Stanford GSB | Mr. Entrepreneurial Bassist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.61
McCombs School of Business | Ms. Second Chances
GRE 310, GPA 2.5
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Cornell Johnson | Mr. IT To IB
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Kellogg | Mr. Green Business
GMAT 680, GPA 3.33; 3.9 for Masters
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Account Executive
GMAT 560, GPA 3.3
NYU Stern | Mr. Military Officer
GRE In Progress, GPA 2.88
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Commercial Banker
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Smart Operations
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Strategy Manager
GRE 321, GPA 3.5
Ross | Mr. Airline Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.73
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corporate VC Hustler
GMAT 780, GPA 3.17
Wharton | Mr. Marketing Director
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Healthcare Startup
GRE 321, GPA 3.51
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. Air Force
GMAT 610, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Harvard | Mr. MacGruber
GRE 313, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Poet At Heart
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Yale | Mr. Ukrainian Biz Man
GRE 310, GPA 4.75 out of 5
Darden | Mr. Former Scientist
GMAT 680, GPA 3.65

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


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.

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.