Mr. Think Tank
- 170V; 162Q GRE (equivalent to a 730 GMAT)
- 3.94 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in political science and history from a Top 50 U.S. university
- 4.0 GPA
- Master’s degree in political science/political theory from a regional university (during period around financial crisis and some related family troubles that I explain)
- Work experience at an up and coming foreign policy think tank in D.C. that HBS probably has never heard of but which would be well known at the Kennedy School; started as an assistant to the CEO four years ago and am currently his chief of staff with measurable impact in a fast-growing organization
- “Essay was about bringing elements together to explain why I wanted to go to business school, rather than Kennedy or Law. All about so much wasted financial and human capital lost at nonprofits, sector ready for much more rigorous management systems, etc. How I’ve come to that conclusion from working in congressional campaigns, legislative offices and at this think tank”
- 30-year-old white gay male
Sandy’s Analysis: The Harvard Business School takes kids from think tanks but they need to present golden resumes.
You went to a no-name college, work in a non-feeder think tank (by your own admission, ‘HBS never heard of’), and on top of that, are old-ish. I don’t think your essay helped, either, which sounded, well, more like you belong in a think tank than in non-profits per se. It is hard to use an essay to argue them out of thinking you belong at the Kennedy School, especially given the record of your jobs.
The same person at you, 26 years old, with a 3.8 from an Ivy, a 740 GMAT, and two to three years at a leading yhink tank [not sure I know but they exist] would have a chance–just based on the old-boys network. There is a small window for peeps like you, e.g. smart, ungrounded, think-tanky types–political campaigns are often rest stops for such people — who just want to do something else with their restless intelligence. But that that window is pretty much reserved to elite, a bit mixed-up but hard working types.
You are that, but not elite, from HBS’ point of view.
The chip on your shoulder did not help. You just confirmed their prejudices that only elites can carry off being mixed-up well.
There is an arts analog to this. Kids who bang around creative places, movie makers, orchestras, arts think tanks, etc. Those arty jobs also have a hierarchy and it helps to have Ivy League schooling: HBS gets a bunch of apps like that from arty mixed-Up kids, but only admits a few with resume gold.