An Interview With Chad Losee, Harvard’s New MBA Gatekeeper

Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School

Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School

As soon as the clock approached noon in Boston, Chad Losee politely excused himself from an onsite client meeting in Dallas. The 27-year-old Bain & Co. consultant quickly found a private conference room, called his wife at home to put her on the phone, and then logged into the Harvard Business School’s admissions portal.

In December of 2010, Losee had been a consultant at Bain for all of two years and two months. It was his only job after graduating summa cum laude from Brigham Young University with a degree in international relations. For his MBA degree, he had applied to only two business schools in round one: Harvard and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business for their deep sense of community and focus on the case method approach to teaching.

“I called my wife so she could experience it with me,” recalls Losee, who in May succeeded Dee Leopold as managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard. “I wanted to share that moment with her, good or bad. If I hadn’t gotten in, I would have wanted her support.”

MEETING MORE THAN 1,000 PROSPECTIVE APPLICANTS & READ OVER 100 ROUND ONE APPLICATIONS

For a candidate who admits having gone over his application “at least two dozen times” before hitting the submit button, it was good news. “I had this overwhelming experience opening up the letter. It was a very emotional experience for me because I had wanted to come for so long. I was incredibly grateful to get in and it was a really fun moment to share with my wife because she had endured the months of me slaving away on the application during the evenings and weekends to try to put my best foot forward.”

And now, the 32-year-old Losee, who looks like any MBA student strolling across the campus, is on the other side of the table, assessing hopeful candidates trying to put their best foot forward. In his nearly five months in the job as HBS’ official MBA gatekeeper, he has met with more than 1,000 prospective applicants. Since the school’s round one deadline on Sept. 7, Losee says he has read more than 100 applications.

Losee occupies the same second-floor office that Dee Leopold had for ten years in Dillon House on the HBS campus (Leopold no longer has an office in the building, but now runs the 2+2 admissions program). Other than a couple of drawings by one of his four sons, aged nine, seven, five, and three, there’s little evidence he has fully moved into the space. The beige walls are bare and so is the whiteboard next to the small round table in a corner.

A CALL FROM A HEADHUNTER CAUSED HIM TO TOSS HIS HAT IN FOR THE JOB

He says it’s good to be back on campus. After earning his MBA as a Baker Scholar in 2013, graduating in the top 5% of his class, Losee talked himself into a year-long fellowship with the dean’s office before returning to Bain’s Dallas office as a manager for one year and nine months. It was a telephone call from a Korn Ferry headhunter that caused Lohee to toss his hat in the ring at Harvard. After going through a guantlet of interviews, a process he describes as “harrowing,” Losee finally got the job as the most powerful MBA gatekeeper in the world.

Poets&Quants visited with Losee last week. In a wide-ranging interview, he discussed his path back to HBS, how the school assesses applicants, how important the GMAT is in applying to Harvard, and whether a bad admissions interview could result in a ding.

How old were you when you discovered you wanted to go for an MBA?

It was later for me. I had studied political science and international relations as an undergrad. Part of my interest in higher ed was that I had thought I wanted to get a PhD and become a professor of political science. So I didn’t do business internships as an undergrad. I  wrote papers and went to conferences. And then I had this roommate and friend who did consulting and I was so intrigued about how quickly he was learning how tacile the problems were that he was solving for clients. I found that really interesting so I jumped into consulting and thankfully got a great job at Bain. I thought of it as two years and then we’ll see. I would learn a lot about business and a lot about myself. At that point, I would do a Phd or not. And then I just fell in love with the work and I think saw the promise of business people solving problems and making a difference in the world.

Of course, I worked with people who had MBAs and it was very easy for me to see what kind of skills they had. I worked with a number of people who had Harvard MBAs and they were incredibly good listeners and they had this way with our clients where they were really empathetic and clients trusted them so they could have a real impact. those are things I wanted to be as a leader, someone who was a good listener, who could understand where people were coming from and  help them solve their problems. I also saw business school as something that could help me in life. Things like learning more about yourself and learning from people from different walks of life, learning how to give feedback to people and get along with others—all those kinds of things that are relevant to non-profit work or at home in addition to your career.

It was relatively late, and it’s something I think about a lot in this role. Who is out there that maybe on a path and doesn’t realize what business school could do for them. Who is headed toward making a difference in the arts or non-profit field. I just had lunch with a grad who is the chief of staff for the mayor of Boston. He was someone who had not thought about public service before business school and was a leadership fellow working in the mayor’s office and now is having this incredible impact on the city of Boston. He may not have been that path at all if not for Harvard Business School. That’s great. That is what we are thinking about in admissions. How do we reach everyone that could do well here.

