“Sam’s resume includes coveted internships as a summer analyst with blue-chip corporations like IBM and Goldman Sachs. Furthermore, the recommendations and essays describe quantitative and verbal competence demonstrated at his current job each day. And his long work hours and heavy travel requirements probably made GMAT tutoring and prep very difficult to schedule.
“Sam’s industry background is quite distinctive compared to other admits, indicating that he can add valuable insights for classmates when analyzing relevant case studies in the first-year curriculum. And last year he founded a very cool, early-stage online venture that shows his entrepreneurial initiative and leadership skills.”
“Sam has a history of community involvement above and beyond his day job and personal hobbies. He acts upon his passions and gives back to society by leading an organization that makes a difference in the lives of others. And then there’s the potential tie-breaker: one of Sam’s recommenders is a high-profile graduate of the b-school who knows him professionally and personally, and expressed high confidence with solid evidence that Sam will be an asset to the program as a student and later as an alumnus.
“Some may wonder about the impact of gender, believing that a woman may have a greater chance of admission with a lower GMAT. The reality is that targeted admission initiatives at leading schools, including HBS, have begun to level the playing field between genders. Today, women offer some of the highest GMAT scores in the pool. Also, some observers may assume that minorities have the lowest scores. However, with so many affordable test prep-options available today, this is no longer an accurate assumption.””
Jeremy Shinewald of mbaMission
“We have seen a variety of candidates get into HBS and Stanford with sub-600 scores over the years. Some are what we call ‘spectacularly differentiated’ and others exhibit ‘everyday excellence.’ The first represents the kind of unattainable stereotype that drives ‘typical’ candidates a little crazy — the elected member of parliament in an under-represented country or the prodigy who sold an internet company in college, as examples.
“The first category captures the headlines but is unusual — the latter category is not as uncommon as some would think. Those who exhibit ‘everyday excellence’ have just done the same things as other strong candidates but have consistently performed at a higher level, revealing the low GMAT score to be an obvious aberration and the only weak spot in an application.
“This is a slightly disguised example so that we maintain our client’s confidentiality, but we helped a white American female candidate with great grades, who was an excellent college athlete in an esoteric sport, who was ranked as an elite consultant at her well-regarded firm and had taken a leadership role in an interesting-high profile charity, get into HBS, Stanford and Wharton with a sub-600 score. She was not a superhero – she just did everything at her highest level and it came through in her essays, resume, particularly in her recommendations, and also in her interview.”
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