10% Of HBS Students Were Dinged Before

Harvard Business School across the Charles River

Harvard Business School across the Charles River

One in ten students Harvard Business School enrolled this year got into the school’s prestigious MBA program after initially being rejected by the admissions office.

Dee Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, said that this year’s class of 937 students includes 94 who had been re-applicants. “They didn’t get in the first time they applied!,” she said yesterday (Sept. 3) in a blog post.

Sandy Kreisberg, a leading MBA admissions consultant and founder of HBSGuru.com, welcomed the disclosure. “Good for HBS,” he says, “but one would like to know how many of those were kids who flunked the interview for coughing the wrong way and did not make that mistake next time? How many applied from a better job x years later? How many re-took the GMAT or hired me?”

Still, the news will likely encourage dinged applicants to try again at HBS. Adds Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions, “This is great news! Finally debunking the myth that applying as a re-applicant puts you at a disadvantage. People grow, and that’s a good thing. I am so glad that Dee Leopold continues to err on the side of disclosure. No need for the reapplicant percentage to be a state secret.”


That is the first time Harvard has publicly disclosed the number of re-applicants who made the cut the second time around. HBS did not report the percentage of re-applicants in its applicant pool or whether the acceptance rate for them is higher or lower than the overall acceptance rate of 12%. Even so, it’s a positive data point for re-applicants.

“This statistic should be music to the ears of re-applicants,” says Chioma Isiadinso, co-founder and CEO of EXPARTUS, the admissions consulting firm. “The message Dee is sending is that re-applicants are welcome and that a portion of them do succeed in gaining admission to HBS. This is a big shift away from the way it was before where there was more of a culture of ‘we’ve seen you before, what is really new about your candidacy now?,’ adds Isiadinso, who was once a member of HBS’ admissions committee. “And this isn’t just window dressing statistics, it is real. A majority of our re-applicant clients have gotten into HBS proving to me that they do put their money where their mouth is–re-applicants are truly welcome at HBS. But you need a compelling story to make it in the second time around.”

Only a few of the highly selective schools tend to reveal this information. Generally, re-applicants are accepted at lower rates than the acceptance levels for the entire pool (see table below). One exception: Columbia Business School. In the 2013-2014 academic year, roughly 8% of the 5,799 candidates who applied to Columbia were re-applicants. The acceptance rate for those once-rejected candidates was 21%, slightly higher than the school’s overall 18% selectivity. At Yale University’s School of Management, 6% of its 2,756 applicants in the 2013-2014 academic year had been dinged before. The re-applicant acceptance rate at Yale that year was 22%, slightly under the overall 22% acceptance rate for the entire applicant pool.

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