be the fact if you got in, either. Your story was in range but not compelling — if you could have presented as a pure lean auto manufacturing guy (ideally w. undergrad degree in something related) and shown a pure commitment to that by stressing your plant work, that could have made a difference. Dunno what you said, or how much you primped the facts to that line, but that was your best situation. That became harder to do w. first job, b.c. you sorta have to say, “and then I went to work for the auto company, and WOW, discovered I loved lean manufacturing and getting my hannds dirty.’

  • Taylor

    I am just checking. Did you evaluate this with the Lean Manu job as the first job or the second job? Just to be clear it is my current job and the job at the ad agency was my first job.

  • hbsguru

    this could have gone either way, GPA’s at BYU are often 3.9+ and 710 GMAT is fine at HBS and a small eyebrow raise at Stan. I am assuming you are white male.

    Man, if you had applied in year 3 of the auto Lean Manu, Process Improv. job, and used that as a platform for your story, I really think that could have tilted this, w. “lean” execution on the app side. The odd jobs switch, no matter how you paper it over, just gave them an excuse to stop rooting for you, and the rest (GPA/GMAT/BYU etc. ) was all silver and not gold. One way to look at this is just seeing if you break out of the LDS/BYU etc. cohort–an impressive bunch to begin with, only x percent of whom get in (not sure what x is, but dont think it is above 50 ). You could be in the middle of that pack and hence close but no blue ribbon.

  • Frank

    Hi Sandy,
    Dinged at Harvard (no interview).
    26 year old male
    GMAT: 790
    Schooling: 3.15 GPA/Rutgers University (New Brunswick)
    Major: Biomedical Engineering
    Work Experience:
    4 Years at Abbott Labs – worked in manufacturing dept. as an engineer, involved in development/launch of new medical device, promoted twice, received recognition from Site Leadership Team.
    Goal: To combine technical engineering skills gained over the last 4 years at Abbott with financial education and become a top executive at Abbott Labs.
    I suspect the low GPA? Is there any hope for me to get into a top 5 school with that ugly thing?
    Also, I’ve read In your columns that business schools LOVE biopharma types? Does the stardust also apply to the medical device industry? I’m wondering if transitioning to a biopharma would help my chances at all.

  • hbsguru



  • Ambitious Namibian

    Just submitted my application to the schools below what are my odds? thanks
    GRE 145V 145Q
    WE: currently 3 years at McKinsey & Company previously 2 years at Deloitte Consulting in Strategy both in North West Africa

    Graduated in the Top 35% from the Top University in South Africa
    Extracurricullar: Co-founder of a Micro-finance Bank in Egypt that has 23 women under it it was supported by the Minister of small businesses who offered to write a recommendation letter
    Awarded one of the 10 most Innovative Ideas capable of changing the world by Time Magazine and Hult Prize, and Clinton Global Initiative,
    Goal: to switch to agribusiness consulting in Africa.
    Target Schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Columbia, Tuck, Carnegie Mellon Yale.
    Nationality & Age 27 year old Namibian

  • HBS Dreamer

    Thanks – appreciate your feedback. I’ll likely apply again next year with a different essay.

  • hbsguru

    dunno, close one, obviously, but if I had to bet: your real work was too insurance based and was not made to sound as interesting as your extras or link up w. life science undergrad internships. etc. Work life not as gold plated or as interesting as college,. Or you needed to do better job of varnishing what you actually do. Heatlcare is exciting buzz word, insurance is not (ask Barry O!!!!)

  • hbsguru

    Good one at HBS, this was real solid for them, and they respect Gold Plate rotational programs at GE Financial etc. Grades were good enuf and so was GMAT, Goals of going to MBB were right on the money, extras were solid and grow out of your experiences and narrative. etc. etc. If you got dinged at Stanford, dunno, that was a coin toss as well [post interivew odds there are sorta 50/50] –hard to say why it came up tails. Could be bad luck, under impactful essay themes, or just some other set of minority dudes they liked just a little bit more.

