Wharton | Ms. PMP To MBA
GMAT 710, GPA 3.72
Columbia | Mr. CPA
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Health Clinic Founder
GRE 330, GPA 3
Tuck | Mr. Waterflooder
GMAT 700, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. E-Sports Coach
GRE 323, GPA 5.72/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Aspiring Tech Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.4
Tuck | Mr. Risk Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 7.1/10
Harvard | Mr. PE Strategist
GRE 326, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Student Product Manager
GMAT 760, GPA 3.4
London Business School | Ms. FANG Tech
GRE 321, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Mr. Corporate Development
GMAT 740, GPA 3.2
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Sports Management
GMAT 690, GPA 3.23
Wharton | Mr. Private Equity Analyst
GRE 320, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Digital Health Start-Up
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. International Trade
GRE 323, GPA 3.6
Said Business School | Mr. Strategy Consulting Future
GMAT 720, GPA 3.98
Stanford GSB | Mr. Robotics
GMAT 730, GPA 2.9
London Business School | Mr. Supply Chain Latino
GRE 320, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Operations Manager
GRE 328, GPA 3.1
Harvard | Ms. Media Entertainment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
GMAT 770, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Basketball To B-School
GRE 334, GPA 3.73
INSEAD | Ms. Insightful Panda
GMAT 700, GPA 87.5%
NYU Stern | Mr. Bioinformatics
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Impact Investment
GMAT 760, GPA 3.2
Chicago Booth | Mr. Nonprofit-ish
GRE 333, GPA 3.81
INSEAD | Ms. Humble Auditor
GMAT 710, GPA 3.56

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


780*3.9NANAEconomics Consulting FirmM26NA
7703.87Cornell UniversityNALeading Economics Consulting FirmM25Caucasian
7703.41Top Women’s CollegeNABoutique Economics Consulting FirmF24Asian
7703.7Top Five Liberal ArtsEconomicsTop Economics Consulting FirmM24Caucasian
7703.87CornellNALeading Economics Consulting FirmM25Caucasian
7703.4Emory UniversityNAFinance director at startupF25NA
7609.6/10Top Five Indian Law SchoolLawM&A lawyer in top-tier global firmM25Indian
7603.65State SchoolAccountingInternal auditor at public aerospace companyM29Caucasian
760Top 20%Top NIT in IndiaEngineeringPlanning engineer for big civil engineering contractorM25Indian
7503.5Top Liberal ArtsNABig 3 credit reporting agencyFNANA
7503.8Ivy LeagueEconomics/PsychSocial enterprise consultingF24South Asian
7503.95NANAMid-market private equity firmM27Caucasian
750Top 20%Top Ranked Indian Law SchoolLawBusiness development at a global music labelM26Indian
7503.7NorthwesternEconomics/td>Bain & VC FirmM26Asian
7503.8Ivy LeagueEconomics/PsychologySocial Enterprise Consulting StartupF24South Asian
7503.6Public IvyNANiche Consulting FirmF24Pakistani
7403.4Top 20 universityEconomicsMiddle-market PE firm in NYCM25Causasian
740Top 10%Top Indian architectureArchitectureFounder of startupM26Indian
7403.5Penn StateMechanical EngineeringConsulting firm for banking operationsM25Caucasian
7403.56NAMechanical EngineeringHealthcare consultingM24Caucasian
7307.6/10Top Brazilian UniversityLawM&A lawyer in boutique Brazilian firmM28Brazilian
7303.36U.S. Air Force AcademyPolitical ScienceU.S. Air Force captainM28Caucasian
7303.31McGill UniversityEconomicsAccount manager at commercial bankM27Indian
7303.7NAEngineeringProject manager reputed infrastructure engineering firmM26Aussie Indian
7203.5William & MaryJ.D.U.S. Marine CorpsM28Caucasian
7203.5Tufts UniversityNANielsenM25Asian
710AverageNABusinessGlobal PE FundM26Indian
7103.7Top Canadian UniversityFinanceBig Four AccountingM222+2 Canadian
7103.35Small liberal artsNADeloitteM26South Asian
7103.23Top 20 Liberal Arts CollegeNATop-tier financial services firmM25Asian
7108.74/10.0NIT in IndiaComputer scienceHewlett PackardM25Indian
7103.7Georgia TechEconomics/Mgt.Director in boutique non-profit consulting firmM27Caucasian
7103.43State universityNAHospitality managementF26Indian
7003.85University of MichiganNATop global advertising agencyF25Caucasian
7003.2Top Five Liberal ArtsEconomicsFamily businessM24Caucasian
7003.4Wisconsin-MadisonsNAMiddle market investment bankM25Caucasian
GRE: 164 Q (89%), 162 V (91%)3.7/4.0Top Five CollegeBS & MS EngineeringMcKinsey/Bain/BCGM222+2
GRE: Q170, V, 1653.3Top Ranked Institute of TechnologyChemical EngineeringProject manager at a small military contractorF21NA

Source: Round one ding reports on Poets&Quants

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.