You Won’t Believe Who Harvard Business School Just Rejected

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At the most elite levels, admissions can be remarkably cruel and impersonal process. The talent pool for any top MBA program is so deep and rich in outstanding candidates who at first glance seem like shoo-in. Yet, they get unceremoniously dinged, often without an admissions interview.

They come from Ivy League schools, boast near 4.0 grade point averages and GMATs that are in the top 5% of all test takers. They work for gold-plated firms and have stellar extracurriculars demonstrating clear leadership potential.

Their carefully crafted applications are submitted. They get the typical auto-response thanking them for their interest in a school. They anxiously wait months for an answer. And then, in a brief, punishing email, they are, in the euphemistic words of Harvard Business School’s admissions director, “released.”

THE RAW STATS AND PROFILES ARE SIMPLY REMARKABLE

Consider this 22-year-old young professional who was a 2+2 applicant to HBS and just received his round two rejection. He is currently enrolled at Brown University where he majors in economics and political science. He has a 3.96 GPA and a 760 GMAT score, which puts him in the 99th percentile of test takers. He has interned during the summer at Goldman Sachs, working in both investment banking and debt capital markets. At Brown, he founded a finance journal that now boasts more than 150 members. His recommendation letters were written by a Goldman Sachs managing director and a Brown administrator who has worked with the candidate in student government.

Or how about this 28-yer-old Japanese American applicant who went to a Southern Ivy (think Duke or Emory), scored a 760 on the GMAT, and offset his 3.1 GPA with a 4.0 alternative transcript in five courses. For the past four and one-half years, he has worked at a boutique economic consulting firm. He runs a Tsunami relief effort in Japan annually, and his essay focused on how entrepreneurship in Japan can bring great societal value to the country. His recommendations were penned by a Harvard Business School professor and a partner at his firm who is an HBS alum.

Or consider a completely puzzled Teach for America alum who scored 780 on the GMAT and has a 4.03 GPA from a top 20 university in a highly demanding major–engineering. He plays a leadership role at his local church, devoting five to eight hours a week in volunteer work there. In his Harvard admissions essay, he wrote about why he is so deeply passionate about education and yearns to dedicate his professional life to erasing educational inequality.

THE MEDIAN GMAT SCORE FOR THESE DINGS WAS 750!

All three and more were turned down by Harvard Business School in its second round decisions that went out Feb. 4. They are all exceptional candidates, yet what they share in common is an HBS rejection. 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 dinged by HBS this month.

In fact, some had GMAT scores as high as 780. Or GPAs as high as 4.0 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. We’re talking Goldman Sachs, Google, Procter & Gamble, and McKinsey, Bain or BCG. 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.

Among the 32 dinged candidates who provided stats, the median GMAT was an astonishing 750. It goes to show that high scores are no assurance of an admit at Harvard Business School.

WHY COULDN’T THESE EXTRAORDINARY CANDIDATES GET INTO HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL?

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. Their brief profiles and stats, however, demonstrate how random success can be when the applicant pool is filled with so many exceptional candidates.

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

We asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, 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.

Of course, it’s no small hurdle to get into HBS. The average GMAT score for the latest class enrolled at HBS is 727, while the undergraduate grade point average is in nose bleed territory as well: 3.67. HBS rejects 88% of the people who apply to its full-time MBA program, and that’s from a pool where there is a lot of self-selection going on. Most applicants who simply don’t have the basic stats won’t even bother to apply. And for the record, some of these dings even stumped Kreisberg.

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 and provide your profile and stats in the comment section.

These Harvard MBA Applicants Were Dinged In Round Two

 

GMATGPACollegeMajorEmployerGenderAgeApplicant
7803.80Top public in southChemical engineeringFounder of fashion importerM34Caucasian
7804.03Top 20EngineeringTeach for AmericaM25Caucasian
7703.58Top 5 engineering universityEngineeringOilfield ServicesM29Indian American
7703.90Oberlin/CarNAWorld Bank/UN & top bankM26Caucasian from midwest
7603.96BrownEconGoldman SachsM222+2
7603.50SEC universityNABig 4 & major bankM28Caucasian
7603.10Duke/EmoryNAEconomics consulting firmM28Japanese American
7603.70OxfordMathSmall VC in LondonM27British
7603.00Canadian UniversityPsychMarketing at mobile app startupM25Chinese
7603.8Top 15 U.S. UniversityMechanical engineeringMcKinsey & major gaming companyM25Caucasian
7603.70Top Local UniversityNAM/B/BM25Asian
7603.70Harvard/StanfordNAMajor consulting firmF24Caucasian
7504.00Top 15 public universitySTEMBulge-Bracket InternM222+2
7503.70Top 3 U.K. universityComputer scienceGoldman Sachs & top impact investing firm in IndiaF25Indian
7503.50Indian university in MumbaiEconP&GM26Indian
7503.92Columbia/DartmouthEconIntern at Goldman, MS, BlackstoneM212+2
7403.75Top 25 CollegeNAFounded e- commerce companyM29Caucasian
7403.20Top 10 Engineering in IndiaEngineeringNiche analytics firmMNAIndian
7403.21IIT GuwahatiBiotechnologyFinance & Ag internshipsM22Indian 2+2
7303.60H/Y/PMechanical engineeringFounder of social ventureF222+2 Indian
7303.70BYUElectrical engineeringEconomic consulting firmM26Caucasian EU/US citizen
7303.70Indian Institute of TechnologyPsychMarketing at mobile app startupM25Indian
7303.53Top 10 public universityFinanceGoldman Sachs & microfinanceM27First gen Hispanic
7203.40Ivy LeagueEconomicsU.S. Army & regional bankM29First gen Caucasian
7103.55Haas/RossFinanceGoldman SachsM24Asian American
7103.00NAEngineerOil & gas construction managementMNALebanese
7003.70University of IllinoisElectrical engineeringIntel R&DM27Indian
7003.70Top Canadian universityBusinessBig 4 auditor & top  i-bank in CanadaM26Asian
GRE: 161V (87%)/159Q (74%)3.50Public IvyDouble majorCTO of EdTech startupM30Hispanic
GRE 169V (99th percentile) 164 Q (88th percentile)3.76Ivy LeagueLiberal ArtsBrand marketing consultancyF26Caucasian
GRE: 161V/159Q (85%V/74%Q)3.49BYUPoli SciGoogleM26Gay Mormon
GRE: 168Q/166V3.75University of ChicagoEconMcKinsey & GoogleM27Asian

Source: Poets&Quants

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

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.