Just Got Dinged? Ask Sandy Why

RejectedThis week has been the biggest week for Class of 2018 hopefuls. Yesterday, Wharton and UCLA Round 2 admits received invitations and dings. Today (March 30), Harvard Business School and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business release their Round 2 decisions.

There will be plenty of good news in emails and phone calls from those schools, but a lot more bad news as thousands of round two applicants get rejected from these prestigious MBA programs.

As we did in round one (see story here), we’ve asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com and a leading MBA admissions consultant, to do a quick appraisal of your ding.

If you would like Sandy to explain why your candidacy didn’t quite pass muster, just post your profile, your GPA, GMAT, company information, and any other facts you think made your application different. The more detail you provide, including what you wrote in your essay to HBS, the easier it will be for Sandy to determine why HBS, Stanford, or Wharton turned you down.

Until then, you might want to check out:


  • Mike

    HI Sandy,

    Thanks for the platform to get hit and run feedback.

    Hispanic/Native American/learning disability, Male, 31, undergrad in U.S.

    GMAT: 600
    GPA: 3.1

    Experience: 9 years in two operations and legal roles in leading Private Equity firm in NYC

    Career goal: Continue to work private equity and focus on deal strategy
    Dinged: Columbia J-Term 2017

  • adi383@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate your feedback.
    From India, 29, Male, undergrad in U.S. (top 5 engineering schools, state), grad in US (top 5 engineering schools, state)
    GMAT: 760
    GPA: 3.9 (undergrad), 4.0 (grad)
    Experience: 5 years in semi-conductor. 3 promotions in 4 years (generally takes almost 6-7 years). 2 companies. Current company: think Broadcom/Qualcomm/Intel
    Dinged: R1 HBS (HBS essay was about challenges and focussed on my failed start up)
    Still waiting to hear back from Stanford/Wharton

    Thanks in advance!

  • notsosure

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate your feedback.
    China, 26, Female, undergrad in U.S.
    GRE: 760 equiv GMAT
    GPA: 3.6
    Experience: 2 year in technology in a bulge bucket bank, about 2 years in tech advisory of a big four
    Career goal: product management in tech/fintech
    Dinged: Booth after waitlist, Columbia after waitlist, Wharton,
    Got in to Stern. Debating if should reapply this year or go for Stern.

  • Andres Barch

    Hello, i would love to receive any feedback here.

    GMAT: 730
    GPA (Undergraduate) : 2.7/4
    29 years old
    Country: Colombia / South America

    Total Experience: 5 years
    Recent Experience: Government, project finance projects including 3 financial models structured that some up to 200 million dollars
    Academic Experience: Teaching assistant for Financial Modeling in the specialization in finance for one of the most prestigeous universities in my country.

    GPA (Specialization in Finance): 3.4/4.

    I would like to know in which top B-Schools I could have a chance becuase my poor Undergraduate GPA.

    I’m interested in NYU – Stern, Kellogg, Darden, Ross and UCLA.


  • Mike

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks in advance for your honesty.

    GMAT 720
    GPA 3.75
    34 year-old white male from Cincinnati, OH

    First to college on my father’s side of the family. My mother went to school as did most of her family before her, but she works a blue collar job.

    11 years combined in consumer banking, financial advising, and started two (very small) businesses. Making the switch to consulting, to build skills/experience/reputation for a long-term vision I have developed over the past few years: Building leadership cultures within and across organizations (that’s the short version).

    Various leadership roles in the community – Math tutoring, group facilitation within diverse communities, developing leaders out of men in their mid 20’s, served on the board of a startup non-profit organization that successfully promoted authentic leadership in the workplace, service trips to support kids in Mexico and India, etc.

    Desired schools (all turn-downs): Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Harvard

  • wock258

    Hi Sandy,

    GMAT 740 Q 46 V 47
    GPA 3.71 from New England Ivy League U (not top 3)
    Male from New York City (mixed racially)
    Masters in Teaching (major: math) from Relay Graduate School of Education

    Field organizer for Obama in 2008.
    2 years in urban charter school administration
    3 years (2 with teach for America) teaching (not the normal progression of things) mathematics to middle schoolers
    1 year directing the math program (coaching and managing teachers) at a blended learning start-up charter school
    Co-founded an ed tech start-up with a technical cofounder that fizzled after a year

    Extracurricular- Music all throughout (a cappella in college, bands afterward), alumni interviewer for my college.

    Applied 2nd round to Stanford, Harvard, and MIT

    Harvard: Denied without interview
    Stanford: Denied without interview
    MIT: Interviewed, but denied

    I also applied to Harvard, Stanford, and Yale the year before.

    Stanford: Interviewed, but denied
    Harvard: Denied without interview
    Yale: Admitted, but did not enroll

    I would really appreciate any feedback. Thanks!

  • dardanl21@gmail.com

    Male 26 from a small war torn country in Europe.

    GMAT 700 after 4th time. Q 46 V 40.
    TOEFL 115
    GPA 3.73 from elite college at home

    Work – 4.5 years working on my own firm consulting outsourcing of software, marketing, staffing and management consulting for various clients from start ups to corporate firms in US, UK and Swiss. Did an over 100k app project at one point in time. All the work is done from Kosovo. Currently I employee 6 people and 2 outside teams. Used to employee 15 people. Also founded a local online newspaper that is not going very well.

    Intrl experince. 1 year exchange student at a NY liberal arts college, 3 months in Dartmouth as part of a training program from Ministry of Trade. 1 month summer school in Prague.

    Extra curricular – sponsored local festivals digital presence, trainee and event organizer for open society scholarship where I am an alumni, co-founded a volunteer meet-up platform which closed after some time, participated in mock up interviews in NY for people who have been out from a job for some time.

    Career goals: go back home to grow the business further with the credentials and netowork gained from the school. Mentioned in the interview that things are not going as fast as I would want them to go.

    Essays: wrote a little about war and my generation being responsible to build the country. Talked about how I learned from failures. How i overcome the lost revenue and got the new clients in. And how will the mba open me the doors to oppurtunities I need to grow my firms.

    Applied last round to: Tuck, Duke, Cornell, UNC, UMN, Georgetown and GeorgeWashington.

    Tuck – dinged after an interview (totally bombed the interview as it was the first and did not know what to expect)
    Duke – dinged without an interview. – But it seemed that they run out of seats.
    Cornell – got in and wait-listed for scholarship after interview.
    UNC – waitlisted after interview
    UMN – after interview in with scholarship
    Georgetown – interviewed and waiting.
    Georgewashington – after interview in with full ride.

    Declined the offers I had and am looking ahead to do better next year. Want to apply first rounds to HBS, Booth, Columbia, Yale in hoped of getting some scholarship money. Also after doing detailed research, I found the consulting jobs very exiting and great fit to me since I like and am good at closing new business deals, build relationships, manage them, travel and help/consult. So, I am thinking about changing my career goals next year, however I am afraid that it will hurt my story and chances of getting in. Let me know. Truly appreciate your help. Thanks.

  • hbsguru

    I don’t often say this, but hire a consultant, any solid consultant who can make your story clear and your goals clearly expressed. You don’t need me, you need any foot soldier fr. any big firm.
    Your stats and outcomes do not align, and I think, if post is any example, you just need help in basic execution.
    Example, You say:
    “Career Goals- Work at a leadership position in Consumer services or major Industrial firm.” Huh what does that mean, leadership position is good element but we really need you to identify leadership position as what, based on your actual resume so far, and MBA.
    Another issue could be your current job, you say: “Right now working with an eCommerce startup at a leadership role, actively involved in strategic decision making.” Hmmmmm, that sounds pretty iffy. In real app, the bona fides of that company in terms of employees, sales, VC baking, any element that makes it seem real and not a Starbucks-based fantasy of you and 3 friends is important.
    Schools you target is probably correct part of the USNEWS list, but get your story clear. And also get interview help, esp. if you think one you had w. NUS did not go well.

  • hbsguru

    GRRRR. Not sure, would depend on lots of subtle things about the company and its growth, off the top of my head, if company continues to grow, add revenue and employees, etc, then it seems more real to B schools. Haha, you may also discover you do not need an MBA and that would be a good thing. 😉

  • shardul1988@gmail.com

    Male 28, India

    Undergraduate GPA- 3.5

    GMAT- 720 (want to retake, targeting 750)

    Career Goals- Work at a leadership position in Consumer services or Industrial major firm

    Work- 5 years in Engg & Tech, ITeS and KPO Consulting, eCommerce
    Right now working with an eCommerce startup at a leadership role, actively involved in strategic decision making.

    Extra Curr- Worked with an NGO as a mentor to female underpriviliged children, active sportsperson

    Dinged- ISB (without interview), NUS MBA (after interview)

    Target schools (year 2107)- Tuck, Fuqua, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, UCLA

    Will apply to all target B-schools for next intake.

    Sandy, what are my chances at these b-schools. Any thoughts and insights?

  • Accountant to Consulting

    Male, 28, Chicago, USA

    Undergraduate GPA: 4.0, Accounting- Private University in Chicago
    -Graduated as the top business student/top 25 in the graduating class

    GMAT: 750

    Work: 4 years at Big 4, 2 years- International Tax Advisory (promoted to senior) then 2 years M&A Advisory

    Career goals: Work in M/B/B

    Extracurricular: Chairman of the Junior Board of Directors- Large Charity in Chicago

    Essays about spearheading the creation of the junior board of directors and my experience working with students on the cities south/west side.

    Have not applied anywhere yet, wanted to get your thoughts

  • astrib

    Thanks for you thoughts! I really appreciate the perspective. If you have time for one more answer: are my chances any better given one more year of work experience under my belt or worse because I’m running a startup? Also, any schools you would suggest looking at?

  • Eric


    Any information you can provide about Kellogg’s updated MMM program? Specifically, is it tougher get admitted to and if you get rejected can you still be accepted to regular 2Y MBA program? I haven’t been able to find much about it!


  • hbsguru

    Most kids love Tuck but if it is not for you, well, I trust that, if you have given it full diligence.
    How were your interviews, that could explain WLs at Darden and Ross (even tho it does not make clear sense, it just puts off making a decision on their part where they got doubts).
    Fact that you got interviews at places you did is a proxy for real pluses in app.
    Kellogg LOVES stories like this, meet them w. better GRE, even if it means taking it many times!!!!
    Man, other places are not known these days to trade interesting stories for GRE scores and other trad issues. You could have hard time there, Sloan has some
    wacky and small back door, but even for that you would need better GRE, I don’t hear about many heart-warming stories fr. other places on your list. They could be tuff. Solid GRE could make a HUGE difference.

  • hbsguru

    WOW, disappointing outcome, this could have gone other way and probably a good deal of it turned on what they thought about working for Gov office and how you presented it, and what they thought especially of 2nd job. One thing missing from your resume is anchor job with blue chip org that schools know and trust.
    That is one of the dirty little secrets of this process, altho to be honest, I am no longer true how dirty it is (it makes sense) or how secret. Anyway, it is true!
    You also may be victim of the LDS effect. Schools like LDS kids for obvious reasons– hard working, trad. values, charitably minded, etc — and they esp. like LDS kids who have proven themselves in non-LDS environments, e.g. McKinsey etc. [haha, I know some people say MCK is LDS front org, but schools don’t view it that way 😉 ]
    It is possible, altho no one would EVER cop to this, that getting gig in Utah gov. office was read as some kinda inside job. A good deal could depend on what you did there. Then you got 2nd job at some non-trad firm, which was small and emerging, etc. The fact you were hired as President is actually a Yellow Light to them, sorta, “Hmmmmm, how big could that firm be if they are hiring this untested lad as President.
    I got a feeling those two jobs and the bad vibes adcom got from them explain a good deal of this.
    You say: you have now started new company and are expanding etc.
    Man, I think that is great, but it could be a harder sell than your other idea,
    getting solid and boring job at Intuit. Sad to say, B schools would prefer that kind of profile. They just respect big firms. All the lip service to start-ups notwithstanding.

