Best Of Sandy’s HBS & Stanford Ding Report


Dinged at Harvard (no interview)


  • 790 GMAT
  • 3.15 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Rutgers University
  • Work experience includes four years at Abbott Labs – worked in manufacturing dept. as an engineer, involved in development/launch of new medical device, promoted twice, received recognition from Site Leadership Team.
  • Goal: To combine technical engineering skills gained over the last 4 years at Abbott with financial education and become a top executive at Abbott Labs.
  • “I suspect the low GPA for the rejection? Is there any hope for me to get into a top five school with that ugly thing? Also, I’ve read In your columns that business schools LOVE bio-pharma types? Does the stardust also apply to the medical device industry? I’m wondering if transitioning to bio-pharma would help my chances at all”
  • 26-year-old male

Sandy’s Analysis: Not sure what happened. A 790 GMAT is an eye-catcher and Abbott Labs is something, well, I have heard of. Medical devices is what your major was, and that is about as good a major as exists in God’s man-made world. You should have done a convincing job of saying you wanted to be an innovative, value-adding, poor-peeps serving leader. Saying you wanted to be CEO of Abbott Labs showed a, ahem, lack of imagination and in context was generic. Not sure if that actually damaged you. It depends on how you did it.

If your essay sounded over generalized, and recommendations were not curated properly (some of those med device lab guys are not experienced writers) and then if we start focusing on the low GPA and Rutgers!–not a favorite HBS school, not probably enough, not Springsteen enough, mostly just affluent-y/upper blue collar NJ types. Hey, who likes that (save the hate mail, I am similar deal from Long Island).

Well, drop by drop all that small stuff can add up, especially if the small stuff begins to form a negative picture. At that point, the 790 actually starts working against you. They begin to suspect you are a brainiac with limited social skills. Just speculating, but…………….all that said, this is me mouthing off post-ding. If I came across this cold, I would have said your odds were 40-50 percent, given your 790 GMAT and work experience at Abbott. I would have predicted an interview.

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