  • Rob

    Hi Sandy,

    Work Experience:
    – 2 years at GE Financial Management Program after college
    — Four rotations spanning finance roles
    – 1 year- Corporate Development- M&A Fortune 50 company
    — acquisitions, divestitures, and co-investing
    Notable work: GE Corporate Honors; Top 10% of class

    GMAT: 710

    – B.Sc. Finance from Top 20 Public School, 3.6GPA

    Community Involvement:
    -Inner City Mentoring Program
    -Urban league
    -buildOn built schools in South America

    Aspiration: MBB, eventually transitioning into General Management

    African American male

    Stanford- interview

  • hbsguru

    No, I think a perfectly clear and mature essay showing how several of your accomplishments at Disney, not just one, have formed your goals, which are impt, limited, interesting and grow out of your experience, may have made a difference, HBS does not really care how case method is going to get you to the next level . . .in any real way, that is. They care about your ability to summarize you strengths in some comprehensive way that has some controlled passion and personality and use that as a platform for some goals which combine those talents and your experience, at least that is what they care about fr. dude like you. Sorry, I may be misreading this and it may only be your ORIGINAL POST which was vague and silly-sounding, and not your application, but anyway, in general, what I say they care about is true. In cases of super solid people with golden resumes, well, you can write about bird watching or your stamp collection in some giddy way, but that was not you.

  • Ash

    Definitely see your points. You weren’t sounding too cynical but this is the truth of the matter. No worries, other schools will fit just fine for me (hopefully). I just wanted to understand that even with perfect execution, these schools were probably out of reach. I tried and I’m okay with that.

  • Guest

    Thank you for the insight Sandy! I love reading your analysis of people’s stats. Please be as honest as possible with me.

    Harvard (no interview) and Stanford (no interview)

    27 Year Old Male

    710 GMAT (Q:48 and V:40)

    3.73 GPA from BYU in Economics

    Work Experience:
    3 years at in Large German Vehicle Manufacture (BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen)
    – Project Manager for continuous improvement projects across many departments in US division of company
    – Promoted 2 levels after 1 year
    – Coached many company directors and line managers in Lean methodology and tools
    – Experience on the plant and office side (Not sure if that matters)

    1 Year at Major Ad Agency as a Financial Coordinator
    – Coordinated work between accounting department and Search Marketing department
    – Seems like it doesn’t match with my current job but most of the work I did was in process improvement


    – 2 year church mission in Slovakia
    – Interpreting from English to Slovak for worldwide church conference
    – Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America

  • hbsguru

    HBS dont care so much about accomplishments at work, you work for a consulting firm esp. MBB, well, all your accomplishments are the same, more or less, and you can gain pts by how well you varnish them. Six yrs of exp spread out 2 at MSFT and 4 at DC is just odd in terms of all other people in the history of the world who have been admitted to HBS, that is my only point. God may think it is great. Sorry if I sound cynical, but I just am reporting on my experience in this world. H and S like ’em young, they like big stats, they like prestige schools and jobs, and they like conventional stories or real, real, real pwerful non-conventional ones. That ain’t you babe, in your current


  • aaron

    82% verbal, 92% quant

    3.5 GPA in Biology from Ivy with tough freshman year (sophomore-senior

    Internships in college: Intern at Venture Capital firm,
    Technology Transfer Office, significant biology research experience in many
    labs including publication.

    Extras in college:, Tutored Liberian refugee children at
    inner-city schools once a week for 2 years, worked part-time in pharma Startup
    company, Board of Directors of HIV/AIDS nonprofit

    Extras outside of college: Involved in state healthcare
    reform commission

    Job: 6 months as Strategy Analyst, 1.5 years in Innovation department
    at small healthcare company: Helped start new department in the company that
    seeks to spur innovation and diversify insurance company. Helped start and
    Incubate businesses.

    Aspirations: To help innovate within a large healthcare
    company or Healthcare IT VC

    interview @ HBS, no
    interview Stanford,

  • HBS Dreamer

    I provided rec’s with examples for leadership, emotional intelligence, intellectual curiosity, etc etc so i know they were armed with solid information.

    Do you think a more emotionally charged essay revealing my personal character would have been better than my more professionally-focused example? I was struggling deciding which path to take…

  • Paradox69

    No interview at HBS or GSB.

  • Ash

    Thanks, Sandy. I’ve had dreams about reliving my life and actually doing well in college but alas, such is my life path. I am waiting for decisions from Kellogg, Haas (no interview yet), and Ross (with interview). Although my profile wasn’t cut out for H/S this year, I know that these other business schools will still offer a great education and way to expand my horizons.

    I’m curious about the “too much work XP” since I didn’t have the accomplishments I do now in my first 1-2 years at DC. Transition from MSFT to DC also confused me as to why that’s bad (seems like learning tech after EE degree and going to consulting to explore industries would be valuable for diverse WE for adcoms).

    Thanks for your input and I have always enjoyed your “Handicapping MBA Odds” columns.

  • hbsguru

    dunno, HBS LOVES DISNEY –GMAT was passable for them, and GPA was lowish but . . .”Wrote about a major professional accomplishment and how, through that
    accomplishment, i realized that HBS’ case method would be exactly the
    experience that I need to get to the next level and beyond.”
    Man, that sounds real , real ineffective and possibly damaging. You are one of those cases, and there are MANY, which might have done better w. NO ESSAY!!!
    Not kidding. It may have made them question how you got Disney job in first place, and that was your strong suit. How well did you manage your recs???