  • hbsguru

    thanks, interesting and I’d be interested if others have the same reactions.
    My guess is that employ-ability AFTER MBA is the criterion they use, whether you grew up in Latin America or not. If you work for Latin Am family business and it is large and impactful, Wharton will admit you!!! Similarly, if you work at State owned energy company and your goal is to return to that industry, they will admit you (other things up to par) b.c. they figure you are connected and can get job. Just don’t say you want to SWITCH careers out of energy into high-fashion apps for shoes and cuff links.
    MAN, your point about IELTS is telling, if that is the way it works with them. Their thinking is bogus. For one thing, purpose of TOEFL and IELTS is not a competition but just an index of if you can operate in English, I don’t even think those scores are reported to USNEWS–but ha, ha if they are, that would explain their conduct. If not, it is just an issue of whether they trust the exam to test your English competency, I sure hope they are not admitting people on the basis of those scores, but just using test as a way to decide whether to interview people.
    Not sure what happened to Caleel and Kumar as setting tone for office, but they were from the era of the rock solid HSW trio, and then it was everyone else.
    We are now more in the era of the H+S duopoly, with places like Booth and MIT etc nipping at their heels in certain cases. I think pressure is coming fr. the highest levels to protect USNEWS standings, and adcom has become very focused on doing that.
    All that said, once you get in, most kids are happy campers from what I hear, I’d be happy to hear from others.

  • hbsguru

    haha, not to my knowledge, anyone else ever hear of this???

  • MBA2018

    I take it this isn’t something other schools do, then?

  • hbsguru

    Phew, thanks for that thorough report, felt like I was there.
    Anyone else have this experience at Kellogg???

  • MBA2018

    It was very unclear. She prefaced it by saying they don’t
    reach out to everyone, but there are some applicants to whom they want to provide “active feedback”. Unfortunately, she didn’t provide anything more than the platitudes included in the rejection letter (you’re great, but so is everyone else who
    applied; there are too few openings; blah, blah, blah.)

    When I asked for specific, actionable feedback (I told her I
    know my 710 GMAT is low for them and I didn’t practice enough for the video essay), she rattled off the pre-programmed “holistic review” talking points. The call felt like a pat on the back, “so sorry you didn’t get in!” spiel. Several of the people I talked to felt like it was nothing more than a fishing expedition to figure out what other schools we had applied to. I was pretty off-put by her “feedback”, so I wasn’t very forthcoming when she mentioned she would be shocked if I didn’t have other options and asked if I had been accepted somewhere else (I responded simply, “Yes.”). Despite telling me how great I am and how certain she was that I would have done well at Kellogg and will do well wherever else I go, she at no point suggested I apply again or consider the part-time program.

    I was just wondering if this was a common thing at top
    schools, or if Kellogg is trying to do some competitor analysis to figure out where their borderline applicants are applying/enrolling. If so, there are certainly better ways of going about it. I’m an NU undergrad with plenty of friends from both the full-time and part-time programs and had an extremely high impression of Kellogg, but this really soured me to the program.

  • hbsguru

    What did she say?
    Not sure I get this, was she encouraging you to reapply or just saying, “So sorry.”

    “So sorry,” would be odd. And most people would instinctively think, “Er, I wish you had spent all time you are spending doing this to have more deeply read my application!”

  • MBA2018

    HI Sandy,

    Apropos Kellogg, I was wondering if you’ve heard of Kellogg dinged applicants getting calls from Dean of Admissions Kate Smith afterward. I got one this year and have subsequently met two other people who got the calls. None of us were quite sure what the point of the call was, but we all left it with an overwhelmingly negative impression of Kellogg’s administration.

  • Tuk Tran

    Sandy, I have talked with Wharton students and the image I got was that they did not admit many Latin Americans with a deep experience in the region (I dont mean the ones who did an undergrad in the US and are working in the US, but the ones who grew up in the region). Do you think this is true? Do you think (if true) it has to do with employability post-MBA? Also I found it curious how Wharton is the only top school that does not accept the IELTS with the excuse that they need the TOEFL to measure everyone evenly. In some countries, the TOEFL is very hard to get. Yet they have the “flexibility” to accept the GRE One last thing. Why are Wharton top admissions people so inaccessible? Very different styles from Thomas Caleel and Ankur Kumar. Any thoughts?

  • astrib

    Sandy, thanks for your evaluations!
    Male, 28, Utah, USA
    Undergraduate GPA: 3.6 International Relations – BYU
    GMAT: 760 (49Q/45V) (3rd try)
    Fluent in German (mormon mission)

    Undergraduate Internship @ UN
    Work: 2yrs – Utah Governor’s Office (promoted twice in 2 years)
    While at gov’s office I volunteered at non-profit that does financial literacy education
    After 2yrs at Gov’s office, hired as President of Financial Literacy non-profit full-time
    Worked 1 yr @ nonprofit and expanded into emerging markets in Africa/South America/Southeast Asia

    Career goals: start and grow for-profit financial literacy education company using web/tech for broader reach and impact.

    H/S/W: dinged without interview

    Shortly after I was dinged I started said company teaching financial literacy education and I am in the process of raising money and building out the product. Planning to reapply in R1 to H/S/W and also applying in R1 to Yale/Columbia/Booth/Tuck

  • First Generation Latino

    Male, 29, Latino (Ecuadorian-American), United States

    First-generation college student

    Undergrad GPA: 3.8 (Phi Beta Kappa) from Public Ivy (Berkeley/Michigan/UVA) in Political Science. Full ride.

    Fluent in 6 languages

    Masters GPA: 3.9 from elite school (Yale/Princeton/Stanford) in International Relations. Full ride + stipend.

    GRE (155 verbal/155 math). Plan on retaking it, I know it’s a low score. Some quant courses in college with mostly As/Bs (econ, calculus)

    Round 1 Application (applied through the Consortium):

    Ross—interviewed, waitlisted

    Darden—interviewed, waitlisted

    Wharton/Lauder—interviewed, denied

    HBS—no interviewed, dinged

    Tuck—accepted and full-tuition scholarship.

    2 years at white shoe law firm out of college (was thinking about law school but dismissed the idea after this stint); 3 years at a logistics firm (not very well known) lived in Colombia and Brazil; 1 year at a very well known educational tech company.

    Hoping to reapply this fall, but I’ll be 30 when applying and 31 at the time of matriculation. Tuck isn’t a good fit at all. What are my chances at Booth/Kellogg/Columbia/Sloan/Haas/Yale? Want to go into consulting upon graduating.

  • mangapanda1234@gmail.com

    Hello Sandy, I am a prospective MBA applicant from Australia. I have been following this website for a long time, and I am thinking about applying within the next two years. Can you look at my stats and give me some advice 🙂

    Undergraduate: first class Honours degree in Petroleum Engineering- High Distinction Average (not sure of the equivalence for US university) at a top 8 research university in Australia (GO8). I also received the best Honours Project Prize for Petroleum Engineering.
    GMAT: 770
    LSAT: 177

    Ethnicity: Asian, Gender: Male

    Work Experience: 3 years as a reservoir engineer in Big oil companies (Exxon Mobil, Chevron BP etc), and I am thinking about moving to MBB for consulting. Got promoted once.

    Co-curricular: president of AIESEC local committee, president of society of petroleum engineer student chapter, Faculty Ambassador, Toastmaster member, Student Staff Liaison Committee and various volunteer activities – mostly teaching underprivileged primary and middle school students. Got the faculty’s prizes for best performing student in 1st, 2nd year.

    Interesting point: was an international student, still managed to find a job in companies that do not hire international grads.

    I want to break into consulting/investment banking

    Target schools: Havard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Booth

    Thank you 🙂

  • hbsguru

    hard to say without actual profiles. Just worry about yourself, is my advice. Not many applicants
    1. work for 2-4 years at trad. job
    2. join a start-up for five months

    to begin the next year.

    Altho, sure it could happen. You could be a consultant, join a client start-up, and then tell MBA program you want to be a consultant, esp. to emerging ventures, blah, blah.

  • Ajay

    Thank you for the real insights and your honesty. I agree, with the MBA process I can at times be very “at your throat and on your knees”… Something I need to work on for sure

    Final question from me and I’ll bugger off this post.

    When it comes to stated goals vs your actual goals, do people in “boring” jobs e.g. consulting, IB etc go with the line you suggested above?

    I remember seeing some profiles where 5-6 months before a candidate started an MBA they’d move into a startup or product role or something else (using Tech as an example)

    Would these people have

    1) generally have not expressed those interests in their goals
    2) not have gone on to that transition role without their MBA offer in hand (if getting an MBA was a very high priority)?

    Not asking as I doubt your advice, but curious to understand those decisions made my individuals


  • hbsguru

    AND SEE THIS-original caption, “WIT” also works with you.

  • hbsguru

    phew, you got me. That is a strong profile and one you executed perfectly in terms of goals, etc.
    My guess is, and it pains me to say this, they just used your “non-Gold” schooling and company (both were silver in their minds, or bronze) to make an easy call against you versus similar people with better schooling (e.g. IIT and etc) more well known global companies.
    What exactly was the Booth interviewers bias against your company? Was that some personal issue interviewer had, or does company have a reputation?
    20 minute interview?
    Is that actual time, or did it just “seem” that cursory and dismissive?
    Dunno, if behavior of interviewer was really out of bounds, that is something school might be interested in knowing. Altho, sure, why bother, your job is just to get in.
    Let school take care of its dirty laundry and slipshod interviewer selection.

  • Ajay

    Thanks Sandy

    How would you go about simplifying work history? What do you mean exactly by this?

    My main goal is to transition into product management in Tech or strategy in a tech firm post-mba. My long-term goal is to be in the venture capital space in Asia

    I have little interest in staying in consulting after an MBA unless its MBB for a few years at most

    Given that, how would you suggest writing about goals?

  • hbsguru

    theresa klebert
    13 minutes ago
    In a addition to the ding report and handicapping series, which have
    been super useful, maybe you could do one for accepted students (people
    you know and they accept for you to use their profile)? Would be pretty
    HAHA, thanks, this could be a useful line of sharing and inquiry. If anyone has been admitted to HWS or other top -15 school, and thinks their story is noteworthy, inspiring to others, or contradicts my rather narrow view of what those schools actually look for, well, please your stats, story, outcome, etc. in some form and I’ll be happy to reply. Try to include age, gpa, gmat, schooling and work history and app. history, also gender, citizenship etc.

  • theresa klebert

    In a addition to the ding report and handicapping series, which have been super useful, maybe you could do one for accepted students (people you know and they accept for you to use their profile)? Would be pretty insightful!

  • hbsguru

    Well Ajay, given odd facts, whatever they are, and your allusive and DEEPLY annoying bragging, misleading and round-about resume, I would try to simplify work history until current job at (Booz/LEK/Strategy&/OW)etc and just present your good grades, great GMAT and some neutral account of your pre Booz etc. past with very conservative goals. For instance,saying you’d like to be a leader at one of those consulting firms, doing something you have already done. Ahem, instead of the MEGA, high minded, confused BS you posted:

    “Would use MBA to transition into product management, tech strategy,
    strategy consulting or impact investment. Long term dream, own venture
    capital firm focused on social tech and clean tech in Asia, Africa,
    LatAm – realised I like seeding and helping entrepreneurs more than
    being an entrepreneur myself.”

    You got a lot to like, not sure what happened at W and HBS, but if you sounded as coy, annoying, “at your throat and on your knees”
    as in these series of posts and re-creations, well, I’m not shocked.

    Get a clear, straight story about consulting and say that is what you want to do.

  • hbsguru

    1. Kellogg interviewer said “admissions is a black-box”. He cannot comment on what was lacking in my application.


    2. You said “improved and normalized application”, how can I improve it and make it normal?


    3. Big Consumer Products Companies don’t hire international students who need H1B visas – can I still mention this goal?

    4. GT means Georgetown?
    5. Isn’t UT(without scholarship) way better than Emory, Kelley, Olin and GT (with some $$)?

  • Rae

    Thank you so much, Sandy — that means so much!!! I’ve been a longtime fan and your advice really helped shape my application strategy. I concur with your thesis 100%. The entrepreneurs I know who had success getting into top b-schools all had lived and breathed startups/demonstrated a driving passion for entrepreneurship AND had a clear, cohesive narrative to show for it. I have a feeling that’s the only way these schools will be willing to take the risk. Wait till after you get admitted to your dream b-school to quit your finance job and launch your Fintech app or whatever 😉

  • eatpraylove

    Do you think the entrepreneurial stint didn’t go down well with adcom? I am unable to point out to 1 or 2 strong reasons for ding.

