Why I’m Not Applying to Harvard Business School

As I wrap up my Columbia Business School application, I am also looking ahead to my strategy for my remaining applications, which will include some or all of the following b-schools: Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Northwestern (Kellogg), Berkeley (Haas) and UCLA (Anderson). As I previously talked about, I had narrowed down my schools earlier in the application process, with changes depending on my capacity to write more essays, additional research on schools, and clarification of my goals. In the end, I decided not to apply to Harvard Business School, simply because my age puts me at a significant disadvantage.

While most anyone could benefit from the brand recognition and connections of an HBS degree, I don’t think it is in the cards for me, or most older applicants. Looking at the blog posts of Dee Leopold, the director of admissions for HBS, I revisited her posts where she published the class years when the HBS classes of 2012 and 2010 graduated from undergraduate school.

I think it is pretty telling that only 47 out of the 910 entering students in the Class of 2012 graduated from college in 2003 or earlier (i.e., only about 5% of the latest entering class were aged at least 28 or 29 years upon entering HBS). The graph that Dee published on her blog in July 2010 is re-posted below:

HBS Class of 2012 by Undergraduate Degree Year

Source: “More about the Class of 2012”, dated July 8, 2010, http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog-all.html

Similarly, for the Class of 2010, only about 49 out of the 900 entering students (again, about 5%) graduated from college in 2001 or earlier.

As I would fall into the category of applicants who are on the wrong side of youth, at least in Harvard’s (and maybe Stanford’s) eyes, I think I would be better served spending more time perfecting my applications for schools where I have better odds at. Although I have no doubt that I would be able to excel at any school, and my numbers are within the range for HBS, the combination of very few admittances for applicants around my age with my preference for fewer case studies, definitively tipped the scales away from applying to HBS.

While I will not be applying to most b-schools, I wanted to talk about not applying to Harvard in particular, since it is widely considered as one of the top business schools in the world. It would have been interesting to send in my application just to get a definitive answer, but not at the expense of submitting less compelling applications for my target schools. Attending HBS would not have been a magic bullet, in any case. In the end, any one of the top schools I am applying to will enable me to achieve my career goals, as long as I put in the necessary time and effort. First though, I have to get in.

This post is adapted from Just Ship, a blog written by an anonymous MBA applicant who has a GMAT score above 760 and is targeting six or seven of the top ten business schools. You can read all of his posts at Just Ship.

Previous posts by Just Ship at Poets&Quants:

“Just One of 4,653 Applicants Trying To Get Into A Top B-School”

  • NewMBAStudent

    Yup. I applied there sort of because you’re supposed to apply there but never really had my heart in it. Not a big fan of their method or their culture, without disparaging it I just didn’t relate to it.

  • kat

    I think something else to consider is HBS’s interest in maintaining its average age in the midst of over 100 24-year old 2+2 students hopping aboard the Hahvahd MBA bus and taking up 1/9th of the incoming class size. I anticipate HBS applicants who are below the current average age will be at a greater disadvantage. Or am I overthinking this?

  • Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

  • MH

    The ONLY way to know whether anyone will be accepted into any school is to APPLY.

  • Thanks for the comments.

    @really? – My post focused on the age factor for not applying to HBS, but there are other reasons for allocating my limited time and effort toward schools that I have a better shot at. I recognize that HBS is a top school, but it’s not the only school that will significantly help me in my career.

    @Umang – You’re likely right, but it’s hard to tell with the limited information out there. On one online forum, at least 12 of the 60 or so applicants to Harvard this year have self-identified as 28 or older. It’s a very small sample size, so I don’t think that the number of 28 or older applicants in the overall pool is 20%, but I do think it’s closer to 20% than it is 5%. Would love to see data on that from HBS or peer institutions.

  • Umang

    may be the number of applicants who graduated in 2003 or earlier is far less, and hence the admits in the class of 2012 is a low number….possible???

  • really?

    You make a poor argument for not applying to HBS. Your writing skills are excellent, go for it.

  • AzhakMansor

    Very positive attitude i must say. You are being realistic by having done ‘school fit’ due diligence and optimistic by exploring alternatives instead of focusing on a narrow list of schools. It can avoid applicants from falling into the negative mood of despair, which will drain their applications’ quality.