  • hbsguru

    real deal breaker was too much work-ex, you should have applied during 2nd yr at Deloitte, add to that low GPA and mildy odd career so far (MSFT to DC, that is odd) and I am not surprised. Extras were solid but HBS values more outre stuff more [not being good guy at DC initiatives, which is OK but generic]. Solid extras, like you have, will not rescue what is otherwise silver not gold schooling and jobs. HC consulting was right call, what you said at Stanford was, ahem, too narrow altho an OK idea if part of something larger in the same genre of doing good. Outcomes do not surprise me. Relive your life and get a 3.9 GPA and go directly to DC or MSFT and in two years have super impactful extra currics with community education–you could be in the running.

  • hbsguru

    stats OK, Accenture is not a favored HBS feeder, work and stats are all silver and not gold, starting your own consulting comp. is not credible or what they value for guy your age, etc. and to HBS you sound mildly confused, no prestige anchors, and saying you want to be an entrepreneur don’t help, even if you started your own company, SO HAS EVERYONE!!!!! Sorry to sound tuff but this outcome is not surprising.

  • HBS Dreamer

    Thanks for your insight!

    25 Year old male

    710 GMAT

    3.5 GPA at top 25 University

    3 Years of post-undergrad W.E. with Disney in Brand Management with Three Promotions (currently Manager)

    Volunteer: Pro-bono consulting manager leading development of new strategic plan for educational program that benefits under-served middle/high-schoolers

    Wrote about a major professional accomplishment and how, through that accomplishment, i realized that HBS’ case method would be exactly the experience that I need to get to the next level and beyond.

    No interview…

  • Paradox69

    GMAT: 730 (99% V, 69% Q, 93% IR)
    GPA: 3.7
    Undergrad: Public Ivy, degree in Economics

    WE: 3 years of consulting at Accenture, 1 year at my own consulting firm

    Wrote about entrepreneurship after graduating. Story: did consulting, but passionate about entrepreneurship so I started my own firm. Want to be an entrepreneur after graduating. Wrote about some ideas and why an MBA is important (networking, entrepreneurship/venture capital courses, etc.)

    Didn’t even get an interview

  • Ash

    HI Sandy,

    Thanks for taking the time. Stats below:

    27, male, Indian descent/Raised in the United States
    GMAT: 730
    ***Work Experience:
    – 2 years at Microsoft after college
    — Worked in core windows group for Windows 7 and Windows 8 (nothing spectacular)
    – 4 years at Deloitte (technology consulting)
    — Worked across telecom/financial/healthcareindustries
    — Notable work: Team lead on state healthcare insurance exchange project (first in the nation) for recent Obamacare implementation
    – B.Sc. Electrical Engineering from University of Southern California
    — GPA: 3.0 (i’m guessing this is the major cause)
    — Marching band for 4 years and 2 part-time jobs in college
    – UCLA Extension course in Business Calculus taken over summer with A+ (to try and bolster low GPA)
    ***Community Involvement:
    – 3 years with 90-person education non-profit giving scholarships to high schoolers
    — 2 years as regional lead; 1 year as Chief Development Officer
    – 3 years as Deloitte liaison for Junior Achievement, another education-focused non-profit
    — Organized multiple events for Deloitte practitioners and USC Marshall students to teach kids in LA community
    – At Harvard: Increase knowledge about healthcare and implement creative healthcare delivery systems to augment health reform
    – At Stanford: Develop creative methods for science education in low income communities through technology innovation

    Dinged without interview at both schools.

  • hbsguru

    surprising in light of AA with a 750 GMAT/3.5 GPA and elite job, Explanations would be real bad execution/recs and inability to make a case for MBA given this background, since MBA is not obvious to begin with.

  • hbsguru

    I take it you are not a US citizen and thus an International applicant and not a US Hispanic ‘minority.”? What we got here is low-ish GPA (esp. if this is H and not P), a sorta 710 GMAT w. Q on the low side, and one-off work history of working w. pres. candidate in Latin Am ? What else have you done? Did candidate win? Did you work for government? What country? All Latin Am. countries are not created equal, in eyes of Adcom. So there are holes in this profile if adcom wanted to focus on them, which apparently HBS did and dinged you. Stanford is interested in Latin Am, partially by choice, partially due to location and Hispanic pop. of California, so they looked on the bright side, but that was not enuf to overcome OK but not solid gold stats and most imptly,
    lack of any conventional jobs they could relate to,.

