Who HBS Dinged In The First Round

This 28-year-old captain in the U.S. Marine Corps has been a prosecutor for the past three years, having been recently promoted as U.S. attorney for his air station. He grew up in Singapore and has an undergraduate degree from New York University and his J.D. from William & Mary. With a 720 GMAT, he applied to HBS to help him transition to a strategy consulting firm in Southeast Asia where he would like to work in the technology industry.

At 22 years of age, he boasts two engineering degrees–undergrad and graduate–from a top five U.S. university and has some work experience at one of the big three management consulting firms. His transcripts show an impressive GPA of 3.7 for his undergraduate work in engineering and a straight 4.0 for his master’s. With a GRE score of 164 Q (89%) and 162 V (91%), he wrote his essay on entrepreneurship.

This 24-year-old Asian professional crushed the GMAT, scoring an impressive 770. With a 3.41 grade point average from a top women’s college, she has been working as a senior analyst for a boutique economics consulting firm for the past two years.

He ranked first in his class at a top five Indian law school and then went on to become an M&A lawyer for a top-tier international law firm, dividing his time between London and Dubai for the past three years. He had been president of his university student body as well as president of the university academic society, With a 760 GMAT, he had filed his very first application for an MBA program with Harvard.


What all these and many more candidates share in common? They received a rejection from Harvard Business School last week when admissions sent out more than 2,000 “release” emails to first round applicants. Rejection in any form is painful and humbling, but when you receive a ‘no’ from an institution that occupied a key place in your life’s dreams, it can be earth shattering.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

It’s even more confusing when you are in the zone, with the right stats, work and educational background to make it at Harvard. Yet, far more people apply to the school’s MBA program than classroom seats are available. So most dings hinge on small factors and nuances in an MBA application.

To sort through those often vague clues, we asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com and our regular MBA handicapping columnist, to evaluate the stats and profiles of released candidates and attempt to explain why he thinks they were turned down. Nearly 50 disappointed applicants sent in their stats already. You can do so either here or in the comment section below to get an analysis from Sandy.

If it’s any consolation, many extraordinary people got bad news last week, high achievers with stellar GMATs, undergraduate transcripts, and professional backgrounds. They included many 750-plus GMAT scorers, lawyers, consultants, bankers, and non-profit leaders. We created the table below so you can see just how extraordinary many of them were. Of course, the basic stats provide a very small glimpse into a person’s candidacy to attend Harvard but they do give you a basic idea of how hard it is to get through the HBS screen.

Stats & Profiles Of Round One Dings At Harvard Business School


GMAT GPA College Major Employer Gender Age Applicant
780* 3.9 NA NA Economics Consulting Firm M 26 NA
770 3.87 Cornell University NA Leading Economics Consulting Firm M 25 Caucasian
770 3.41 Top Women’s College NA Boutique Economics Consulting Firm F 24 Asian
770 3.7 Top Five Liberal Arts Economics Top Economics Consulting Firm M 24 Caucasian
770 3.87 Cornell NA Leading Economics Consulting Firm M 25 Caucasian
770 3.4 Emory University NA Finance director at startup F 25 NA
760 3.5 H/Y/P NA Filmmaker/writer M 28 Asian
760 9.6/10 Top Five Indian Law School Law M&A lawyer in top-tier global firm M 25 Indian
760 3.65 State School Accounting Internal auditor at public aerospace company M 29 Caucasian
760 Top 20% Top NIT in India Engineering Planning engineer for big civil engineering contractor M 25 Indian
750 3.5 Top Liberal Arts NA Big 3 credit reporting agency F NA NA
750 3.8 Ivy League Economics/Psych Social enterprise consulting F 24 South Asian
750 3.73 Harvard Economics Deloitte M 25 Asian
750 3.95 NA NA Mid-market private equity firm M 27 Caucasian
750 Top 20% Top Ranked Indian Law School Law Business development at a global music label M 26 Indian
750 3.7 Northwestern Economics/td> Bain & VC Firm M 26 Asian
750 3.8 Ivy League Economics/Psychology Social Enterprise Consulting Startup F 24 South Asian
750 3.6 Public Ivy NA Niche Consulting Firm F 24 Pakistani
740 3.4 Top 20 university Economics Middle-market PE firm in NYC M 25 Causasian
740 Top 10% Top Indian architecture Architecture Founder of startup M 26 Indian
740 3.5 Penn State Mechanical Engineering Consulting firm for banking operations M 25 Caucasian
740 3.60 NYU Finance Deloitte M 25 Indian
740 3.56 NA Mechanical Engineering Healthcare consulting M 24 Caucasian
730 7.6/10 Top Brazilian University Law M&A lawyer in boutique Brazilian firm M 28 Brazilian
730 3.36 U.S. Air Force Academy Political Science U.S. Air Force captain M 28 Caucasian
730 3.31 McGill University Economics Account manager at commercial bank M 27 Indian
730 3.7 NA Engineering Project manager reputed infrastructure engineering firm M 26 Aussie Indian
720 3.5 William & Mary J.D. U.S. Marine Corps M 28 Caucasian
720 3.5 Tufts University NA Nielsen M 25 Asian
710 Average NA Business Global PE Fund M 26 Indian
710 3.7 Top Canadian University Finance Big Four Accounting M 22 2+2 Canadian
710 3.35 Small liberal arts NA Deloitte M 26 South Asian
710 3.23 Top 20 Liberal Arts College NA Top-tier financial services firm M 25 Asian
710 8.74/10.0 NIT in India Computer science Hewlett Packard M 25 Indian
710 3.7 Georgia Tech Economics/Mgt. Director in boutique non-profit consulting firm M 27 Caucasian
710 3.43 State university NA Hospitality management F 26 Indian
700 3.85 University of Michigan NA Top global advertising agency F 25 Caucasian
700 3.2 Top Five Liberal Arts Economics Family business M 24 Caucasian
700 3.4 Wisconsin-Madisons NA Middle market investment bank M 25 Caucasian
GRE: 164 Q (89%), 162 V (91%) 3.7/4.0 Top Five College BS & MS Engineering McKinsey/Bain/BCG M 22 2+2
GRE: Q170, V, 165 3.3 Top Ranked Institute of Technology Chemical Engineering Project manager at a small military contractor F 21 NA

Source: Round one ding reports on Poets&Quants

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