    1. Kellogg interviewer said “admissions is a black-box”. He cannot comment on what was lacking in my application.
    2. You said “improved and normalized application”, how can I improve it and make it normal?
    3. Big Consumer Products Companies don’t hire international students who need H1B visas – can I still mention this goal?
    4. GT means Georgetown?
    5. Isn’t UT(without scholarship) way better than Emory, Kelley, Olin and GT (with some $$)?

  • hbsguru

    great story and thanks a million for sharing, real interesting and
    helpful to current applicants and kids thinking of going the E route.

    For purposes of drawing lessons fr. your experience, I am sticking w. my original mantra–to wit, that B schools do not like dreamy entrepreneurs or kids who do 2-3 yrs of IB, MC, and hate it, and then join some sketchy start-up which is barely more than a website, and then apply to HSW and claim to be in love with start-ups and want to do basically what you have done, but without your key track record.
    As noted. That is not a good plan.

    carry on, and thanks for the dialog. I expect to be reading about you soon!!!

  • Rae

    Thanks so much for the reply and for clarifying! I’ve met quite a few “entrepreneurs” that fit that criteria 😉 I was a very early employee at a startup (in a pretty sexy industry). Joined when it was just an idea, company went on the raise $30M+ in funding and is doing very well. I held a variety of core biz dev roles during my 3yr tenure, also built and led cross-functional teams. The startup employs several HBS alums and has sent one other early employee besides myself to HBS, so I imagine that worked heavily in my favor (HBS alum recommendation). Now I work with entrepreneurs at a startup accelerator and have leveraged this role to further expand my investor network in anticipation of launching my own company. I source a lot of startups coming out of top B-schools to join our programs so had some good insights on the unique offerings for entrepreneurs at each school and why an MBA is valuable for entrepreneurs. My extracurriculars are pretty limited and all startup-related. I knew it would be a risk to pitch my startup idea as my only short and long-term goal (especially as the idea isn’t world-changing as much as an area I am very passionate about) but ultimately decided to be truthful with my career goals. Funny you mentioned their interest in teasing out whether I would be employable after graduation because I did get a surprising number of questions in my four interviews on how I found these jobs (“Um, going out and networking” — an answer which everyone seemed to really like), why I needed business school at all (to ask my rich and successful classmates to invest … just kidding… but no really), what I would do for my summer internship, as well as getting drilled on my startup idea to see if I was serious and had done my research. I felt all my interviews went very well. Stats: American woman w/ 6 yrs WE upon matriculation, GPA 3.6 from top non-Ivy, GMAT 730 with very low Quant score.

  • yhnamy@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to hear your feedback. Applied in R2. Dinged without interview by HBS, Booth, Sloan… denied by Kellogg after interview. Every consultant I talked to said I had a strong profile and a realistic shot of getting admitted to at least one of the four programs, so I was a bit surprised to be rejected without interview by virtually every program since Kellogg interviews everybody. I have my thoughts on why, but your input is greatly desired!!


    Work at a data encryption startup in Kansas, starting out as an accounting manager, promoted to Controller, and later given additional cross-functional responsibilities as we’re a small company (e.g. determining pricing for all of our products). Company is sub $10M revenue and I had only one direct report when I applied. This will change next application season as we recently acquired our biggest competitor in Silicon Valley and I now have 5 direct reports. Hoping that will increase my chances.

    – Teach for America, Math Teacher, taught upperclassmen
    – District Curriculum Writer- Appointed by the district to rewrite the 11/12th grade math curriculum over the summer after my first year of teaching.


    – Short-term: work for a leading Ed-tech firm (eg Khan Academy, Think Cerca) in business strat and development role.
    – Long-term: Start my own Ed tech company.
    – Thought Ed-tech route made most sense of my background in TFA and tech industry. Additionally, I had some success stories incorporating tech to drive results in the classroom as a teacher that I thought made this goal plausible. But I’m wondering if the goal (esp short term one) was too niche and / or resembled the goal of a M. Ed student and not an MBA’er.


    – 710 GMAT first attempt (Q49, V38, IR 8, AWA 5.5)
    – 3.77 GPA at University of Colorado (bachelors in accounting)
    – 4.00 GPA at University of Missouri St. Louis (masters in ed)


    – Gender : Male
    – Age: 26
    – Nationality: Korean-American


    – (2012-Present) College and youth pastor at my church
    – (2014-Present) Mentor and tutor at a local non-profit that teaches inner city children how to build electric cars
    – (2008-2010) President of student-run, on-campus ministry in college

    Thanks Sandy and look forward to hearing from you!

  • hbsguru

    dunno man, as noted, 4th time is rarely the charm at HBS and you are not getting younger. Applying 4th time might depend on how your HC start-up is going, etc. but those other places you got in to seem fine and your dreams can come true there.

  • Ajay

    – Happened, I posted accidentally and couldn’t delete the previous post, apologies
    – I only applied to Wharton and HBS
    – Male; I posted as a guest and thought it would generate a guestname rather than what I entered. You can call me Ajay
    – British passport
    – Jobs listed in chronological order (social investment -> startup -> strategy role -> consulting)

    Let me know what else you need, would really appreciate your insights

  • hbsguru

    Lots going on here, and I am glad you changed story and rec writers for 2nd round of applications.
    First–drop this: “Long term goal – start-own health foods brand and launch internationally” HUH, you got enuf odd, offtrack, save the world, restless-soul- struggling-to-be-free jive in this story already, just say you want to do product management at CPG company and sound like you are comfy working for blue chip CPG companies for rest of your life and want to be leader/CEO of one, etc.
    Stop being feisty and start being boring!

    What have you said to UT Austin? Will they defer admission? If not, hmmmm, depending, one could make the case to go there, after you do some homework about outcomes for people like you there w. your background
    Reapply to Kellogg and see if you can get any feedback fr. interviewer (who you say was in favor of your admission, haha, they all say that, or don’t talk to you!) Anyway, had that person suggested reapplying after 1st post ding call?
    I think your chances at Duke and Ross will be lots better with improved and normalized application, also add Darden, Emory, Kelley etc. schools in that nabe of USNEWS/PG rankings, which seem plausible. All you really need after MBA is some rotational leadership gig at Big Consumer Products Company, and that can happen at lots of schools. viz. NYU, Cornell. UNC, Olin, GT.
    Some of those places may give you money. If not go to UT.

  • Kiyoto

    No, I didn’t. I was on the WL for about a month

  • hbsguru

    “Applying for Fall 2017”
    post this on our handicapping Forum, let’s deal with profiles of Dinged students here,
    the plan is to run the Dinged Tell Me Why site for a while, and advise the dingbats, and then revert to predictive handicapping.
    Quite frankly, I find the dinged profiles incredibly valuable.
    Also happy to answer general questions here, similar to my brilliant post below about
    what countries admits to HBS come from.

  • trustmeimanengineer

    Would like your thoughts Sandy. Thank you.
    Applying for Fall 2017
    University of Oklahoma (both BS/MS) **worked FT during MS
    BS: Industrial Engineering, 3.1 GPA (2012)
    MS: Industrial Engineering, 4.0 GPA (2014)
    GMAT: 730; GRE: 167Q, 167V

    Work History:
    – 2 years @ Northrop Grumman as an Electrical Engineer (well known bomber program)
    – 2 years @ Raytheon in the Rotational Engineering LDP (operations, systems engineering, and project management rotations)
    Post MBA Goal: Corporate Strategy/Development (pivot from technical path)
    Target Schools: HBS, Kellogg, Sloan, Haas, Yale SOM, Anderson, McCombs PT (local)

  • eatpraylove

    Hi Sandy,

    Schools applied (round 1)
    1. Kellogg (denied after interview) – discussed with interviewer, he had positively recommended
    2. Duke, Ross, Wharton (denied without interview)

    Schools applied (round 2) – with changed goals and changed recommenders (more senior people currently working at my firm – given official mail id)
    1. UCLA Anderson (denied without interview)
    2. UT Austin McCombs (admitted without scholarship)

    Schools applied (round 3) – with consulting short term goal
    1. London Business School (denied without interview)

    What are my chances of applying to schools like Kellogg and Tuck next year?
    I would be 32 at matriculation – how much will that hurt my chances of admission?
    What else can I do to improve my profile?

    Profile Snapshot:

    Female, 30, Indian, GMAT (710)
    Work -experience: Total 7.5 years work-ex at matriculation
    1. Worked 2+ years as a Jewelry Designer (helped launch India’s largest jewelry brand in the US)
    2. Moved to co-found own design consulting firm (1.5 years) – started one of India’s first design consulting firms (achieved turnover 25,000K)
    3. Folded operations as was unable to scale up
    4. Moved on to pursue an academic fellowship YIF – India’s Rhodes scholarship – One of 50 students selected pan-India, GPA (3.26/4.) – secured 15th rank in class
    5. 3.5 years work experience with Indian boutique consulting firm – aligned to retail and CPG sector
    6. Recommender 1- Duke Fuqua alumnus (Direct supervisor; left our company 6 months prior to my application, had given her gmail id) ; also active interviewer for Fuqua admissions
    Recommender 2 – Head of Marketing – Pizza Hut, India (client during academic consulting project at YIF)
    7. Goals – Short-term product management for CPG company (utilize innovation in marketing)
    Long term – start-own health foods brand and launch internationally

    1. Graduate of NIFT (India’s no. 1 fashion institute) – GPA (7.29/10) – admitted with 99 percentile score

    4. Volunteered with Ministry of Rural Development, India and trained 200+ rural women artisans in India to create self-employment opportunities for them.
    5. Saved a 700 years old craft from extinction by earning it patent protection through World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • hbsguru

    “following rejection from HBS and Wharton without interview in R2 . . . .”
    THAT IS IN ONE of the posts above, but not the other.
    Did that happen or not??
    Also you ID as “male” but name is Barbara?
    What passport do you carry??

    dunno, dude, I take posts at face value, but those issues, along with many jobs, odd chrono, etc. makes this hard to get to the bottom of.

    Anyway, start with above.

  • hbsguru

    No because after years of being on a No-Go list, Cuba is just easier to get to and “soon” there will be reverse traffic of students coming to USA. Not a cliche yet, however, I jumped the gun.
    Family business, as explained many times, depends on size and impact of business. There is an admission bucket at HSW fior kids who work in, and intend to work FT, in family biz. Those businesses are usually sizable, however, with lots of employees, and over $XM in revenue, with X usually being 3 digit number.

  • Vianchi

    ha! Why is Cuba becoming a cliche? Is it becouse of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio? Also, what’s your take on family business as work experience?

  • theresa klebert

    Cool! Thanks for the explanation Sandy

  • hbsguru


    HBS : countries w. 1 or so kid per year (changes every year but you get the idea)
    Albania, Bangladesh, Burma (yes, I’m old fashioned), Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Senegal, Sweeden!!!!, UAE, Uzbckstan.

    Real Cool Places to Come From: North Korea!!!!! Also Cuba, but that is becoming cliche.
    The Coolest Place to Say You Come From: Stateless (Stanford calling!!!!)

    other odd bird countries, often w. ZERO HBS rep: Niger, Tanzania, St Lucia, Sudan, Syria, Serbia, Monaco, Vatican City, Oz, Rwanda, Seychelles, Gaza and WB, Uganda, Haiti, Denmark (all too happy to leave), Bhutan, Estonia, etc.

    Countries with many HBS admits: India, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Red Sox Nation, China, France, South Korea, Lebanon (!) UK, Mexico, Krypton.

  • hbsguru

    URM (under-represented minority) is a legal term and is a set of boxes schools need to check off and send to US Govt in some form (Dept of Education or sumpthin). It requires schools to break out class by kids who are African-American, Hispanic Surname, Native American etc (sorry if I am leaving out anyone, those are major categories). AND A US CITIZEN.
    Hence a guy from Nigeria is African but not African-American since not a US Citizen.
    The Nigerian guy is still attractive to adcoms because they are seeking all kinds of diversity (haha, except AGE!!!) and they often brag about how many countries kids in the class come from, etc. Hence if you come from an “under-represented” country, that is an advantage, esp. if you are THE ONLY ONE fr. that country and adcom can add another country flag to the wall, as it were.
    So coming fr. Under Rep Country is a plus, just hard to quantify.
    See next mail for some examples.

