Best Of Sandy’s HBS & Stanford Ding Report

by John A. Byrne on


This 28-year-old Marine Corps intelligence officer seemed on the path to Stanford. A Phillips Exeter grad, he went to the U.S. Naval Academy and once in the Marines led teams as large as 150 soldiers in Iraq and the U.S. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average, his goal is to pursue a career as an impact investor with a focus on ‘multiple bottom lines.’

He has an undergraduate degree in finance from Wharton, plus two years of experience at both L.E.K. Consulting and Barclay’s Bank. With a 740 GMAT and a grade point average of 3.45, this Indian-American is not only a scratch golfer, he also climbed Mount Everest. Yet he was rejected last week by both Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

She’s a 27-year-old woman who has successfully founded two startups, attracting both funding and major media attention. With a 760 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA at a ‘Baby Ivy,’ she was even named to a list of the 30 best entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by an international magazine. Yet she was dinged by Stanford last week.

This 26-year-old is a biomedical engineer for Abbott Laboratories who has been promoted twice and won recognition from his site leadership team. His 790 GMAT is more than 60 points higher than the average score for the latest enrolled class at Harvard Business School. Yet Harvard just turned him down for admission to its MBA program.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

What these MBA candidates all share in common was that they are round one applicants who were dinged by either Harvard, Stanford or both business schools last week. Yet they have impressive GMAT scores along with professional and extracurricular achievements that are nothing less than exceptional. So how come they couldn’t get in?

We asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of who more typically does our MBA handicapping column, to take a look at the profiles and raw stats of rejected candidates and tell them why they failed to get into Harvard or Stanford. Both business schools released their round one decisions last week and thousands of applicants got disappointing news.

It’s no small hurdle to get into either Harvard or Stanford. The average GMAT score for latest class enrolled at HBS is 727, while the average at Stanford is 732. The undergraduate grade point averages are in nose bleed territory as well: 3.73 at Stanford and 3.67 at Harvard. Less than 7% of Stanford applicants and less than 12% of HBS applicants are accepted each year.

If you also were rejected by Harvard or Stanford and would like an assessment from Sandy, go to Let Sandy Tell You Why You Were Dinged at Harvard or Stanford and provide your profile and stats in the comment section.

Patriotic soldier salute

Dinged At Stanford (No Interview)


  • 730 GMAT (Q46/V44)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from the U.S. Naval Academy
  • Work experience as an active duty Marine Corps intelligence officer who has led teams as large as 150 soldiers, both in combat environments in Iraq and in the U.S.; most recent assignment at a strategic command, responsible for military plans and policy
  • Have been awarded multiple team and individual recognition for superior performance
  • Extracurricular involvement as a mentor for at-risk youth with local non-profit; class agent for high school alma mater (Phillips Exeter Academy), and a volunteer with Naval Academy Alumni Association
  • Goal: To pursue a career as an impact investor, investing with “multiple bottom lines”
  • “Desire to create opportunity for others, very interested in micro-finance – felt Stanford was best match due to the school’s focus on social impact”
  • Fluent in French
  • 28-year-old white male

Sandy’s Analysis: Not sure, to be honest. The military is hard for Harvard and Stanford 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 knows the difference between a gold and silver investment banking or private equity career, but not one in the military.

Each school at various seasons and years hauls out some military dude connected with Adcom and says, “Oh yes we do . . .” but that is mostly BS. And that guy might not know either because he is too far removed from service, 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, a couple of hundred basis points (to be cute) ahead of yours. Most military dudes at Stanford with a 3.5 have some outlier factor–and it ain’t 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 application PDF to, I’d be happy to take a look. That sometimes add a missing dimension. I’ve made that offer to three people and two took me up–in both cases we figured it out.

For openers, what other outcomes did you get???

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  • Hopeful

    Hi Sandy and Jon,

    Fantastic column! I have read many profiles, but I was hoping you could provide some feedback for my profile.

    -23 years old
    -Canadian, Caucasian, male
    -760 GMAT (44V, 50Q), 8 IR, 5 AWA
    -3.46 GPA (3.72 among economics, calculus, statistics, accounting, business law, and writing courses) from a good Canadian University
    -Top 25% standing
    -Undergraduate degree with a double major in Chemistry and Biology

    Work Experience:
    -2 years full time at a relatively unknown company that helps non profits fund-raise millions of dollars (approximately 600 million in the last 10 years) in three different countries through various fund-raising events
    -Event Manager for events that raise over 10 million dollars annually for a regional cancer foundation
    -Managed teams as large as 50 staff to produce these large scale events
    -Started as a summer intern while in my undergrad, was promoted twice to my current position

    -Ran and organized an intramural league which had over 1200 members during my undergrad
    -Competitive squash and badminton player

    Target Schools:
    -Schulich (I am not sure if you are familiar with Canadian MBA admissions)

    -Short Term: Return to the organization in a role with increased responsibilities
    -Medium term: Become an executive or managing director within the organization

    Thank you and hopefully you select my profile for review! If you need more information, let me know.

  • Shannon

    Hi, is this still the active thread to post?

  • Avinash Tyagi

    I got dinged From HBS and Booth with a GMAT of 750 and a GPA of 4.0 in Business (granted it was from an online university but still)

  • Guest

    Great suggestion !!!

  • guest

    I thought MBA Exchange was pretty good !!

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