Best Of Sandy’s HBS & Stanford Ding Report


This 28-year-old Marine Corps intelligence officer seemed on the path to Stanford. A Phillips Exeter grad, he went to the U.S. Naval Academy and once in the Marines led teams as large as 150 soldiers in Iraq and the U.S. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average, his goal is to pursue a career as an impact investor with a focus on ‘multiple bottom lines.’

He has an undergraduate degree in finance from Wharton, plus two years of experience at both L.E.K. Consulting and Barclay’s Bank. With a 740 GMAT and a grade point average of 3.45, this Indian-American is not only a scratch golfer, he also climbed Mount Everest. Yet he was rejected last week by both Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

She’s a 27-year-old woman who has successfully founded two startups, attracting both funding and major media attention. With a 760 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA at a ‘Baby Ivy,’ she was even named to a list of the 30 best entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by an international magazine. Yet she was dinged by Stanford last week.

This 26-year-old is a biomedical engineer for Abbott Laboratories who has been promoted twice and won recognition from his site leadership team. His 790 GMAT is more than 60 points higher than the average score for the latest enrolled class at Harvard Business School. Yet Harvard just turned him down for admission to its MBA program.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

What these MBA candidates all share in common was that they are round one applicants who were dinged by either Harvard, Stanford or both business schools last week. Yet they have impressive GMAT scores along with professional and extracurricular achievements that are nothing less than exceptional. So how come they couldn’t get in?

We asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of who more typically does our MBA handicapping column, to take a look at the profiles and raw stats of rejected candidates and tell them why they failed to get into Harvard or Stanford. Both business schools released their round one decisions last week and thousands of applicants got disappointing news.

It’s no small hurdle to get into either Harvard or Stanford. The average GMAT score for latest class enrolled at HBS is 727, while the average at Stanford is 732. The undergraduate grade point averages are in nose bleed territory as well: 3.73 at Stanford and 3.67 at Harvard. Less than 7% of Stanford applicants and less than 12% of HBS applicants are accepted each year.

If you also were rejected by Harvard or Stanford and would like an assessment from Sandy, go to Let Sandy Tell You Why You Were Dinged at Harvard or Stanford and provide your profile and stats in the comment section.

Patriotic soldier salute

Dinged At Stanford (No Interview)


  • 730 GMAT (Q46/V44)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from the U.S. Naval Academy
  • Work experience as an active duty Marine Corps intelligence officer who has led teams as large as 150 soldiers, both in combat environments in Iraq and in the U.S.; most recent assignment at a strategic command, responsible for military plans and policy
  • Have been awarded multiple team and individual recognition for superior performance
  • Extracurricular involvement as a mentor for at-risk youth with local non-profit; class agent for high school alma mater (Phillips Exeter Academy), and a volunteer with Naval Academy Alumni Association
  • Goal: To pursue a career as an impact investor, investing with “multiple bottom lines”
  • “Desire to create opportunity for others, very interested in micro-finance – felt Stanford was best match due to the school’s focus on social impact”
  • Fluent in French
  • 28-year-old white male

Sandy’s Analysis: Not sure, to be honest. The military is hard for Harvard and Stanford and other schools because they really do not have a handle on what a successful military career is versus an OK military career. H+S knows the difference between a gold and silver investment banking or private equity career, but not one in the military.

Each school at various seasons and years hauls out some military dude connected with Adcom and says, “Oh yes we do . . .” but that is mostly BS. And that guy might not know either because he is too far removed from service, dumb, or not in the loop or all three.

As I have said many times, and I have not been fully contradicted, the best predictor of military success at H/S/W admissions is GPA. That IS something the adcom ladies understand, since they can count to 4. That plus a similar GMAT. Some upstanding military alum or current student at H+S do us all a big favor and find out the typical GPA of academy grads. My guess is, a couple of hundred basis points (to be cute) ahead of yours. Most military dudes at Stanford with a 3.5 have some outlier factor–and it ain’t working with small teams and helping the locals. But, let’s get that discussion rolling . . .service acad dudes at H/S/W please check in. What is the GPA of your classmates?