    You say “Supervised creation of part of environmental policy plan’ what exactly does that mean? Was that in gov. for how long, etc. This could have gone either way, but dings are not total head scratchers

  • hbsguru

    what was also confusing was age (for 2+2) and grad degree. You really need to put yourself in the chair of someone who reads 10apps and can only say “yes” to one. You just look for reasons, any reasons, to say NO to the one in front of you. The last thing you want to do is actually think hard or God forbid, make an actual decision. Any plausible, “structural” reason is welcomed. . E.g. age, two degrees, grad degree, etc. It is not like the adcom punishes herself by saying, “How can we make this work???? How????”

  • HBSapplicant

    I did not get an interview. I thought it was my GPA, but thanks for the tip about being confusing with two separate Bachelor degrees!

  • Aiaiaibo

    Also doing joint with policy school

  • Aiaiaibo

    Dinged Harvard (no interview) and Stanford (w/Interview with admissions officer)

    27 year old from Latin America

    HPY Undergraduate, 3.45 Humanities
    Graduate degree from prestigious British university

    GRE: V 170, Q 164

    Senior advisor to a presidential candidate in Latin America
    Supervised creation of part of environmental policy plan

    Story: work with environmental sustainability in Latin America through private sector

  • Dan



    GPA:3.5 (top 20 public (double major econ/poli sci))

    WE:2.5 years WB/IMF/UN (one of the three)

    Demo: Dual citizen African American

    Notable extracurriculars

    Dinged at both (no interview)

  • hbsguru

    this was an odd 2+2 app. given age and grad school degree, so that might have had something to do with it Also, GPA was a shade on the low side, but I dont think that was major (3.7 grad gpa is sorta ho-hum but 760 gmat is real good). This all checks out, except for 2+2 angle,and other odd bit, of attending two different schools at same time. Some times, being confusing is not good, and that could have been you. Goals etc. are fine. Did you get interviewed?

  • HBSapplicant

    Hi Sandy,
    Thank you for doing this. Applied for theHBS 2+2 program.

    24 years old

    760 GMAT

    3.4 undergrad GPA (Bachelor in Economics AND Bachelor in Engineering at two different universities simultaneously), 3.7 graduate GPA engineering at top 5 school.

    Internships include: major oil company (Shell, BP, Exxon) and bulge bracket investment bank (GS/JP/MS).

    Going into consulting at MBB after graduating.

    Story: Want to combine economics and engineering in the energy sector, especially focussed on finding solutions for the electricity grid of the future.

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, I’m a bit surprised at no intervew, and let me say, that 2+2 is real hard, esp. for finance types vs. STEM types, but finance types DO GET IN, dings to high performers like you is often a matter of them liking others more. If you put a gun to my head, I would say one thing that might be an issue here is already having that PE job and saying, you wanted to “hone your savvy’ as an investor before doing do-good work That could make anyone wonder. [If you said that to them. ] and it sounds like BS. Even if you get past that, one purpose of 2+2 is to allow you take risks, and still know you got HBS in the bag, but what kind of risks are you taking? If pzzble you might have outlined some plan for 2 yrs that involved doing something more daring, and say the 2+2 admit would allow me that freedom. etc. All that said, I would have predicted an interview here unless app and recs were really stinky or ‘offputting’ in some set of subtle ways, which can happen.

  • 2+2 Wannabe

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it. My stats below are:

    • 21 year old (current undergrad senior graduating in 2014 / applied to HBS 2+2)

    • 720 GMAT

    • 3.7 undergrad GPA in math/econ at one of HYPSM

    • Internships include: a large tech company (Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.), a bulge bracket investment banking firm (GS, MS, JPM), and a large private equity firm. I then accepted a full-time offer the private equity firm

    • Varsity athlete (captain this year). Other ECs include: A lot of work in the international development space (I know that’s a buzzword these days) including an initiative that I started and have since received funding from Google to pursue, two mentoring programs for local high school students that I’ve been involved with since my first year of undergrad, heavy involvement in student government (including being one of two student reps on the committee that advises the board of trustees)

    • Story: Longer term I want to get more involved with social investing or very localized venture investing in developing countries. My goal was to go work at the private equity firm for 2-3 years to hone my “savvy” as an investor and then to use HBS to transition to a role where I can do more social investing.

    Dinged at HBS 2+2 with no interview and would love to get any insights that I can. I also realize that I have another shot at it so if you want to pass over my profile, no worries!

  • hbsguru

    Happy to do this,it helps if you also post whether you were interviewed and how you tnink that went, and age, and scores, and other outcomes fr. your company, etc.