You Won’t Believe Who Harvard Business School Rejected This Month


Out of every 100 applicants to the MBA program at Harvard Business School, roughly 89 are turned down for admission. Yet, at many as 60 of those 89 rejected candidates are refused admission even though they are more than capable of doing the work at HBS and would likely thrive on its Boston campus.

The school’s 11% acceptance rate makes it one of the most highly selective graduate degree programs in the world. Still, if you’re on the receiving end of a ding, the fact that you’re in the talented majority of rejections provides little consolation–especially at a school that is not notoriously numbers driven.

So perhaps some granular detail might give some solace. Earlier this month, Harvard invited about 950 round one applicants to admission interviews. While roughly six of ten of those highly fortunate candidates will likely get admitted to HBS, the numbers also suggest that nearly 3,000 other applicants in round one were turned down without an interview.


You won’t believe who Harvard shushed away. There’s the 25-year-old young man who racked up a 3.8 grade point average as a math major at Stanford University and got a 780 on his GMAT which would put him in the 99th percentile of all test takers in the world. Translation: Fewer than 1% of those who took the GMAT did better and that score is 50 points above the HBS median. His resume, moreover, boasts experience at one of the three top global consulting firms–McKinsey, Bain or BCG–and he now works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managing a strategy team. To top it all off, he also launched a non-profit two years ago that helps to empower at-risk youth through workshops and classes and has reached more than 1,000 students. Rejected without even an interview.

Consider another candidate with the same nosebleed-teritory GMAT score of 780. This 25-year-old young professional at Intel Corp. has a GPA of 3.7 studying economics at a top-tier Ivy, think Harvard, Princeton or Yale, and also has a master’s in supply chain engineering from prestigious Georgia Tech. There are even more walk-on-water details: The first in his family to gain a college degree, this white male mentors other first-generation college students and speaks Chinese. In his application essay, he wrote genuinely about how he is from a family of construction workers and wanted to build something significant in his life. He thought a Harvard MBA would help him do that. Dinged. No interview.

Or how about yet another 780 GMAT candidate, with a 3.75 GPA in mathematical economics whose academic prowess won him the economics medal at graduation? He has spent two years at a top bank and has raised more than $30,000 for charity in the past year and volunteered more than 200 hours of his personal time. And by the way, he’s also trilingual, plays the guitar well enough to be considered a real pro, and he’s half Spanish. Another HBS round one reject who failed to even get an interview.


If you’re scratching your head over these dings, you’re not alone. Once again, we asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of and a prominent MBA admissions consultant, to analyze why these exceptional candidates were left hanging by Harvard Business School this month. Not only does he opine on the three special cases above, he also takes a look at a wide variety of applicants who shared their basic profiles with us after getting released by HBS in the first round. The median GMAT of the candidates was a breathtaking 740, ten full points above the 730 median for the school.

As always, Kreisberg’s commentary on these rejections is in his typical tell-it-like-it-is, no-nonsense style. To an investment manager with a 760 GMAT, he says bluntly: “You were basically dead on arrival!” To an educator with a solid GRE score, Kreisberg concludes “you still seem on some journey through self-awareness, faith, race, mental distress, and philosophy.” And to an executive with an impressive 740 score on the GMAT at a well-known nonprofit, he puts it rather simply: “No offense, but there were LOTS of reasons to ding you.”

If you’d like Kreisberg to give you a quick assessment, just go to Dinged? Let Sandy Tell You Why Now and leave your profile and details.

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