Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Over-Experienced
GRE 330, GPA 3.0
HEC Paris | Mr. Indian Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 2.1
Chicago Booth | Mr. Community Uplift
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6

Rejected By Harvard B-School? Don’t Feel Bad. You’re In Great Company

Applicants who want to get into an elite MBA program face daunting odds

Applicants who want to get into an elite MBA program face daunting odds

If all goes according to plan, Harvard Business School will ultimately turn lifelong dreams into nightmares for more than 8,500 young professionals this year. That’s roughly 89% of the more than 9,600 applicants to its MBA program in the 2015-2016 academic year. No other business school in the world, not even Stanford’s Graduate School of Business where more than 7,300 applicants are turned down, disappoints more would-be MBAs.

For many of those crushed candidates, getting a ding from Harvard is the only letdown they have ever experienced in their young lives. They sailed through high school, gained entry to a selective undergraduate school, earned high grades, landed a couple of great jobs with world class organizations, and scored in the 90% percentile or above on the GMAT.

The vast majority of candidates who will wash out this year were “released,” to use the euphemism employed by Harvard, this month as second round invite decisions were dispatched via email. And they are an incredible bunch. Many scored in the 96th percentile or above on the GMAT. At least one rejected applicant, in fact, told us he had a 760 GMAT (in the 99th percentile), boasted a 3.8 grade point average at Harvard, Yale or Princeton, and was a Rhodes Scholar. What’s more, he worked as a consultant for the World Bank for three years and also did a two-year stint at the prestigious Carlyle Group. Yet, he couldn’t even get an admissions interview.


If that dinged profile doesn’t provide at least some solace to this year’s disappointed, there’s also the 25-year-old Asian-American engineer, with both undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from a Top 10 U.S. university, who has racked up three and one-half years of work experience for a large aerospace/defense contractor (Lockheed/Boeing/Northrop) as a design engineer. More recently, he has been the team lead on a multi-million development efforts, managing some 10 engineers. Despite his 780 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA on his master’s in engineering, he was rejected without an interview.

Or consider the 29-year-old white female who got a 740 on the GMAT, was given a full-ride merit scholarship to a top three public university where she graduated summa cum laude with a 3.98 GPA. She racked up five years of experience at an e-commerce startup, moving up to vice president of marketing, having built two business function teams from scratch and managing teams of eight people in both cases. She was turned down with an interview.

For many of these candidates, of course, there is a silver lining. The Rhodes Scholar, for example, was accepted by three other M7 business schools. Most of these truly exceptional applicants will end up going to world class MBA programs at other highly respected and admired business schools. Still, it’s a rude shock to post nosebleed stats and get tossed out of Harvard’s applicant pool without even a sit-down with an admissions officer.


Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

If you’re scratching your head over these dings, you’re not alone. Once again, we asked Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com and a prominent MBA admissions consultant, to analyze why these exceptional candidates were left hanging by Harvard Business School this month. Rejection, he says, often comes down to the failure of an applicant getting out of the pile. “Admission decisions often turn on macro factors, or one big thing,” believes Kreisberg. “You have a  whole bunch of smart kids, all with hyped-up applications but none have anything really driving them in beyond that! While many rejected folks are examining their stats with a tweezer and magnifying glass [“I got a 728.93 GMAT and my GPA is as long as Pi, but in my junior year, I was late for lunch once, well maybe twice”] the reality of adcom thinking is much more big picture.”

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. By the way, the median GMAT of the candidates was a breathtaking 750, 20 full points above the 730 median for the school. That may not be surprising to those who know that the average GMAT for HBS applicants is above 700, anyway.

And of course the large group of released candidates in the round two will have plenty more company soon enough. Harvard completes its round two interviews on March 4th, after which a whole new set of round two applicants will get an unfortunate ding on March 30th.

Profiles Of Round Two Dings At Harvard Business School


7803.4Top 10 U.S.EngineeringAerospace/DefenseM25Asian American
7803.2Rutgers Univ.Biomedical engineeringMedical devicesM29Indian
7703.8MITNAConsultingM25Three jobs
7603.8H/Y/PEconomicsWorld BankMNARhodes Scholar
7503.6TorontoCommerceMajor TelecomM25Canadian
7507,8/10Top 3 BrazilBusinessSoftware salesMNABrazilian
7503.2Ivy LeagueNAPE real estateM27Asian American
7503.7Top CanadianCommerceM/B/BM26Canadian
750NARegional College in IndiaChemistryDigital MarketingM27Indian male
7403.98Top 3 U.S.Religious studiesE-commerce marketingF29Summa cum laude grad
7403.59Public IvyComputer EngineeringTop 4 consultingM27White foreign service brat
7403.0IITMaterial ScienceTest prep firmMNAIndian
7308/10Top-Tier IndianEngineeringU.S. High Tech FirmM25Indian male
7203.5Top 5 U.S.BusinessElite consulting firmMNAColumbian American
7108/10Mid-Tier BritishComputer scienceDigital marketingMNABritish
6503.14Park UniversityFinanceGeneral DynamicsM30Muslim priest
168Q/163V8.52/10IITEngineeringIndian softwareMNAUX Designer

Source: Round two ding reports on Poets&Quants

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.