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

The Second Round Ding Report

He’s a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at a Fortune 100 company where he has worked in a process improvement consulting role for the past two years. With a hefty 760 GMAT and a 3.8 grade point average from a Top 20 university, this 26-year-old professional also has spectacular extracurricular activities to his credit, from spearheading a mentorship program at work to volunteering for an animal rescue organization. He wants an MBA to make the transition from the corporate world to management consulting.

With a job lined up with JP Morgan’s investment banking group, this 21-year-old British woman is currently finishing up her undergraduate degree in Latin and Ancient Greek at the University of Oxford. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.7 GPA, she applied to Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program, with an eventual goal of becoming CEO of a leading global luxury goods brand.

A West Point graduate, this 27-year-old military officer has spent the last five years in the U.S. Army. Consistently rated the top junior officer in his battalion, he has spent most of the last year commanding 80 soldiers and decided to leave the Army to get an MBA degree from a top school.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

They are all exceptional candidates for an elite MBA program, yet what all of them share in common is that they have recently been dinged by the Harvard Business School–without even an interview. There may be some consolation in the fact that these round two applicants–and many others you’ll read about here–are among thousands of people who were turned down by HBS this month.

In fact, some had GMAT scores as high as 780. Or GPAs as high as 3.98 from the very best Ivy League schools. They work for Fortune 100 companies and major global consulting firms, investment banks, and startups (see below our table of applicants who were dinged by Harvard (or Stanford). They generously shared their raw stats and profiles with Poets&Quants in the hopes of gaining some insight into why they didn’t make the cut.

For some candidates, it might be easy to isolate a factor or two that led to the ding. But for many of them, it’s very much a mystery–particularly without the ability to see the entire application submitted to HBS. Consider this head-scratching profile: A 26-year-old Asian male who has a 780 GMAT and who graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a 3.6 GPA. He leveraged his economics and public policy degree into a two-year stint with Goldman Sach’s investment banking division and then two years at KKR in its private equity group. His recommendations were written by a partner at KKR who is an HBS alum and a Nobel Prize winning professor at Princeton. Yet he was dinged by Harvard Business School without even an invite to an interview.

It just shows how random success can be when the applicant pool is filled with so many exceptional candidates. Or consider this young, highly talented woman. She seems like the perfect MBA candidate: a 760 GMAT, a 3.98 GPA from an Ivy League university, four years of work experience and 26 years of age. She led marketing and communications for a major non-profit for two years and then founded her own social enterprise organization that she has led for two years. Dinged!

So how come these truly extraordinary applicants couldn’t get in?

We asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of who more typically does our MBA handicapping column, to take a look at the backgrounds and stories of these 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. And for the record, the Princeton/Goldman/KKR ding even stumped Kreisberg (see his take at the end of the article).

If you also were rejected by Harvard or Stanford and would like an assessment from Sandy, go to Round Two Harvard Business School Ding Report and provide your profile and stats in the comment section.

And for the best of Sandy’s ding reports on top Round 1 candidates, check out Best of Sandy’s HBS & Stanford Ding Report.


7803.6PrincetonEconomicsGoldman/KKRMale26HBS R2
7803.4Mid-Tier IvyEconomicsHedge FundMale28HBS R2
7709.46/10IIT BangaloreEngineeringMBB ConsultingMale26Stanford R1
7703.44HYPEngineeringLogistics StartupMale27HBS R2
7603.98HYPSPoli SciNon-ProfitFemale26HBS R2
7603.9Top 100 PrivatePsychologyFortune 100Male27HBS R2
7603.6IvyPsychologyInvestment ManagementMale29HBS R2
7603.45CornellEngineeringCapital OneMaleNAHBS R1
7603.9Top Univ. PhilippinesEconomicsI-Bank (Asia)Male26HBS R2
7603.8Top 20 U.S.BusinessFortune 100Male26HBS R2
750Top 10%Little IvyNABooz ConsultingMale24HBS R2
7503.94Medical School IndiaMedicineBig 4 ConsultingMale27HBS R2
7503.54Small Liberal ArtsLiberal ArtsAutomotive OEMMale25HBS R2
7403.6Pacific-12BusinessNon-ProfitMale27HBS R1
7403.65NYUEconomicsLEK ConsultingMale27HBS R2
7403.96IvyAccountingCPAFemale25HBS R2
7408.9/10.0IIT DelhiEngineering———-Male222+2
7307.9/10.0IIT KharagpurEngineeringEnergy StartupMale26HBS R2
7303.5Top PublicEngineeringBain/PE FirmMale29HBS R2
7303.6HarvardEducationEducation StartupMale26HBS R2
7203.33IvyPhilosophyFortune 500/Civil Rights Org.Male25HBS R2
7103.97Texas-AustinLiberal ArtsDeloitte ConsultingFemale25HBS R2
7103.6Top TenEngineeringTFA/Healthcare ConsultingMale25HBS R2
7103.65IvyNAMajor Tech CompanyFemale24HBS R2
7003.6Top 15FinanceI-BankFemale28HBS R2
700Top 15%“Ok Israeli University”Social ScienceCareer OfficerMale27HBS R2
6702.96West PointEngineeringU.S. ArmyMale27HBS R2
6603.77University of WashingtonNAGoldman SachsMale24HBS R2
170V/163Q3.47Small Liberal Arts CollegeLiberal ArtsEducationMale32HBS R2
145V/145QNANANAMcKinsey/DeloitteMale28HBS R2
1500 GRE3.8Public IvyScienceInt’l Development FirmMale26HBS R2
710 GRE3.6Top 20NATop 10 I-BankMale25HBS R2

Source: PoetsandQuants’ Round 2 Ding Report

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.