Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Risk-Taker
GRE 310 (to retake), GPA 3 (recalculated)
London Business School | Mr. College Dropout
GMAT 690, GPA NA
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. MBB Latino Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.75
Harvard | Ms. Analytical Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Ms. Top Firm Consulting
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Green Energy Revolution
GMAT 740, GPA 3.4
INSEAD | Mr. Truth
GMAT 670, GPA 3.2
INSEAD | Mr. Powerlifting President
GMAT 750, GPA 8.1/10
Harvard | Mr. Mojo
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Ross | Mr. Law To MBA
GRE 321, GPA 3.77
Stanford GSB | Mr. Failed Startup Founder
GMAT 740, GPA 4
Wharton | Mr. African Impact
GMAT 720, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Sommelier
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62
Wharton | Mr. MBA When Ready
GMAT 700 (expected), GPA 2.1
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Kellogg | Mr. AVP Healthcare
GRE 332, GPA 3.3
HEC Paris | Mr. Strategy & Intelligence
GMAT 600 - 650 (estimated), GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Technopreneur
GRE 328, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Schoolmaster
GMAT 710 (to re-take), GPA 3.5 (Converted from UK)
Cambridge Judge Business School | Ms. Story-Teller To Data-Cruncher
GMAT 700 (anticipated), GPA 3.5 (converted from Australia)
Kellogg | Mr. Operator
GMAT 740, GPA 4.17/4.3
INSEAD | Mr. Business Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Army Marketing
GRE 327, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. STEM Minor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.78
HEC Paris | Mr. Productivity Focused
GMAT 700, GPA 3.6

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.