  • theresa klebert

    Hey Sandy,

    You talked a lot about what it means to be an URM in the applications process. Could you please shed some light if there is the equivalent of that for international students? i.e. Coming from a country with little applications vs others

    Thank you!

  • hbsguru


  • hbsguru

    ouch! I’d say interview is what did it, even tho you were on WL.
    Do not WRITE to adcom, call them on those days they set aside for giving feedback to kids were dinged after interview.
    Sounds like this was downward spiral from the start.
    I don’t think 4th application usually works at HBS, and you are not getting younger, altho the HBS eco-system could help you make contacts, etc. That is why I would try to get real feedback, maybe someone could give you the real lowdown about what happened.

    Ahem, moving out of MBB for Healthcare start-up might have struck them as odd, given that you would be leaving that in ~year for B school.

    Did you give them updates after you were on WL. And how long were you on WL before you got dinged?

  • Kiyoto

    Hi Sandy,

    I was waitlisted and dinged after interview at HBS. Could you provide some insight into what may have gone wrong? I have also written the admissions office to get feedback. This is my third application to HBS, not interviewed the previous two times

    Male, 31, Nigerian

    Undergrad Concentration: Medicine from Nigerian University, no GPA. Masters degree in public health from H/Y/P
    GRE: 1500 (written in 2011), Quant: 770, Verbal: 730

    Work History:
    – 1 year medical internship,
    – 1 year national service,
    – 1.5years healthcare non profit.
    ~ 6months doing research at Hospital on the East Coast
    ~ 1.5 years at MBB. I applied right around the time I was leaving MBB for a healthcare startup
    ~ Post MBA goal is to start a health insurance company focused on the mass market back in Nigeria

    Interview: I think it was only borderline. I was startled by the indirect questioning way, The first questions was whether I was still at MBB, and I replied honestly that I was in transition to a startup and working to transfer my work visa. There were questions about why one of my interviewer had said he was not exposed to my quant skills (the project had no quant at all), questions about what I read in the NYtimes if healthcare did not exist. etc

    Do you think I should give it one more shot or just suck it up and attend a top 10ish MBA that I was admitted to (think NYU/Yale/Tuck)?

  • Barbara L Tottingham

    Hi Sandy,

    I am planning to apply in Round 1 this fall and wanted to get a sense of how my unusual history may stack up… following rejection from HBS and Wharton without interview in R2

    Male, 25, Sri-Lankan Tamil, UK

    Undergrad GPA: second upper (~3.65 GPA) in Electrical Engineering from top 3 engineering school, ranked 6th in World

    GMAT: 770 (Q51, V43)

    Work history:
    – 9 months at a social investment intermediary as a consultant for SMEs, foundations and public sector. Involved in fund raising and investment also
    – 5 months full-time building a digital social enterprise (developing a platform to teach business skills and entrepreneurship in post-conflict regions), which I had been working on part-time for 1 year previously (funding lost due to turbulent political transition in target country as I moved from previous employment)
    – 1 year at a FTSE-250 company in a Strategy role supporting Business Development and Marketing also; reporting directly to Head of Strategy and Head of Marketing
    – 1 year in Strategy consulting (Booz/LEK/Strategy&/OW) as an associate
    – promoted recently to Senior Associate and will be spending 6 months in Singapore

    – Youngest Trustee on Board consisting of 10 members (avg. age 35) , leading an impact assessment working group consisting of 3 trustees and 2 staff in Uganda for a UK-based charity that funds projects for low-income families and female entrepreneurs in Kashare, Uganda
    – Growth mentor for female victim of trafficking and mentor for at-risk youth
    – Started web design and graphic business at age 14, ran for 5 years
    – President of a cultural society at university and organised aN inter-university charity variety show attended by over 1000 people at the O2, managing 200 performers and 20-member committee
    – Founded a WiMax initiative to develop education platforms in Morocco and Nepal (student-led social enterprise)

    Red flags:
    – technically unemployed during 5 months and did take out unemployment benefits to survive having lost funding
    – inverse bell-curve trend in transcript (GPA progression through years: 4.0, 3.5, 3.0, 3.9; second year family issues, third year – intensified family issues + too many extra curricular commitments)

    Would use MBA to transition into product management, tech strategy, strategy consulting or impact investment. Long term dream, own venture capital firm focused on social tech and clean tech in Asia, Africa, LatAm – realised I like seeding and helping entrepreneurs more than being an entrepreneur myself.

    Target schools:

    – HBS, MIT, GSB, Wharton/Columbia, Yale, Kellogg, CMU (applying for joint MPP/MPA degree with HKS where possible)

  • Barbara L Tottingham

    Hi Sandy,

    I am planning to apply in Round 1 this fall and wanted to get a sense of how my unusual history may stack up…

    Male, 25, Sri-Lankan Tamil, UK

    Undergrad GPA: second upper (~3.65 GPA) in Electrical Engineering from top 3 engineering school, ranked 6th in World

    GMAT: 770 (Q51, V43)

    Work history:
    – 9 months at a social investment intermediary as a consultant for SMEs, foundations and public sector. Involved in fund raising and investment also
    – 5 months full-time building a digital social enterprise (developing a platform to teach business skills and entrepreneurship in post-conflict regions), which I had been working on part-time for 1 year previously (funding lost due to turbulent political transition in target country as I moved from previous employment)
    – 1 year at a FTSE-250 company in a Strategy role supporting Business Development and Marketing also; reporting directly to Head of Strategy and Head of Marketing
    – 1 year in Strategy consulting (Booz/LEK/Strategy&/OW) as an associate
    – promoted recently to Senior Associate and will be spending 6 months in Singapore

    – Youngest Trustee on Board consisting of 10 members (avg. age 35) , leading an impact assessment working group consisting of 3 trustees and 2 staff in Uganda for a UK-based charity that funds projects for low-income families and female entrepreneurs in Kashare, Uganda
    – Growth mentor for female victim of trafficking and mentor for at-risk youth
    – Started web design and graphic business at age 14, ran for 5 years
    – President of a cultural society at university and organised aN inter-university charity variety show attended by over 1000 people at the O2, managing 200 performers and 20-member committee
    – Founded a WiMax initiative to develop education platforms in Morocco and Nepal (student-led social enterprise)

    Red flags:
    – technically unemployed during 5 months and did take out unemployment benefits to survive having lost funding
    – inverse bell-curve trend in transcript (GPA progression through years: 4.0, 3.5, 3.0, 3.9; second year family issues, third year – intensified family issues + too many extra curricular commitments)

    Target schools:

    – HBS, MIT, GSB, Wharton/Columbia, Yale, Kellogg, CMU (applying for joint MPP/MPA degree with HKS where possible)

  • hbsguru

    congrats on those outcomes!
    not sure you are a “pure” exception to what I was saying

    which was mostly directed at hi-flying kids w. first job at IB or MC who then burn out after two years and instead of 2nd job at PE etc. join some sketchy (or not) start-up which staggers along or not, and those kids present as entrepreneurs. THAT is a model schools don’t respect.

    Your case is different and a good deal of a profile like yours would depend what company is and what you mean by six years of start-up experience. And what it was like when you joined.

    And as always, what sense they got from app and interview that you would be ’employed” after MBA. If you noted that other guys in start-up were potential partners and VC’s were behind you, etc.

    That makes life easier for them.

    Anyway, good story and glad to hear it, to the extent you could share more details about the company etc, that would be helpful for readers 🙂


  • hbsguru


  • Poeant

    That’s very helpful…thanks for your insights! They did not ask how I got the job, but my sense is that they were trying to see how competitive my job is by looking into what kind of job I do and how I stack up with junior analysts at other firms. Now I do want to stay in finance, so I guess that simplifies the story, too. Thanks again for your advice.

  • Rae

    “B Schools do not like entrepreneurs” — glad I’m the exception, having been accepted to HBS, Wharton, and MIT R2 this year with 6 years of startup experience. My post MBA goal as stated in my apps is to start my own company and spent a good part of my HBS interview pitching my idea. A lot of my friends who are entrepreneurs also had great success getting into top b schools. Always exceptions 🙂

  • Correct

    Agree with Sandy, very few HBS admits have left an established firm to be an entrepreneur or join a start-up. The few that do already have an exit before applying (or do a short start-up internship after their admit letters have arrived). Ironically, plenty of folks do entrepreneurial activities while in or right after completing B-school. Its an unfortunate bias but a bias that seems to exist and no adcom in her/his right mind would ever admit to it.

  • hbsguru

    from the official MIT admissions blog [undergrad], God bless those kids.
    A favorite topic of mine (along w. most other males) handled in that MIT way.
    a quick, ahem, peek, will brighten your day.

  • hbsguru

    sorry to hear those outcomes. Not sure what happened, but you had ~average stats for HBS, and 3yr gig at no-name (I think, let me know if not) “boutique” investment management firm, soooooooooo, no reason for HBS to take you over very similar dudes with just better schooling, scores or jobs or all 3!!!
    HBS will save admits for people who have below average [for them] gmats, gpa and jobs for URM’s and That might explain Columbia and Booth, too. Just nothing driving you in.
    Good for Sloan for giving you more detailed look.
    Not sure what they were driving at w. those questions, maybe they just wanted to find out how many analysts your company hires etc. as some proxy for how ‘selective’ the job is. Which is a KEY metric in this game.
    Did they ask that directly, or ask how you came by firm, got the job, etc. etc.
    Saying you want to be consultant + entrerp. is pretty darn stupid on its face, to be frank, it just signals YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU WANT TO DO

  • Anne

    Hi Sandy,

    I am planning to apply in Round 1 this fall and am a bit terrified about my chances as I am a non-traditional applicant from the non-profit sector. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me.

    Female, 27, White, United States
    Undergrad GPA: A- cum laude (Top 2 small liberal arts college)
    (Converts to a 3.55 GPA, but transcript just has letter grade)
    GRE: 165Q , 168V

    No quant on my undergrad transcript so I took a Statistics course and receive an A at a local college and am up for taking another quant course or two.

    Will have 4 years of work experience at time of application – all in non-profit sector.

    I have worked with at risk, high need populations (minorities, low income, chronic disease, homeless etc.). Started in direct service work and now am a manager at a national non-profit organization. Received a promotion several months into my first job. Received a promotion and raise and bonus a year into my second job (where I currently am).
    I have a great deal of volunteer and extra-curricular activities throughout college and after – founding college organizations and chairing them, such as a women’s group, responsible investing club, and film collective.

    I was recently appointed to serve on a board of my city, serve on a governing committee of another non-profit, and was selected from a national pool to critique scientific research proposals to provide the patient perspective (advocate on their behalf) to help decide how millions of dollars of public funding should be spent on funding research.

    Why an MBA? I believe that non-profits should be hubs of innovation, with the best and brightest working to make the world a better place. By utilizing business principles and expertise gained from an MBA program, I can work to help bring innovation to the non-profit sector and increase its impact. Business school will help give me the formal training I need to be able to focus on bigger challenges and increase my positive social impact at a more strategic level in the future.

    Immediate Post-MBA: Work at a national non-profit in a higher level position where I can really be impactful, innovative, and make a difference.
    Future: I hope to one day start my own non-profit organization or benefit corporation.

    Plan to apply to: Probably 5+ schools total to increase my chances. Columbia, NYU Stern, Yale SOM (possibly also Wharton, MIT, HBS, Duke?)

  • hbsguru

    Q: 1) what kind of X factors are Stanford looking for?

    A: leadership roles in helping lepers, other disadvantaged groups, etc. Impact beyond yourself, winning Nobel Junior Prize, being FOD (Friend of Derrick, or working for any company or org. on Stanford’s super secret insider list, viz. Apple). Change genders (well, depends a bit on birth gender, but mostly a positive.)

    Q: 2) Any advice on how the best route for the next 3-5 years to get admitted down the road?

    A: stay healthy, do not get arrested, stay employed, cultivate recs, get promoted, work for MCK for 2 years and then get next job at feeder PE firm, etc. Or Apple.


  • Poeant


    I applied to Columbia, Booth, HBS, and Sloan in this application cycle. I was dinged w/o interview from Columbia, Booth, and HBS, and dinged after an interview with Sloan.

