The 2016 Ding Report: Why Great Applicants Are Often Rejected


Ms. Engineer


  • 740 GMAT (Q48/V42/IR8)
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in engineering from a Top 20 university in Asia
  • Work experience includes four years at a Fortune 500 nano tech firm,

    including spending most of 2014 training in the US, before returning home.

  • Extracurricular involvement includes fairly significant leadership experience, founding and leading a project in an energy non-profit for three years until 2014
  • Short-term goal: To move to product management in cleantech
  • Long-term goal: To lead strategy and new product development/ innovation in cleantech
  • “Needless to say, I was disappointed in not even getting an interview. After reading and re-reading my essays and not really seeing what went wrong, I was hoping to get some feedback from you. Maybe it was the goal of “product management in clean tech”? I’m not sure if this was too narrow (although I thought it might align with my current role in product engineering.) or whether the cleantech part was what killed it?”
  • 27-year-old female product engineer from India


Harvard-Denied without interview

Stanford-Denied without interview

UC-Berkeley (Haas)-Denied without interview

Yale SOM-Denied without interview

Cornell (Johnson)-Denied without interview

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmmm, I don’t think it was your goals. They seem fine and plausible given your background. Also, your goals per se don’t count “that much” unless they are just nutty given your resume which is not the case here.

The sad truth, in most cases, is that a goal statement can harm you, if screwy given resume or predatory (want to transition out of product development into PE, and make $$$$, so your school is No. 1). You might have done better saying you wanted to be in an impactful, tech role in industries like 1 2 3 –but as noted, that would not have changed the outcome here.

As to H and S, no interview does not surprise me. Those decisions could be based on how familiar they were with your firm (even though it was a Fortune 500, not all of those are equal, and, ahem, there are 500 of them) or your recs, or how you presented yourself. Or just having people like you with similar backgrounds from brand name companies and better execution.

All that said, if you told me you got interviewed or admitted to H and S, I would not be shocked. There is lots to like here including the fact that you are a female engineer.

Your dings from Berk, Yale and Cornell are more surprising. Berk and Yale have become VERY focused on juicing their U.S. News rankings and may have had odd or “internal algo” reasons for dinging you, including the lack of vibe that you would attend, although in that case, they usually interview and give you the 3rd degree about coming in their own stealthy and creepy way.

Cornell must have thought you were not serious, based on recs or application execution. You probably had a better chance at Sloan because they take ‘holistic’ vs. U.S. News admissions more seriously than Berk and Yale. I’m not sure what recs were like or what ‘touch and feel’ of application were, but that can always make a difference.

My advice: Apply next year to Wharton and Sloan, too, and maybe replace Berk and Yale with Tuck and Kellogg.

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