The rest of your story was super solid and you seem, by your post, to have ingested the Stanford preferred presentation style of triple bottom lines, etc. If you send me the complete application PDF to, I’d be happy to take a look. That sometimes add a missing dimension. I’ve made that offer to three people and two took me up–in both cases we figured it out.

For openers, what other outcomes did you get???

  • AugustineThomas

    They do recruit illiterate shmucks from HBS and GSB though. 🙂
    (I know they’ve decided that their slaves don’t even have to be literate anymore.)

  • JohnAByrne

    No, we never considered that possibility. Rankings may not be important to you, but they are extremely important to the schools and their stakeholders.

  • hbsguru

    jerk is arguable; miserable, come on? you are just pasting phrases together. Like many people who have a skill and practice it, I am far from miserable.
    Moving right along, what does this have to my advice or the accusation that I am preaching fear–which is not true, I am preaching experience and common sense.
    As to what you learned in business school, and being a jerk, hmmmmm, this is perhaps more refined and balanced version of that

    Why We Love Narcissists – Harvard Business Review
    Harvard Business ReviewJan 15, 2014 – Have you ever wondered why selfish, arrogant, and entitled individuals are so charming? These narcissistic people have parasitic effects on …

  • AugustineThomas

    They do recruit illiterate shmucks from HBS and GSB though. 🙂

    (I know they’ve decided that their slaves don’t even have to be literate anymore.)

  • AugustineThomas

    Did you ever go to business school? One of the first things they teach you is that coming off like a miserable jerk won’t help you be influential. (That piece of advice is free–I won’t even try to charge you a consulting fee for it.)

  • AugustineThomas

    Did you ever consider the possibility that rankings are “under-covered” elsewhere because they’re so unimportant?

  • AugustineThomas

    This “Sandy” guy is one of the most annoying little dweebs in the world. Haha!

  • guest

    I thought MBA Exchange was pretty good !!

  • Guest

    Great suggestion !!!

  • Avinash Tyagi

    I got dinged From HBS and Booth with a GMAT of 750 and a GPA of 4.0 in Business (granted it was from an online university but still)

  • Shannon

    Hi, is this still the active thread to post?

  • Hopeful

    Hi Sandy and Jon,

    Fantastic column! I have read many profiles, but I was hoping you could provide some feedback for my profile.

    -23 years old
    -Canadian, Caucasian, male
    -760 GMAT (44V, 50Q), 8 IR, 5 AWA
    -3.46 GPA (3.72 among economics, calculus, statistics, accounting, business law, and writing courses) from a good Canadian University
    -Top 25% standing
    -Undergraduate degree with a double major in Chemistry and Biology

    Work Experience:
    -2 years full time at a relatively unknown company that helps non profits fund-raise millions of dollars (approximately 600 million in the last 10 years) in three different countries through various fund-raising events
    -Event Manager for events that raise over 10 million dollars annually for a regional cancer foundation
    -Managed teams as large as 50 staff to produce these large scale events
    -Started as a summer intern while in my undergrad, was promoted twice to my current position

    -Ran and organized an intramural league which had over 1200 members during my undergrad
    -Competitive squash and badminton player

    Target Schools:
    -Schulich (I am not sure if you are familiar with Canadian MBA admissions)

    -Short Term: Return to the organization in a role with increased responsibilities
    -Medium term: Become an executive or managing director within the organization

    Thank you and hopefully you select my profile for review! If you need more information, let me know.

  • hbsguru

    10 hours ago

    Hi Sandy,

    Australian male, single
    GMAT (practice tests) c. 750+
    Undergrad: Top ranked Australian Business School in Finance/Accounting, with exchange to top 5 undergrad US Business program
    GPA: Top 10% of Cohort (presumably 3.6-3.8?)

    Work Experience: 1 Internship at a mid-market investment bank in
    M&A, 1 Internship at Bulge Bracket Investment Bank, 1 internship at
    hedge fund.
    6 months full time at Bulge Bracket investment bank
    followed by 1 year at an Asian-focused hedge fund & then 2 years at a
    technology start up in Silicon Valley.