    Basic info:

    26 year old Asian American male. 720(Q49, V40) GMAT, 3.6 GPA from BU/BC range school (finance major), currently a research analyst at a boutique investment management shop with 3 years of WE by matriculation (one promotion). Solid extracurricular activities throughout and after college. My short-term goal was going into consulting and the long-term goal was starting my own business (app based educational contents).

    During the interview with Sloan, interviewer asked about my peer group (don’t have one since it’s a small company, wondering if it’s a bad thing) and how my company defines my success.

    I have two questions if I may… when I reapply this year, I’m thinking about writing continuing my career in investment management and doing the entrepreneur gig during the MBA. Is this story “better” than my previous story (ST-consulting, LT-entrepreneurship) in a sense that I have more relevant experience in investment management than in consulting? I’ll probably go with the new story as that’s what I think I want to do now, but wanted to hear your thoughts on re-positioning myself in my reapplication.

    The second question is, between now and R1 application later this year, would you recommend taking on more responsibilities in my current role or actually launching an app to give more substance to my story on doing an app during MBA? Don’t think I can get another promotion, so I thought doing something that’s totally new vs. my previous application seems like a good idea, but not sure if it adds any weight.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated… thank you.

  • college_senior


    Just out of curiosity, two quick questions – 1) what kind of X factors are Stanford looking for? 2) Any advice on how the best route for the next 3-5 years to get admitted down the road?


  • hbsguru

    “seemed a bit nervous” is code for screwing the interview, something that is easy to do at HBS, and a couple of hiccups can make a lifetime of accomplishments go out the window. They have this Platonic Ideal, would this kid be able to feel comfy in case method environment.
    Two types of people fail:
    1. Actual nervous people like you, who prob. would do just fine after five minutes, but hey, they gotta ding x number of people, so nervousness is a good a reason as any other;
    2. Quite well-spoken people who appear “scripted” another one of their favorite words, which can mean, 1. scripted (for real, e.g. a bit robotic and cliched), 2. annoying as judged by their inner tastes and culture, but they don’t want to (or cannot b.c. they are not articlulate enuf, but they know what they don’t like!) say why.
    Rest of your story was in the pack, with engineering background a small plus,
    but nothing super duper to get you into Stanford. Classic case of solid (so HBS is OK) but no X factor (so Stanford would be real hard).
    As I am sure they told, and is true, LOTS of 2+2 dings get admitted 3-5 years later as reg. applicants and you seem T’d up for that.

  • sinhashilpa0@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    I interviewed with Yale & Booth and was rejected by them.

    28 year old Female graduated in 2010
    GMAT 730
    GPA 3.8 from a Top 20 college in India
    Industry: Oil & Gas, one among top 5 in India
    3 years in Operation & Maintenance, 2 years in Strategic Planning
    Strong Leadership & extracurriculars.
    Essay revolved around being first female shop floor engineer.
    ST goal: to transition to Management Consultancy
    LT goal: to lead the Petrochemicals/chemical practices of MBB firm worldwide

    Booth interviewer was late for the interview and I found him pretty biased against my company. Interview lasted around 20 mins.

    Yale interview was pretty good and the interviewer went to the extent of saying that they were looking for people like me.

  • college_senior

    Oh and dinged w/o interview for GSB deferred admission.

  • college_senior

    Hi Sandy,

    Recently interviewed with HBS 2+2 in Round 2, but was ultimately denied. Their feedback was mostly positive, the only mention was a) I seemed a little nervous and b) the pool I was coming from was pretty competitive for 2+2.


    – College senior from top public (UVA, Berkeley, UMich) studying engineering
    – GPA: 3.6, GMAT: 740
    – Interned at MBB, returning full time
    – Solid leadership/E.C.

    Let me know if there’s any other information I can provide!

  • hbsguru

    “Reject without interview: Darden, Tuck, Sloan, Duke, Anderson”
    WOW, that is still surprising, my only macro comment is that you may have come off as Consulting Burn Out looking for something to save your life, not a story B schools are partial too. Or some variant of that. 7 yrs WE and 5 yrs at one consulting firm is a very atypical B school applicant profile. Wish I could dope this out some more, but that seems to be it.
    LT goal of start-up in India was transparent BS but don’t think that was the issue, unless it
    “crystallized” a lot of other BS latent in app.

  • K

    Thanks Sandy. The firm is ZS Associates – it is a well recognized firms by US B-Schools (especially Kellogg). We work on design and implementation of sales and marketing solutions for pharma companies. I joined the firm as an associate and have been promoted twice to a consultant. I will call my work a bit of offshore project management and bit of consulting.

  • hbsguru

    Well, I like you, but as noted below, B schools DO NOT LIKE ENTREPRENEURS, despite what the schools say!!!! Too real, too important, too hard to judge, more work for mother, and there is not all that much they can teach you, altho sure, schmoozing is a plus.
    Is everyone clear about that now, you are one of many people on this thread with sorta same story and disappointing results.
    In your case, for a guy coming out of MD program, you did not fit another pattern.
    HBS and Stanford (not sure about MIT) see the MBA-MD program as training basically future medical administrators, guys who run hospitals, govt agencies, blah. blah.
    I am also not clear about the timing–Most MBA-MD types in USA are part of joint program, where they start business school before earning MD, not sure if after year 2 of med school (I think), so you were not in that cohort, and technically you were not “joint degree” but guy w. MD now going to B school. That is real unusual timetable for them (H and S admit, in rare cases, practicing docs esp. ones interested in transitioning to e.g. hospital administration etc but that wasn’t you either.)
    So all that went wrong.
    Aren’t you required to do some residency next year, as per US medical model, another possible confusion in their minds that needed to be explained.
    “Essays were focused on my mission to save lives, shaped in part by my
    father’s death and the strong experience of saving lives during military
    service and medical school.”
    Hmmmmm, saving lives, along with much else, is yet another topic business schools have NO FUCKING INTEREST IN!!!!! Well, not for the sake of saving lives per se, if that is the way you spun it, but by that point you were DOA anyway. That story just confirmed how out of it you were in terms of motive, timing, profile, etc. etc.

    REAPPLY?: hmmmmm, what are you doing next year? If your real goal is to start company etc. well, after winning that contest (“Established a cancer therapeutics venture during med school. Won 1st
    place among 250 teams at the iGEM competition in Boston last year”),well, B schools’ idea is that you can do that all by yourself and hire one of their grads to help you and fund you.
    If motive was to get the hell out of Israel and meet cool kids and move to California,
    well, that is going to be harder.
    I’d become doc in Israel, and spin story about returning to Israel and becoming impactful leader in reforming medical delivery to under-served groups, esp.
    the usual suspects of poor, disenfranchised, etc. etc.
    If that is too high a mountain to climb, apply next year and say something close to that.
    If your goal is to actually become manager etc. of some kind of medical device/delivery company, well, the path is real demanding.
    Viz “Worked 1 year during medical school as a researcher for a digital health startup.”
    try leaving MD path and getting job in company like that or even more established one, and apply from doing that.
    At that point you may be 32-33 which could be an issue, and make you ripe for EMBA or some other geezer program. But that could work –and you can still move to California.

  • zori

    Hi Sandy,
    Thanks for helping.

    My profile:
    – 30 years old male from Israel
    – Graduating with M.D from Israeli university in 4 months.
    – GPA 86/100
    – GMAT 720
    – 4 years in an elite intelligence unit in the Israeli Defense Forces, managing teams of ~30 analysts. Promoted to HQ to establish new desk from scratch. Won several awards.
    – Worked 1 year during medical school as a researcher for a digital health startup.
    – Established a cancer therapeutics venture during med school. Won 1st place among 250 teams at the iGEM competition in Boston last year.
    – Solid volunteering background. Established a project to promote healthcare in rural areas in Israel.
    – Post MBA goal: Biotechnology entrepreneurship
    – Essays were focused on my mission to save lives, shaped in part by my father’s death and the strong experience of saving lives during military service and medical school.

    Dinged w/o interview at Harvard/Stanford/MIT in Rd2.

    What went wrong? Possible strategies for reapplying?

  • FEC

    MS degrees and all work experience has been in the US.

  • FEC


    I am working on my game plan to apply for business school and would like your input:

    Colombian born (hispanic/latino) male, 30 years old.

    BS in Petroleum Engineer from top school in Colombia. 4.1/5.0 GPA (very high for Colombia). 2008
    Senior year at a top Petroleum Engineering school in the US (only 2 students chosen from school)
    MS in Petroleum Engineering top school. 3.6 GPA. 4 research publications from graduate research. 2011

    4.5 years for #2 oilfield service company as follows: 1.5 years R&D engineer (8 publications, 2 patents), 2 years petroleum engineering consulting globally (promotion), 1 year project manager in field projects (promotion). Oil price crisis, lost all clients and got laid off. Decided to make the best of it and joined Teach for America (Just started).

    About to take tests. No results yet.

    Co-founder and president of a latin dance student organization, board member of a small non profit and officer of 2 professional organizations (student chapters) during school. Played soccer for international students team.

    Goals: business consulting firm

    What schools should I apply depending on different gmat ranges?

  • Engineer to MBA

    Thanks, Sandy! My recs have likely never written them for business school (no one in my company/ department has gone on to biz school, either, as far as I know)

    Any thoughts on whether this lack of “history” is significant at places like HSW (or even anywhere else in top 10!)?

    Thanks for the tips about schools, I will likely try again this year so that’s very helpful!

  • hbsguru

    those results are surprising, I don’t think age per se is the problem, as much as 5yrs consulting experience–
    you say –“5 years in management consulting in the pharmaceutical sector. sales
    and marketing consulting for fortune 500 pharma companies.”
    Is that for one consulting company?
    1. that is long time to be a consultant
    2. a lot of B school outcome depends on what they think of that company.
    all that said, outcomes are surprising.
    Not sure GMAT vs. GRE issue was super important, but as noted, if you had an actual 780 GMAT, schools really go for that as a plus.

  • FA

    you should apply to schools with not a lot of women compared to their peers. It will help you not get lost in the shuffle (so not wharton, hbs, kellogg)

  • A Hypothesis

    I have a different hypothesis on why Stanford has such low employment rates, and it due to their waning ties to Silicon Valley.

    Historically, S grads did not have to look too hard for jobs in tech because Silicon Valley came snatching them up. This phenomenon hid the fact that their career services division was a B player in the world of MBA career management. MBAs found their jobs on their own without help from Career Management.

    Fast forward to now. Harvard’s deans specifically targeted tech and startup jobs for its new grads. Booth now sends its second biggest contingent of new MBAs to the Bay Area, year after year. Kellogg and Wharton are now in on the action much bigger than they did 10 years ago.

    These Stanford MBAs now have stiffer competition, and with no help from a B player career management team, are losing out to MBAs from its peer schools.

    (Recently Stanford tried “hitting back” at Booth ad HBS by increasing effprts to employ its grads in Finance, but I am guessing that that backfired since Finance jobs have not recovered yet.)

    Unfortunately for the Stanford MBA applicants, they still think that it because MBAs are being “choosy”. They will get a rude awakening once they look for jobs ad get no help at all from the school (whose leaders are more interested in scandals)

  • K

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for doing this. Really appreciate your feedback.

    1. 7.5 years total work ex. 2 years in the oil industry where I set up fuel stations in remote Indian geographies, and 5 years in management consulting in the pharmaceutical sector. sales and marketing consulting for fortune 500 pharma companies.

    2. GRE 335 (Q170 – 98%) (V165 – 95%) (Essay 4.5 – 80%). ETS equivalent GMAT – 780

    3. National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra – top engineering school in India . Electrical Engineering(7.1/10). Graduated in 2008.

    4. Led many student clubs in college. Avid quizzer and flutist. Now a teacher volunteer at an NGO for underprivileged children.

    5. No certification

    6. ST Goal: Healthcare consulting in the US.
    LT Goal: Lead a technology based healthcare setup in India

    Wait listed without interview: Ross (current status reject)
    Wait listed after interview: McCombs
    Reject after interview: Kellogg
    Reject without interview: Darden, Tuck, Sloan, Duke, Anderson

    I think my essays were fairly good. Could the reject be because of my age (29 years) or because of GRE scores? I am looking to apply again next year.


  • hbsguru

    Sales is not a favored feeder gig for B schools, on the “theory” (dont blame me, not my theory) that sales jobs are not as selective to get out of college and success there is based on things like emotional intelligence, leadership, ability to work with others, compromise, being nice, understanding common sense, understanding reality.


