McCombs School of Business | Ms. Second Chances
GRE 310, GPA 2.4
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Cornell Johnson | Mr. IT To IB
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Stanford GSB | Mr. Entrepreneurial Bassist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.61
Kellogg | Mr. Green Business
GMAT 680, GPA 3.33; 3.9 for Masters
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Account Executive
GMAT 560, GPA 3.3
NYU Stern | Mr. Military Officer
GRE In Progress, GPA 2.88
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Commercial Banker
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Smart Operations
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Strategy Manager
GRE 321, GPA 3.5
Ross | Mr. Airline Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.73
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corporate VC Hustler
GMAT 780, GPA 3.17
Wharton | Mr. Marketing Director
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Healthcare Startup
GRE 321, GPA 3.51
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. Air Force
GMAT 610, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Harvard | Mr. MacGruber
GRE 313, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Poet At Heart
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Yale | Mr. Ukrainian Biz Man
GRE 310, GPA 4.75 out of 5
Darden | Mr. Former Scientist
GMAT 680, GPA 3.65

What Harvard Expects Recommenders To Do

“Dee” Leopold, director of admissions at Harvard Business School, has some very keen advice for recommenders of applicants. “The best recommendations have a lot of verbs,” she told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published today (March 1). “They say, ‘She did this,’ versus adjectives that simply describe you.”

SCREENING FOR UNDESIRABLE QUALITIES THAT WOULD BE TOXIC

In the seven-question Q&A, Leopold said she sometimes questions her own admission decisions. “This process isn’t perfect,” said Leopold. “We’re like very experienced country doctors who see a lot of patients. We’re screening out undesirable qualities that would be toxic in our community. We like to think that our arrogance detectors are pretty good. We’re looking for confidence, with humility.”

AN APPLICANT WHO IGNORED HARVARD’S ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR AND MADE A GOOD IMPRESSION?

Leopold then gave the Journal a recent example during an interview session she held at the Harvard Club in New York. “The person I was supposed to interview was engaged in conversation with a mother and a daughter. They were adorable, but they wouldn’t let him go. He knew he had 30 minutes. I’m standing there, and he had such grace and composure to treat these people well. That’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

NEEDS A CHIROPRACTOR ONCE THE APPLICATION SEASON IS OVER

The director of admissions said she spends a “minimum” of 10 minutes on every application for the 1,800 applicants who are invited to interview. Half of those are invited to attend Harvard. “If you aggregate all the times I go back, probably 30 minutes or so,” she said. “I sweep over, look at everything, and then go back. Everybody goes in different piles—things that I need to spend more time on, things that I trust my quick judgment on. I kind of go into hibernation after interviews. By the end of that period,” she joked, “I need a chiropractor.”

APPLICANTS ARE OVERESTIMATING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ESSAYS

Asked how important the essay questions are in the overall application, Leopold said that she believes people overestimate the role they play. “They’re very, very helpful for the candidate, and they’re a really good platform for starting a discussion in an interview, but we don’t admit people because of an essay.

“I don’t need to have too much of a dramatic arc. There are some essays where I start reading and all of a sudden I feel like I’m in the middle of a very well-written novel. It can get overdone and overcrafted. Sometimes the challenge in the essay is to be honest and to be clear. It may be helpful for someone to say, “I have no ideas what you’re talking about.’ De-jargonizing is helpful.”

PLANS TO SURVEY THIS YEAR’S INCOMING CLASS TO GET A BETTER PICTURE OF ITS DIVERSITY AND BACKGROUND

Leopold also disclosed that Harvard intends to try something new with this year’s incoming class to get a broader and deeper picture of Harvard’s newest admits. “We’re going to try something a little different this year, asking (admitted students) to answer some questions,” she told the Journal. “How many have been involved in a start-up? How many have worked abroad? That might not show up in their most recent work experience, which is the way we have captured a class before.”

DON’T MISS: THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL MBA GATEKEEPER or HOW NOT TO BLOW YOUR HBS INTERVIEW

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.