    Extracurricular: Black belt in Martial arts, Regular contributor to
    university magazines interviewing high profile business people within
    the Asian market, Represented Australia in Athletics at High School,
    Elite Athlete scholarship to University, established a charity focused
    on tutoring indigenous Australians with the intention of securing more
    Indigenous Australians the opportunity to study at Tertiary

    Goals: US Venture Capital or return to Hedge Fund work within the US market

    get that ~750 GMAT –after that a
    lot will depend on what adcoms think of your current job at tech start
    up and how that fits with your goals. What do you do there, etc.
    this ‘just’ been, 1 good Aussie school, and good GPA and GMAT, 2. BB
    to HF (both well known) –you would be standard issue IB/PE-HF guy with
    Aussie and very good extra curric twists. All that is still true, but
    diversion to start-up for 2 years is a wild card, you have to make that
    ‘fit’ as part of narrative, what schools DO NOT WANT is drop-out IB-HF
    guy who JOINS semi-bogus start up to make easy $$$$ and wear jeans and
    have fun, and then looks for B school lifeline after start-up stalls,
    etc. DUNNO YOUR STORY IN DETAIL, but it sure sounds like that, if not
    you need to show us.



    Share ›

  • hbsguru

    Duh, I agree, so posters, if you could also list, even if it means reposting, where else you applied to, and what were the outcomes.

  • hbsguru

    Undergrad institution counts a good deal!!!! Esp. in India. You need to find out how many kids have graduated fr. your college or uni in the past 1-4 years and what B schools they got in to. There ain’t no metric like that metric. If US top schools never heard of your college, then GMAT and jobs become more important. US schools are looking for things they trust: schooling (GPA) and employers and GMAT are those things–as often noted here, they count more than most kids want to admit and most adcoms are honest about. Those elements count EVEN MORE when you are international and less known in every sense.

  • Doc_Brown

    I understand the economic need for hyperbole. It is difficult to not be scintillating and still churn revenue from the ho hum page views generated by sensible content. If I were seeking guidance on this issue, I don’t think I would stop my search here.

  • Rajiv Shukla

    what role does the undergrad institution play in one’s application?i mean,i am frm india and i am doing my undergrad frm an institution which is famous here in india but not so famous in the world?how can this affect my chances,when i apply in the near future?of course, since i am in the middle of my undergraduation i can’t do much about my undergrad institution?what is the solution if my dream schools are top tiers?

  • JohnAByrne

    Any firm that “guarantees” that you will get accepted into your top choice should be avoided at all costs. No one can guarantee anything when it comes to elite MBA admissions. See here:

  • Rajiv Shukla

    mba admission consulting firms like mba exchange and many others guarantee that their client’s get accepted to one of their’s[client’s] top choice mba program.what is the reality?and if i work with these branded consulting firms for my applications to wharton,booth and fuqua,then how will their guarantee work for me?

  • anony.mouse

    Thanks for saying this — my thoughts exactly.

  • hbsguru

    Not sure, to be honest. I would need to know more about actual companies you work for, what you do, how you explained the swtich from ec. consulting to financial servies, and what their record is at H and S.
    That is the only obvious thing that comes to mind, although could be lots of small things (well, always that) and how you put this story together. Were you interviewed (ALL POSTS SHOULD SAY THAT!!!) Ding at Kelloogg is real surprise, my guess is, they did not think you wanted to come. .

  • gnetrawk

    Hi Sandy, in your recommendations can you share other colleges that are likely to accept these candidates dinged by GSB or HSB .

  • gnetrawk

    I think this series will be extra helpful, if you indicate whether these applicants got into other colleges and which colleges they got into.

  • hbsguru

    let’s just admit that number of HBS applicants who fit into your vague “crap shoot” description could be (out of a total of ~ 9500 applications),. oh, as many as 3-4,,000 or as few as a couple of hundred, depending on how you define your terms. My view based on how I define + value terms like gpa, gmat, work, extras prestige schooling and jobs and total fit of those elements, is that crap shoot element is in the low hundreds, if not lower (and much lower once you factor in interview performance!) , while your view, I got a feeling, is that luck is the decider in thousands of cases. LUCK DOES NOT COUNT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK, THAT IS JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF DENIAL. One place where luck does count more than most think is the interview. some amazing people have damaged themselves at the interview, and it is hard to understand how they performed badly (although they did, we often agree on that in post interview reports), bad day, nerves, bad chemistry–, but that is depth and granularity of the process about which you have little access.