    (despite many F-500 CEO’s coming fr. sales background).

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, don’t think it was your goals, that was fine, was plausible given background, and goals don’t count that much unless they are just nutty given resume, not the case here. You might have done better saying you wanted to be in impactful, tech role in industries like 1 2 3 –but as noted, that would not have changed outcome here.
    As to H and S: no interview does not surprise me, could be based on how familiar they were w. your firm (even tho F-500, not all of those are equal,and, ahem, there are 500 of them) OR recs, or how you presented yourself. Or just having people like you with similar backgrounds fr. Brand Name companies and better execution.
    All that said, if you told me you got interviewed or admitted to H and S, I would not be shocked, lots to like including Female engineer, etc,
    Berk, Yale and Cornell: more surprising. Berk and Yale have become VERY focused on juicing their USNEWS rankings, and may have had odd or “internal algo” reasons for dinging you, including lack of vibe that you would attend, altho in that case, they usually interview and give you 3rd degree about coming in their own stealthy and creepy way.
    Cornell must have thought you were not serious, based on recs or application execution, etc. etc.
    You prob. had better chance at Sloan, they take ‘holistic’ vs USNEWS admissions more seriously than Berk and Yale (a leitmotiv in these comments! ahem, based on facts presented by posters, in case anyone is interested).
    Not sure what recs were like or what ‘touch and feel’ of application were, but that can always make a diff.
    Apply next year to Wharton and Sloan too, and maybe replace Berk and Yale w. Tuck and Kellogg.

  • Engineer to MBA

    Sandy, would love to get your thoughts on my ding:
    Dinged without interview: HBS, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Cornell (2Y)

    27 year-old female product engineer from India
    GMAT 740 (Q48/V42/IR8)
    4 years working in F500 nano tech, including spending most of 2014 training in the US, before returning home.
    Undergrad in Asia from a university ranked in top 20 in the world for Engineering.
    GPA: 3.4/4 (converted from a different scale)

    Extracurriculars: Fairly significant leadership, founding and leading a project in an energy non-profit for 3 years until 2014. But my extracurriculars really slowed down in 2015 during the few months just before I applied because I’d lost touch with the organization while I was overseas in the US for training.

    ST Goal: Move to product management in cleantech
    LT Goal: Lead strategy and new product development/ innovation in cleantech

    Needless to say, I was disappointed in not even getting an interview. After reading and re-reading my essays and not really seeing what went wrong, I was hoping to get some feedback from you.

    Maybe it was the goal of “product management in clean tech”? I’m not sure if this was too narrow (although I thought it might align with my current role in product engineering.) or whether the cleantech part was what killed it?

  • Ryan

    Hi Sandy,

    Haven’t applied yet, but looking to get your thoughts.

    27 year old white American male
    720 GMAT
    3.6 GPA at mid-tier University of California School in Biochemistry

    Undergraduate: Fraternity leadership, extensive community service, internships in boutique biotech/medical device public/investor relations firm and biotech IP consulting (patent landscaping).


    4 years sales representative at Fortune 500 biotech. Exceeding quota by 10-15% YoY. Quota $8-10M. 1 promotion. Sales awards and distinctions for multiple years. Collaboration with international manufacturing, marketing and business development. Strong letters of Rec from Sales Leadership including HBS grad.

    Utilize MBA to transition into Biotech Business Development role and ultimately Commercial Leadership in the same industry.


    GSB, Berkeley, Duke, UCLA. Possibly others (geographically dependent with family).

  • Ted

    Thanks for the reply, and no need to apologize about being harsh! That is why I asked ha.

    I knew going in my GPA was a bit lower than the median for top schools, but thought my slightly higher than median GMAT could help out. I also realize now that my cleantech move is a bit of risk and need to show some more interest in that before making the switch. I’m working on networking and such now to get more refined goals and maybe re-apply round 1

    MIT interview I thought went relatively well. Maybe not home run but was conversational, asked a lot of the behavioral questions you would expect. Example of a time a project didn’t go your way, how did you navigate an ambiguous situation, why mba/why MIT, no real curve balls.

    UCLA waitlist and Berkeley no interview were probably the two most surprising things. If I re-apply I will not be applying to harvard and stanford again.

  • hbsguru

    Grrrrr, not sure I understand all this, and names, dates etc. of FT employment would add clarity, but working w. what we got here
    1. Indian tech guy from
    2. no-name (to me and adcom ladies) schooling, and you already have MBA and 3. backroom analytic jobs at big banks
    guy who is using 1 year program to escape back room, a vision schools sometime warm to, sometimes not. They are willing to overlook prior MBA in some cases, but this may not be in that big exception, not sure but that cold be one issue.
    They may wonder why you cannot get into rotational program, your post MBA goal, all by yourself, given MBA and they may also wonder if those banks hire kids for those rotational programs from school’s 1 year programs, since THOSE programs

    are designed for people who do not need summer jobs, and while that may seem like you (you just need to get hired into rotational program), it can also in fact not be you IF those rotational programs, as a matter of fact, only hire kids fr. two year programs, since the rotational programs are looking for younger, cuter, more stand-out types.

    My advice?: sure, get that 730 GMAT, if you can. Not sure this is classic 1 year MBA profile, but I could be wrong on that. The classic one year applicant is usually not seeking leadership and fun campus stuff and treks and blah, blah but just basic business nuts and bolts–you already got that fr. prior MBA.
    Just a thought, altho I realize applying for 2-year program in your case could be super big deal, or in fact, deal breaker.

    If we stick with 1-year, man, I would not mention rotational program, I would point to actual jobs in banking that hire 1-years.

    If there are one year grads out there WHO HAVE JOINED bank rotational programs, please let me know, happy to learn this happens.

  • hbsguru

    Dinged from Berkeley, GSB, HBS without interviews. Interviewed at MIT then rejected, interview at UCLA then waitlisted.
    Grrrr, hard to say exactly where you went wrong, but you could be poster boy for what schools really care about vs. what they say they care about.
    1. GPA!!!!!


    2. involved in multiple other extra curricular activities on campus, worked multiple part time jobs
    3. Outside of work- volunteer undergrad alumni interviewer, captain of a soccer team, triathlon, mountaineering

    Sorry to be so harsh, but above, mixed into the salad of your total app., is what sunk you, in various ways at various schools.
    The real spoiler here was going self-employed from Google then joining
    Start-Up and then somehow needing to apply to B school, when, in fact, working at VC-funded start-up is DREAM of many post MBA.

    “Post MBA- move into clean tech, combine my tech experience with the
    environmental world and apply what I’ve learned to clean
    tech/alternative energy.”

    Unless prior jobs were in Clean Tech, this is sorta generic wet dream stuff for
    solid, white boy, ~low grades, real nice, athletic guys like you, and that is how this got “read” by the adcom ladies, well, for the most part, some local variants but you get the point.

    Berk ding with no interview is a bit surprising, I would not say other results were certain, but I am not surprised.
    Applying to B school from start-up is harder than it might sound. You’d have had better outcomes applying from Google after 2 years, sticking it out there til you got in.

    Happy to hear other views of this, but I find your story and outcomes deeply confirming of many of my “SK truths” about the process.

    What was MIT interview like and what did they seem to be looking for.
    Gotta give those dudes credit, they are in the parade with the others, for the most part, but are more willing to break step every once in a while. BERK is oppo, IMHO.

  • Ted

    Hi Sandy,

    Applied R2 to UCLA, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, HBS. Dinged from Berkeley, GSB, HBS without interviews. Interviewed at MIT then rejected, interview at UCLA then waitlisted. What did I do wrong??

    White American male, 28 years old

    Undergrad- Ivy League school, 3.4 gpa (upward trend) in environmental studies/science, Varsity sport captain and NCAA qualifier, involved in multiple other extra curricular activities on campus, worked multiple part time jobs

    GMAT- 730 on first try, q49 v41 IR 8 AWA 6

    2.5 years at Google, 2.5 years at a 50 person VC funded start up in a partnerships role. No “promotion” but strong performance reflected by salary and equity bumps, recs from VP and CEO (both of whom I worked closely with). Also work as an independent marketing consultant following my experience at Google, self employed.

    Outside of work- volunteer undergrad alumni interviewer, captain of a soccer team, triathlon, mountaineering

    Post MBA- move into clean tech, combine my tech experience with the environmental world and apply what I’ve learned to clean tech/alternative energy.

    Thank you!

  • hbsguru

    Apply ED to Columbia, not Round 1, if you can.
    You have lots to like in profile but it is not solid gold and you are competing w.other PE etc guys and that is super hard.
    As to your work history, the issue for B schools is do they think that firms you worked for are selective, e.g. have those firms done the b schools the trouble of already interviewing 15 kids and choosing one, or did you get in to those jobs somehow thru some side door.
    Low pay is revealing on that score.

  • hbsguru

    🙂 thanks again for posting story.
    Schools “love, love” Disney marketing guys compared to OTHER marketing guys, that was my point; ditto FB and AMZN marketing guys. Esp. since marketing is key part of each company.
    Hmmmmm, same 3.6 GPA but with Econ, not soft communications major, might have done sumpthing, but I don’t think was the game-changer in this long and dense story.
    Love the Stanford interview story, change sweatshirts, change the world.

  • Adam

    MJ connect with me at adamzia@live.com? We have a similar profile and I shall be happy to talk

  • Finally done with this.

    interview was fine – not great enough to make them desperate to have me and not bad enough to make them shun me. it was super friendly, conversational, involved some laughs and the conversation flowed quite well.

    Not going to ask for feedback at this point interview occurred in novmeber and i was waitlisted in december, survived the first waitlist cut in february and finally released last week. i’m moving on from HBS and just trying to decide between Booth and Columbia. HBS would have been great but i know ill be just fine either way, another chip for me to carry on my shoulder perhaps. im guessing my super soft communication major is what kept me out – if i was econ major with 3.6 i wouldve gotten in, so be it.

    for the record, GSB and HBS love love love disney CORP STRAT and certain finance positions. they absolutely do NOT love love love disney marketing guys.

    my second stanford interview was a nightmare – the interviewer was a total jerk – – showed up 2.5 hours late at 9:30pm without so much as an email letting me know he would be late. he clearly forgot about the interview but was embarrassed to admit it… and even showed up in a Harvard sweatshirt!!! cant even make that stuff up!

    it’s been one hell of a journey.

  • Jayanth

    Hi Sandy,

    Got dings from Kellogg and Cornell 1Y programs. Please evaluate my profile:

    Indian male, 28 years

    BE in Info science engg from Visveswaraiah technological university with 80% and distinction (no GPA)
    PGDM/MBA in Finance from IMT-G, India (top 15 b-school) with 7.44/10 GPA
    Certified Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
    GRE- 328 (Q165 V163)

    Work experience:
    2 years in software development pre-MBA
    3 years in data analytics for leading international banks post-MBA
    3 professional awards won post-MBA

    Professional football/soccer for 8+ years
    Student president of International relations committee at IMT
    Volunteering exp of 2+yrs
    Toastmasters member

    Post-MBA goals:
    Getting into leadership/rotational programs at banks/financial services sector. Moving from a technical role (analytics) into a general finance

    I am willing to take GMAT aiming at 730. Any other red flags you see?
    How to strengthen my application for the coming year? I plan to apply to Booth, Columbia, Kellogg and Cornell 1Y programs. What other schools should I aim for?

    Please let me know


  • hbsguru

    Grrrrr. As to Wharton reapp, sure, you were close, and lots of things can change in a year, some out of your control, like what type of apps etc they get next year. Sometimes same people look at same facts in diff way a year later, too.
    If you got this close on these facts, you should be in-line applicant for USNEWS 5-10 fer sure.
    Comment from Admission Fellow is boilerplate BS and always annoying. Ensure fairness? To frigging who???? To ensure quality control, we are not only recording this call, but sending spy satellites over your house, all for YOU, see????
    I am very, very hesitant to tell someone w. a 720 GMAT to retake it,
    but in cases where schools break out percent admits by GMAT band, well, percent of admits by 740 is usually notably higher than 720.

  • hbsguru

    Quite the story, thanks for sharing.
    Shows many things IMHO.

    At Stanford: 1. they love, love Disney, and love Goog, FB, AMZN too; 2. all that being said, they love high stats just as much. Haha, Next time take the GRE, as you know, Bolton thinks it is just as good, it does not have to be reported to USNEWS as a boo boo, and Bolton needs to start earning his director’s fees. Never mind, just kidding, day after April Fool.
    I am also not clear that career goal out of marketing into finance was wise choice, it just seems like show me the money, and it nudges you into super competitive PE etc bucket –altho just saying this for others, in your case, I am not sure that that goal made a diff in outcome. Still, this was lining up as super Marketing etc. story instead of what you turned it into, another “I want to be rich” story.

    At HBS: how did interview go? Are you planning to get feedback. Interview burp at HBS can screw you (burp as heard by them, thru their special ears). Let me know what they say if you get feedback, I collect those comments, seriously.

  • Finally done with this.

    used new recs every time (so those schools have 6 on file for me!!). wrote new essays every time too. biggest difference in essays came the third year (this year) where i feel like i really figured shit out. my HBS essay was one of the best ive ever written, IMHO.

  • Josh

    Props to you man. Did you essays / recommendations change alot over the course of 3 years?

  • Finally done with this.

    Would love your thoughts, Sandy. You wrote about me a couple years ago actually, closing the painful 3 year loop now!

    26 yr old white male

    Undergrad: top 25 private uni on west coast
    Major: communication
    GPA: 3.5

    GMAT: 720, 47Q, 42V, after taking 3 times

    W/E: 3 yrs at Disney in Brand management with 3 promotions, up to manager. then 1.5 years at (Google/Amazon/Facebook) in marketing in startup media/entertainment/tv division in LA.

    Goal: Transition out of marketing into finance/strategy in media/entertainment

    Applied to GSB 3 times… interviewed twice and then denied twice, then denied this year without an interview. Very odd, as this year i had raised my gmat and taken an awesome new job that is much more “stanford”.

    Applied to HBS 3 times… denied without interview first two years, interviewed this year, then waitlisted, and finally released from waitlist this week (bummed)

    Admitted to Booth, Haas and Columbia. Trying to make up my mind 🙂

  • Josh

    Thanks. Agree, thinking reapplying R1 CBS and Wharton. Thoughts on HBS or just a waste of time?

    (1) No interview at CBS (applied a minute after scholarship deadline, which I think did me in do you agree?), GSB (obviously), and HBS (probably also obviously). Waiting for MIT.
    (2) Career progression – 1 year at a solid but not household name HF as a Junior analyst (also underpaid that year, does that matter?), 2 years RE PE as an analyst, promoted internally, then 2 years as associate
    (3) There are some ties at my company to W, but was not close enough to push. Sounds like this could help given the commodity nature of my profile
    (4) W group interview – I really thought I did well, but maybe I had a moment or I rehearsed too much

  • DS

    Thanks for the feedback Sandy! Appreciate the candor.
    I’ve been in touch with the interviewer(admissions fellow) after the interview. When I asked for feedback he said “adcom policy does not allow feedback to ensure fairness”.

    Do you think I have a shot at the top 5 – 10 schools and re-applying to Wharton? Or do I need to increase my GMAT before that?

  • hbsguru

    Cross admit outcomes is key to school’s rep. in my book, as above poster notes. That is why I never credit weird rankings which put H or S below anyone. E.g. some years on Fin Times, etc.
    As an overhang, magazines feel more need to change rankings every year than I do.
    All that said, Booth is becoming stronger, and kudos to people running that campaign (ncluding fund raising), but dislodging any element of HSW is real hard to do, given alum base, tradition, Ivy overhang, etc.

  • hbsguru

    By whom? Schools break out student body in several ways, Int. vs. US Citizens is one, in that case, the groups would be separate. Wise guys like me, who try to get behind official stats, often treat Indians, esp. techies, as ONE ‘group’ because as an applicant, all those kids are part of one bucket, a large and often high-performing one, that often presents many cases of high stats getting dinged. Not sure if this answers your question, if not, let me know.

  • hbsguru

    thought i answered this, and it may appear but quickly,
    “Just want to understand if the ding is because of GMAT and GPA.”
    prob not but you never know, both were below their general average and way below Desi fintech type average for males, lots to like, but we may also file this under Adcoms Dont Like Start-Ups (even ones who hire grads from that very school). Adcom office and placement office often live in different universes, altho sometimes share a single bed. Fact that you had no Blue Chip gigs and long and mildly odd work history may have been an overhang, not sure what to make of interviewer Comment, “liked my knowledge of Philadelphia and the tuition sponsorship and said that I had found the perfect fit.” Try contacting that lad to find out what happened.

  • hbsguru

    Phew, quite the story and glad you have turned it around. You seem like personable and hard-working (finally) guy, and I would try to go to info sessions etc at your target schools to meet adcoms. I think GMAT and work history can make your target schools overlook GPA, transfers, etc. You are drifting into EMBA and PT, as you suggest, and for that this is an OK profile if presented clearly.
    Goals are right on as well. My advice is network via orgs you already belong to, and to attend lots of info sessions and try to meet adcom officials.

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmmmm, that is surprising outcome a bit, where else did you apply and what outcomes? You are in a competitive bucket of PE types, sooooo, lower GPA and mildly odd career could an issue. Was first job at Hedge Fund, that usually does not happen with guys who have 3.2 and low Quant scores, and then FOUR years at Tier 1 PE shop? Also odd sounding. Do you have friends in high places?
    I would reapply Round 1, and maybe Columbia ED, your dreams can come true there. My guess is, either combo of above and maybe some bad moments at Wharton group-grope interview is what did you in? This profile screams Columbia ED, and they will appreciate the GMAT score (however lowish the Q) and your deposit.

  • Josh

    Sandy – rejected at Wharton after interview and wondering your thoughts on this and reapplication to Wharton / CBS. Thanks

    GMAT – 750 (but 67% quant)
    GPA – 3.2 (but upward trend)
    School – lower Ivy (think Brown / Cornell)
    Work – 4 years as Associate at Tier 1 PE firm (with track record of sending students to Wharton). Previously 1 year as junior analyst at hedge fund.
    Demographic – 27 year old asian american male in the US
    Essay – first generation student, non traditional track to PE, want to pursue social impact investing.

  • Easy

    Easy, just look a few posts below to “urkdul” and you’ll have your answer. Wharton wins the cross-admit battle with Booth. Wharton only loses the cross-admit battle with HBS and GSB. Once this changes, which may take decades, it will be HSB.

  • hbsguru

    also, this from official ETS site to B schools who take GRE, what they should do:

    Promote Your GRE Scores Acceptance Policy and Convey “No Preference”

    Update your website, brochures, viewbooks, presentations, emails and
    other communications to be sure your published admission requirements
    consistently reflect that you welcome GRE scores and weigh them equally
    against scores from other business school admission tests.*


    GRE® Business School Advisory Council
    Derrick Bolton (Chair Elect), Stanford University, United States
    Deidre “Dee” Leopold, Harvard University, United States

  • urkdul

    Thanks Sandy! Yes this was my first time applying to MBA programs and no interviews at HSW. I think I will apply for Jan 2017 intake at INSEAD.

    To clarify, I joined the Big 4 here in the US after my graduate studies. I do work on the advisory (i.e. less strategy work and more financial services work) side of the Big 4. Could that be a reason?

  • Steve Alexis

    I am in dire need of your advice, as my profile is a bit more difficult to align with many of those I’ve seen in the series.

    I’ll go by the name of Mr. GPA Rough Start

    -GMAT 680 (47Q/36V/8 IR/5.5 AWA)

    -GPA Cumulative 2.7

    2005-2007 Went to St Johns University, lacked focus only managed a GPA of 1.8 while earning 55 credits. Took a 4 year hiatus from school and worked.

    2011-2013 Eventually re-enrolled to a community college for 34 credits at 3.18 GPA then transferred to a regional NY state college and graduated with a 3.3 GPA.Achieved GPA while working full time and having a part time internship in Marketing concurrently.

    -Work Experience includes starting out in retail wireless at T-mobile, promoted 5 times in 6 years, and eventually participated and graduated in a “Career Development Program” which allowed me to transition into a Business Sales District manager role. Multi-unit sales manager position, strategic decision on my part because i knew it would translate better on a MBA resume then an “in-retail” role.

    – Demographic Profile- 28 Year Old African American Male, Parent are Haitian Immigrants

    – Good recommendations

    -Member of the NBMBAA

    – My goals are to enter the CPG field at companies such as P&G, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Unilever

    – Applying now to NYU, Baruch (Value pricing/highly regarded in NY), Georgetown, Howard University (Safe school), Also, not adverse to being in a part time program, especially in NY area.

    Also would love some insight on some additional schools that may be of value.

  • DS

    Hi Sandy- I would really appreciate any feedback you could give. I was dinged from Wharton Round 2 this year after an interview.

    I want to attend a top 5 MBA program starting in 2017.

    Undergrad GPA – 7.71/10
    GMAT 720 (Q50, V38)
    Indian male engineer from top tech school(IIT) – 3 month summer internship in the UK
    Work Experience – 6 years
    First 3 years at a no-name analytics consulting firm(first 1.5 years in India, next 1.5 years in the US)
    Last 3 years for a Fintech small business lending startup in Philadelphia.
    Strong recommendations from a client at one of the biggest telecom companies in the US
    and from the CEO of the Fintech startup
    English tutor to other adult immigrants.
    Worked on a partnership with Wharton Fintech club to my Fintech startup. My startup is now recruiting at Wharton for summer interns and for full time opportunities soon.
    My company offered to sponsor tuition fees of Wharton MBA if I stayed in Philly and worked part time.

    Essays highlighted my work experience in 3 countries and continents.

    Long term goal – starting a Fintech consumer lending firm in India.
    Post MBA goal – Leadership role at Fintech startup where I currently work.

    TBD went well and 10 minute one on one interviewer liked my knowledge of Philadelphia and the tuition sponsorship and said that I had found the perfect fit.

    Just want to understand if the ding is because of GMAT and GPA.

  • hbsguru

    HMMMMM, PQ story on same quotes me. I think new guy will be little news for applicants since he is already part of HBS culture, as PQ story notes, and not likely to rock boat in terms of application, etc. I think larger issues of class size, gender, international, profession, age, impt of GMAT etc. are driven by dean and round table of administrators already in place.
    One year, a moronic (in this case, others seemed to like him) HBS dean just said that younger kids do better at HBS and the very next year, without so much as a Hello, the average age of admits went down sharply. You really could not get in w. 4+ years of work ex. It was dramatic and surprised employers and consultants and even faculty.
    I dont think we are going to see that type of stunt happen again, and as noted, that came fr. higher position than dean of admissions.
    An inside baseball issue will be impact of young male in Adcom which is mostly older and female. That wont be any big deal for applicants, but that is a tuff sea to navigate for Losee (new adcom head).

  • My Two Cents.

    Booth will need to stay atop the rankings more consistently to earn that honor. One year as #2 doesn’t immediately throw away many many decades of historical prestige for Wharton.

    Also, just my two cents, by I think having such a huge PT program hurts the overall brand of Booth. The FT program is amazing and really tough to get into, but the PT is well, not. I think HSW have their “prestige” factor right (with the exception of the small exec cohort at Wharton) since their graduates all went through the rigours FT application process, and FT program.

    Also, I’m attending a different top 10 Ivy program, and I have a lot of respect for Booth.

  • AP

    Sandy, I’ve been wanting your take on HBS’ announcement that Dee is going to be replaced by a fairly young management consultant. Your thoughts on this and any idea what kind of impact this can have on the whole admissions game at HBS?

  • MJ

    Hi Sandy- I would really appreciate any feedback you could give. I was dinged from Stanford & HBS in Round 1 this year without interview. I want to attend an M7 MBA program starting in 2017 and I wonder what you think my chances are.

    – Post MBA Goal- move into investment banking/venture capital focusing on the technology sector (technology has been a long term interest of mine- I currently cover the sector and build computers as a hobby)

    – Undergraduate- 3.5 GPA at non-HYP Ivy, double major: Economics & Classics (won

    several academic awards)

    – GMAT-780

    – Mixed race- white & black caribbean male- British citizen

    – Work experience- 4.5 years. 2 as an analyst at small asset management firm, 2 as a

    portfolio manager at a mid-size private bank, currently a research analyst at a

    large asset management firm. CFA charterholder.