  • herodotus

    As to HBS, let’s just admit that after gpa and gmat, decent work record and extracurriculars, and some sort of legacy or child of a star, it is a crap shoot. If you are willing to roll the dice the best you can, you can’t control if they come up snake eyes.

  • MyPoV

    I don’t see any coherent narrative to your background. A little bit of this, a little bit of that… doesn’t seem together enough and mature enough. I’m guessing your essays also felt scattershot. You’re competing against other BYU kids with your same numbers, and many of them have a more serious trajectory.

  • Current HBS EC

    Sandy – you should not have replied. Writing a (poorly written) book-length response doesn’t look good. For next time . . .

  • hbsguru

    I stand by that statement and spend a good deal of my time telling people what schools they actually have a chance at. For openers. What is wrong with that? That is actually what people want to hear. Believe me, I tell lots of people they are DOA at HBS and they hire me anyway . . .so they are chasing their dream, but many others take what I say, figure out where they belong and apply to and get admitted to other schools, Where they can pursue dreams larger than getting into HBS, which seems to be limit of your dreaming.

    Finally, was this sneaky and snarky attempt to get people into using OTHER Consultants, was that the inference??

    Oh boy, that was a ‘classy/’ rebuttal –you accused me of making applicants fearful as a way of getting business, what I am doing is exactly the opposite? Stop your name calling and cite one instance where I have tried to make people fearful instead of informed.

  • Chicago

    I think I have made my point clear for other readers here, and I never expected Sandy to agree or fully understand me. I will admit that Sandy does get a lot of media attention and has made a name for himself in what he does, but it is inevitable that there are people like myself that do not agree. So, before this turns into a bashing fest I particularly don’t have time for, I will leave on this note…

    I still stand by my original statement that you should chase your dreams (especially if a top MBA is one of them) and not let anyone tell you that you don’t have a chance. However, if you do plan to use consultants in the process just be aware, as Sandy mentioned in the above post, that “In most cases, your DNA makes you dead on arrival” and that “misinformed dreamers and illogical cry babies like you who cannot read and understand what (Sandy says) are one great source of business for (admissions) consultants.”

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, guess this guy thinks I am a class act.
    Some people get it, and some people don’t like the admission process because they are being judged, and often have to face up to competition and painful results, and they act out by blaming me instead of the process.

  • hbsguru

    “Could you cite one example where I suggest anyone’s
    outcome would be different if they hired me. Or said to someone, ‘hire
    me,” or even suggested it.”

    How about answering that. You call me names and make false accusations about my motives, you misread my comments, you don’t have a grip on the process, and mouth off, and I call you out on it, and the best you can say, instead of dealing with substance and evidence, is that I am not a class act.

    You started this thread with unfounded name calling, I answered substantively, and now you revert to name calling and silly insults.

  • Enough, Sandy.

    “Misinformed dreamers and illogical cry babies like you who cannot even read and understand what I say are one great source of business for consultants.”

    You really sound like a class act, Sandy.

  • Random Guy

    Hi Sandy, I got rejected by HBS, Stanford, and now Kellogg. Now I’m wondering here I went wrong and and whether it’s worthwhile to apply to another top tier program. Here’s my bio:

    -3.88 Economics GPA w/University Honors and undergraduate thesis
    -730 GMAT (96th overall; 96th verbal; 70th quant)
    -Brigham Young University; summer study program at Cambridge
    -President of Honors Student Council in college
    -Raised over 10,000 pound of food for local food banks by organizing local canned food drives post-college
    -Lived in Brazil for 2 years; fluent in Portuguese
    -Interned with Goldman Sachs operations
    -15 months at a top-tier economic consultancy
    -15 months at a small financial services company doing strategy work
    -White Latino ethnicity

    What happened?