    – Age 27

    – Extra curricular: varsity fencer (captain in high school) & social chair of fraternity in college. Currently tutor children and volunteer as a coach and president at a fencing club.

    Thanks so much Sandy!

  • hbsguru

    get a job at a consulting firm now! Should not be hard.
    Think about taking GMAT vs. GRE, esp since you are good at Q.

  • hbsguru

    I don’t think taking GMAT would have made a diff. in your case,

    you were non-trad, and with that kind of profile, any ‘trad’ element is a plus, but given that you had checked the standardized testing box in a big way w. GRE, and also had taken a lot of quant courses in college, the only issue was the slight impact of GRE v. GMAT on USNEWS rankings, since number of admits who took GRE vs. GMAT is a USNEWS rankings question, altho I am not sure how they work answer into their algo.

    As to non-trads, schools don’t love or not love non-trads, they follow the money and the trends. The reason schools began accepting GREs in first place was that they could get more applicants, so duh, why not, who cares about those tests beyond the fact that they are pretty similar in some basic way (duh, standardiized tests). At some point, if total applications went down, all B schools would start accepting SAT scores, on same theory. And Bolton would be the first dude to say, “We absolutely don’t care whether you take SAT, GRE or GMAT.”

    As to non-trads, at a time when IB’s are laying off people and “start-ups” is a hot concept, schools will pay lip service to non-trads (the more trad the better, however!!!). If there was some huge “expansion” in consulting and finance, believe me, the schools would cut back on non-trads. Schools love banking and consulting because they are dealing w. institution to institution and well established pecking orders and hence less decision making for adcoms!! Anything that involves adcoms making fewer decisions, less risk, less thinking, and that can be documented is a PLUS. Can you blame them? It is not a job that attracts bold, risk taking, outside the box people.

    The boldest thing adcoms are called upon to do is “lie” in public, as they do in this case. 🙂 So consider yourself lucky, you got to see them at their “best” when they lied to you.

  • J-Freshwater

    Hey Sandy,

    I haven’t applied yet but I am looking to do so in a few years.

    Academics: 3.5 GPA undergrad in economics and political science from an SEC school
    3.9 master of public administration from the same school.

    GRE: 800Q 640V 5.5AW but will need to retake since score will expire before application.

    28 or 29 at matriculation
    American citizen

    Work Experience:
    Currently approaching the end of my 1st year post graduate employment with a large state agency. The role is as an analyst and project manager and I am currently in charge performance analytics, leading and executing process improvement initiatives, and leveraging emerging technology to improve agency operations. Recognized by the governor for exemplary service.

    Will have 4 or 5 years work experience at matriculation depending on which year I apply.


    Currently thinking a career switch into management consulting or finance but I have some time to figure that one out.

    Target schools: Vanderbilt, UNC, UVA, Michigan, Emory, Texas. Also open to suggestions

    Any advice on what I should do over the next few years to put myself in the best position?

  • Chi-Town18!

    Why does Booth not get the respect it deserves, HBSGuru?!? Why don’t you say HSB instead of HSW? This is blasphemy. You talk about what USNews cares about in your posts, but apparently not when USNews has us ranked as the #2 (albeit tied) school in the world…

    Why are you sticking so stubbornly to this age-old “HSW” blurb as what represents the most elite schools? This must change, and I expect more from top MBA consultants. Perhaps it’s because you are simply out of touch – OR is everyone else is wrong? Pfff…ghey

  • almen

    What I meant was: What would have happened if I had taken the GMAT on top of the GRE? Anyways, I am giggles all over your post! It makes a lot of sense. Back when I decided to do an MBA (October 2015), I believed everything adcoms said. When I gave them a synopsis of my background, they would always say, “We loooooove non-traditionals.” Or “You are not as non-traditional as you think. Eeeeeveryone is non-traditional now!”(wink)
    Learned the lesson late, but it worked out in the end.
    By the way, how competitive is non-traditional becoming as a category?

  • Change the System

    Why are the Indian-Americans( U.S. citizens) lumped in with the Indians (international students) when looking at a candidate’s business school profiles?

  • hbsguru

    Yuck, yuck, you asked him at an info session and he is also on ETS/ GRE board, duh, what did you expect him to say. “Well, even tho I am on the board of ETS, which is some quick pocket change and lots more junketering than I even normally do, and a great way to meet some interesting folks, hey, I really prefer the GMAT, just between you, me and the universe.”
    But he joined the Board, what does that mean?
    It means that someone at ETS who was interested in expanding their market for GRE was very shrewd and figured good way to do that is to fill board w. junketering B school adcoms, etc. etc.
    Do you really think it was the other way around. He had a real strong position on GRE, based on hours and hours of research, and then lobbied to be on the board???
    As to Dee, duh again, what do you expect her to say.
    I really don’t know how to break this all to you folks, but you cannot take what adcoms say 100 percent on faith. The are ambassadors for their institutions and NOT YOUR FRIENDS.
    Once schools decided to accept GRE, the fact that tests were “the same” became the party line.
    If they were your friends they would lobby to elimnate the GMAT and just take the GRE, that would make life easier for everyone except for the GMAC, also known as B school prof and administrator slush fund, etc. etc. But no, etc. etc.

  • hbsguru

    yes as to Insead, if you want to go there, they run older (one issue w. you) and are less selective in general than HSW, so chances there are solid.

    Wow, those outcomes surprise me a bit, this is a strong profile, Big 4 is not a wide feeder to H/S for US kids who are not URM but they are OK feeder for Euro types like you and your entire story, as I sense it, is consistent, altho jumpy a bit.

    Did you get interviewed at HSW (posters ALWAYS include that)?

    Ding at Wharton is part. suprising this is up their alley.

    Did this all happen this year?

  • urkdul

    Hi Sandy,
    3.8 GPA (undergrad) from top UK University. MEng Chemical Engineering (ranked 6th worldwide for ChemEng)
    3.85 GPA (grad) from a top (well known) US University. Masters in Econometrics.
    GMAT: 740

    29 at matriculation
    Indian by birth who has lived and worked in Thailand, UK and USA.

    Work Exp:
    Post undergrad: 2 years in chemicals industry (Fortune 300) as part of graduate rotation program. Joined after undergraduate studies. 1st year in a technical role, delivered significant efficiency etc. 2nd year in a project manager role leading team of engineers.

    During graduate school: worked with prominent international organisation (IMF, WB etc) on a policy research study. Published 2 papers. Founded a social enterprise startup that got seed funding, build a prototype, and then got absorbed by an existing social enterprise when I graduated.

    Post grad school: working as an analytics consultant at a Big 4. 3 years at matriculation and promoted once.

    Leverage my background to deliver advanced analytics solutions for businesses looking to tap into their “Big Data”.

    Accepted: Fuqua, Michigan, Booth
    Rejected: HBS, Stanford, Wharton

    Question: Should I apply to INSEAD?

  • almen

    Thanks for the analysis, Sandy! By the way, I did ask DB at an info session whether I should take the GMAT after having already taken the GRE. He said no and that he viewed the tests the same. He even said he was on the board of ETS, the makers of the GRE. I asked Dee the same question at an info session. Her answer was “We don’t care.” Therefore, I decided to save some money and not take it. I wonder what would have happened?

  • hbsguru

    phew, glad you got in to W w. $98k, good for them. Not sure what to say about WL at Duke and Mich but my guess is, they were testing your seriousness since they read your file, correctly, as one likely to get an admit from “better” schools, and they were protecting their yield (that happens).
    HBS and Stan no interview dings are function of zig-zag career thru odd and no-name companies, in part, and in part on ???? — either they did not like touch and feel of essay, resume, recs or they had already fillled up their “URM/ Non-Trad spots,” or whatever.
    Altho I am usually opposed to joint degrees, in your case the Wharton/HKS degree could make sense, that way you get the Harvard experience.
    Two years at HBS PLUS one at HKS is not much value add, but two years at Wharton and then one at HKS is tremendous value add.

    Ahem, last is this: I don’t mean to pick a fight with other ‘experts’ on PQ, but if you had, in fact, a 760 GMAT instead of GRE score that ‘translates’ into 760, well, H and S apps would have been stronger, altho not clear outcome would change (but it could).

    GMAT AND GRE ARE NOT EQUAL. I don’t care what some other consultant claims Dee Leopold says for public consumption. I love Dee as much as all the other consultants, but I’m at the age where someone lying to my face does not interfere with that, esp. about institutional issues. Nor does it make me believe her.
    At Stanford, this is even more true altho I just like Bolton, not love him. And he has never said GMAT and GRE are totally equal, but of course he would, if he could not avoid it.
    At other schools, a 760 GMAT is a REAL plus while a “760” GRE checks the box nicely.
    In your case, b.c. of strong quant undergrad background, they may not have needed the more rigorous GMAT quant score, so with you GMAT/GRE just was a beauty contest deal. All that said, never under-estimate power of beauty.
    ONE issue is that GMATs get reported to USNEWS –and so does percent of class a school admits who took GMAT vs GRE (as NYU ranking snafu proves).
    Friends, if USNEWS cares, adcoms care.

  • almen

    Hi Sandy,
    29 at matriculation
    Hispanic URM and international (moved to the US at the age of 17 from Central)
    3.91 GPA from top public (Political Economy major with lots of quantitative coursework)
    GRE: Q 168 (95th), V 166 (96th), GMAT equivalent 760
    Graduated college in 6 years.
    Spent one year after college setting up a small family business, then worked for three years at a tutoring company (no name company, very small) in multiple roles (teaching, analytics, team-building, etc.) while volunteering at a college-access non-profit.
    Wanting to create systemic change in education, I pursued and was accepted to a prestigious fellowship program in education, which got me an analytical job at a school district, where I’ve been since 9/2015.
    Letter of rec from my supervisors at both jobs. The one written by current supervisor was good but a bit short on examples (I saw it after the fact).
    Goals: work as a consultant for the public/non-profit sector before taking on a role overseeing operations and strategy at an education non-profit or charter management organization.

    Accepted: Wharton ($98K scholarship), Yale (Consortium fellowship)
    Waitlist: Michigan, Duke
    Rejected: Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Berkeley

    Also accepted to Harvard Kennedy School for a Master in Public Policy and to Princeton for a Master in Public Affairs. Considering doing wither degree or both jointly at HKS/Wharton.

  • hbsguru

    Well, not enuf driving you in to HBS (or Wharton so far) but plenty to like and that is what outcomes show. My guess is, HBS had more pwerful URMs and your connection to that vs. first gen, did not seem strong. Your HBS essay was prob. ok, but ~ average GPA and GMAT, “no name” employment firms, and nothing massive to offset that, was prob. it. Glad other schools saw the light. This was always going to be a borderline case and outcomes prob. turned on luck and touch and feel issues in each app.

  • HBSDinged

    Hi Sandy – figure I’d give you an update on my profile that you reviewed after I got dinged from HBS R1 with no invite.

    26 at matriculation
    Hispanic URM (half, father’s last name), first-gen American
    3.5 GPA, non-HYP Ivy (business major)
    720 GMAT (48Q, 41V)
    2 years F100 corporate strategy, 2 years boutique strategy consulting (no-name firm); promoted once at each
    Co-founder of education-focused non-profit
    MBA to pivot into industry that I’m passionate about, and have shown through various extra-curriculars; not a typical tech/finance/consulting, think more CPG-related
    Very strong recommendations
    HBS essay about personal struggles being a first-gen (and parents who escaped persecution) which led me to create non-profit; read by multiple HBS students who told me it was very strong

    You said you were surprised I got no HBS invite, as well as that I was dinged from CBS ED. Luckily, soon after posting I got accepted to Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, and Tuck (with 30K / year at Booth and Sloan, 20K / year at Tuck). WL at Wharton, and was just re-waitlisted for R2.

    Either way, all turned out well, even with a ding from HBS without an interview.

  • hbsguru

    ahem, happy to give my analysis to any ding bat from HSW this round, or any prior round this year–as story says, just post basics (schooling, gpa, gmat, work history, etc.) and anything else you think on point. See samples at link after story above. We feel your pain, and hope to explain it.
    If you have success profiles, well, post those too, e.g. admitted to HSW on these stats: share the good news and help enlighten the PQ readership.