  • bwanamia

    “What I am really saying is that IN MOST CASES, your DNA makes you dead on arrival.” — This is why I read P&Q.

  • hbsguru

    What you said was, “but this guy is just promoting himself by striking fear into prospective
    applicants so that they will think they need need his services.” ANd now you say,”I never exactly said you “preach fear” but rather instill or strike fear into prospective applicants.” What exactly is the difference???
    Could you cite one example where I suggest anyone’s outcome would be different if they hired me. Or said to someone, ‘hire me,” or even suggested it. I thiink I only did that once, w. the caveat, that I usualy dont do it, but in that case, a consultant could have made a difference. Most of what I say is that HBS and Stanford (esp.) really value high GMATs and GPA’s + Prestige jobs–things I have no control over. If anything, I am promoting GMAT prep services. In some cases I suggest that positioning or possible explanatons of motives for applying are the cause of a ding. How is that promoting myself?
    Give examples of me saying you need a consultant, or you need me.
    ONE example. What I am really saying is that IN MOST CASES, your DNA makes you dead on arrrival, That is the upshot of the vast number of analyses. How is that promoting me.
    What it is doing is DEBUNKING THE SCHOOLS, they are ones who imply that ANYONE can get in, it all depends on your story, etc. etc. I do not need to promote myself when the adcoms at Harvard and Stanford are the best possible promotion of me with that line of BS about anyone can get it. People believe it and say, “Well I don’t have high stats or a prestige background, but the schools imply that does not real matter, so maybe w. Sandy I can get in because I sure don’t know what I am going to say by myself.”
    I promote myself on this board as a debunker and truth teller, all of which IS TRUE, and many people hire me because the truth is worth hearing.
    But hey, if you want to CONTINUE the myth that anyone can get in, etc. etc. go right ahead. Misinformed dreamers and illogical cry babies like you who cannot even read and understand what I say are one great source of business for consultants.

  • Chicago

    I never exactly said you “preach fear” but rather instill or strike fear into prospective applicants. I believe you take one or two aspects of an applicant (lower than average GMAT or GPA, lesser known undergrad school, iffy work experience, etc.) and make a spurious relationship to them being “dinged” when, in reality, these aspects may have had little influence into them getting rejected (and for an applicant with perfect “stats” you just assume essays or interviews are the cause). These types of articles/comments make less discernible applicants doubt themselves if they have equal or lesser stats and perhaps take the $2,800 editing plunge (per school) you offer to rid themselves the fear of not getting in.

    In my opinion, it’s one thing for people to post their stats and some information about themselves with schools they were accepted or rejected, but it’s another thing for a 3rd party to step in and act as the “guru” of “why they got dinged”… what a pathetic way to make an income

  • College grad

    Hi Sandy! I’m a soon-to-be college grad, reviewing all your analysis about reasons people may be getting dinged at Stanford and Harvard. I’m hoping I can make a strong app in the future (2-3 years from now) to a top-10 program so appreciate your views on how work experience impacts admissions.

    I’m a female engineering major with pretty good, but not stellar GPA (can’t really tell u exact figure coz I’m not studying in the US so it’ll be hard to compare anyway)I’ve got 2 job offers, one from a major bank (think Citi/Barclays/etc) in an operations and technology management associate role, and a second offer in an engineering role from a America-based fortune-500 engineering company where I did my internship. They liked me there, I performed well and I could have a shot at a slightly accelerated career. But they’re probably not a brand-name/ well-known company in the eyes of ADCOMs.

    My question is this: which career path would put my in a better position when I apply for an MBA in a few years? My goal in getting In MBA would be to get into management consulting and possibly move into a business strategy/ ops role after.

  • Who needs a guru

    I dont need to be an HBS guru to tell why most of these people got dinged. Maybe introduce some profiles with GPA’s > 3.7 and GMAT > 730?

  • JohnAByrne

    It’s definitely true that rankings coverage is a core part of the site. That’s largely because they are under covered elsewhere. BusinessWeek won’t write about The Financial Times’ ranking, and the Financial Times won’t write about U.S. News. In fact, even media outlets that regularly run rankings do an incredibly poor job of telling you how they change and what makes them tick. Given the widespread interest and obsession in rankings, we make it our goal to extensively report on them, pointing out the flaws in each and the changes in a fairly detailed way.

  • WhoCaresAbout HBSnGSB

    John, I appreciate the reply. Granted some of your content does focus outside the top-tier, but articles like the Mandela piece (an exclusively HBS perspective that can be viewed as a PR plug) and Sandy’s acid-tinged articles really promote an obsession about select schools and downgrading of others. The comments on many P&Q articles also suggest applicants’/students’ obsessions with “H/S/B/W”, “M7”, and other nonsense ways to rank a school against another. While you personally have written many favorable comments on a variety of schools, the tenor/makeup of the articles is really quite targeted to very very few institutions. In some respects, perhaps your readership wants focus on these institutions, so perhaps your target is appropriate. However, your site also contributes to the obsession over the rankings, which convinces students to apply selectively to a few schools, and then perpetuates the motion that some schools are inherently better than others because of a low admissions rate or a high ranking from USNews. Considering that only a select number of Fortune 100 CEOs went to these schools (Harvard leads the pack with 8 and most of the top schools have 3-4 at most), it is evident that just because one goes to HBS may mean an impressive pedigree and chance at working for great companies, but does not mean a C-suite title in 20 years. What i would like to see from P&Q is less of a focus on the Harvards of the world, more news about MBA life in general, and a more detailed/qualitative focus on the pros and cons of schools beyond rankings, average GMAT scores, and average starting salaries. Clearly MBA schools have pros and cons beyond the numbers. And realistically, while many students apply to top schools, not everyone gets in. And if you could have Sandy show some humble pie and speak positively about schools not located in Chicago, NYC, Boston, or Palo Alto, I think I would respect his articles more.

  • JohnAByrne

    I would hate to think that our site perpetuates the impression that other schools are a waste of time because that’s simply not true. We have written profiles and stories of many schools that don’t make the Top 20 list, from Boston University and Brandeis to the Jack Welch Management Institute. I will admit that we do tend to focus on the very best schools in the world and that largely occurs because more people are interested in them due to the large volume of applications they receive each year. Truth is, I am a big believer in the value of the MBA degree, arguably the most successful educational degree since the early 1950s. I believe that getting the degree–even from a third tier school–can make a meaningful difference in one’s career. I agree with you wholeheartedly, too: the world is not going to end if you don’t get into Harvard or Stanford. There are thousands of people who get turned down from these two schools every year and they do just fine, thank you, whether they are at another peer school or not.

  • WhoCaresAbout HBSnGSB

    My big objection to Sandy is that he gives the impression that the world is going to end for these students if they don’t get into Harvard or Stanford. As a consequence, this site perpetuates the false impression that other top schools (call it the top 20) are meaningless wastes of time and money. And it should also be noted that the world will not end if you don’t work in I-banking or the big three consulting companies after graduation. I can’t wait for Sandy and other respondents to provide an elitist backlist to this comment. Bring it on.

  • hbsguru

    Let Sandy Tell You Why You Were Dinged at Harvard or Stanford
    go there, if you got rejected fr. H or S. Those are the profiles we are reviewing now.

  • FlyingKiwi

    Would love to hear your thoughts on my candidacy, HBS guru. Can I email you with my profile?

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, hundreds of real applicants with very powerful stats post here that they got rejected from HBS and Stanford and want to know why. I tell them why?

    How exactly is that preaching fear?

    If you read what I say, I often stress that with facts 1 2 3 NO CONSULTANT will get you into schools X Y and Z. And how exactly is that drumming up business.

  • Chicago

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this “HBS Guru” is often contradicting himself from one story to the next. I do recognize he runs his own MBA consulting website and has found an “in” with the people at P&Q to post his absurdity, but this guy is just promoting himself by striking fear into prospective applicants so that they will think they need need his services. Don’t let your dreams die because of fear.

  • Bingo

    Page 3- the person seems to be giving a wrong view of her profile. McKinsey does not recruit from the college she has mentioned. She most likely worked at the McKinsey Knowledge Centre (back office supporting consultants). So, this is clearly a reject.