You made an unusual choice when you got your MBA. Instead of returning to Bain as a sponsored student, you chose to stay on campus and become a fellow in the dean’s office. How come?

I was a fellow in the dean’s office (for Dean Nitin Nohria). But it was an organic thing. In the summer between my two years at Harvard, I met with this coach and discovered this passion I had for working in higher ed on the staff side. During that summer, I worked for Kim Clark (former HBS dean and then president of BYU–Idaho) and I had a great experience. When I came back for my second year, I continued to connect with people who had made their careers in higher education. I said, ‘Hey, I think I will have a little bit of time—a few months at least—before I go back to Bain. Would it be possible for me to stick around and help with some projects?’

Those conversations just kept rolling, and Angela Crispi, our executive dean in the dean’s office, was gracious enough to entertain the idea of having a fellow in the dean’s office, and Nitin was gracious enough to consider it. There wasn’t a precedent for it, at least in near history. They lined up some great projects for us to work on. I worked closely with Nitin on a few things for the (fundraising) campaign but the main thing was the launch of HBX (Harvard Business School’s online initiative). So I got into that experience and realized how big of an opportunity it was, working on the strategy for the platform in a sort of product management role, but it was also an opportunity for me to work hand in hand with Clay Christensen who is a faculty member here. They asked me to stay for a year after it was originally going to be for a few months. I talked to the leadership team at Bain in Dallas and they were gracious about this being an opportunity I was passionate about and they were able to let me stay.

  • SA

    * empathise

  • JJJK

    This is going to be one huge rant. 

It was and will always be about the GMAT score. Nothing else matters as much. Of course you need a competitive GPA to back it but if you’re low on GMAT and high on GPA, you’re well out from getting into a top school. On the other hand, if you’re GPA is tad lower than the average but the GMAT is amazing, you still have a shot. The entire admission process is such a gamble. Even having a super high GPA and GMAT doesn’t guarantee anything because the folks in charge want to make a diverse class etc etc. So all your life you work hard, get stellar grades and GMAT and then out of sheer hard luck you’re not perceived as someone ‘unique’ or ‘exotic’ in the eyes of a couple of middle aged folks. And that is it, you’re fate is sealed.

    And I have absolutely no idea how the admission committee evaluate the GRE score. Needless to say, if anyone has any sense and have seen both the tests and how they are scored, it will be easy for them to arrive at the conclusion that the ETS convertor which the ETS people have so conveniently come up with is extremely misleading and at worst completely a fraud. Both the tests are quite different to each other and the score from one can no way be ‘converted’ into another. The folks from GMAC put up the same thing on their website back in 2009 or in 2010 but from what I’ve heard admission committees, in their vain attempt to compare GMAT scores with GRE ones, are using this faulty tool extensively. Why can’t the admission committees see that this faulty tool is a mere attempt by the ETS folks to capture some market from the GMAT folks by handing them this faulty tool and making them believe that you can somehow ‘convert’ your GRE scores into GMAT ones. Absolutely rubbish ! 


    And what essentially does the GMAT tests in the first place ? Some incredibly deceptive high school math and english which is not even going to come up in the MBA or in your duties as a business manager. I hardly believe that doing well on the GMAT can ensure that you can excel in business school and in life. I’ve seen some of the most extra ordinary, bright, motivated, talented and hard working people who end up with average scores and then some folks who are incredibly average but are just good test takers who simply turn up on the test avenue and score a 720-730 quite easily. But for those who don’t get the ‘golden’ score, the admission process is pretty much over for them right there. None of their ‘leadership’ abilities, performance in college, essays etc etc etc matter. The GMAT, as sadly put, is only a way of weeding people out of the admission process and to make lives easier for the admission committees in handling thousands of applications. I would like to know how many of these admission committee members have themselves taken the GMAT and scored a staggering 760 ?

    And then HBS has recently put up this very young director who seemingly has had a very smooth and successful ride in his life. Top performer in his undergrad university, a good stint at Bain, graduating as a Baker Scholar from HBS, back to Bain and now deciding the fates of so many of us. How can one say that he can emphasise with someone who has failed over and over again but who refuse to give up and keeps on persevering ? How can this person or for that matter so many in the admission committee realise how painful and difficult it is to repeatedly fail but still carry on ? The short and sweet answer is that there hardly would be anyone like this – be that be the new director or those in the admission committee. For anyone reading this, let me tell you that your perseverance, hard work, determination, and refusal to give up despite of repeated failures will get you way ahead in life than a judgement from inexperienced directors or from a bunch of haughty admission committee members who view you as nothing but mere numbers. Your struggles or hard work doesn’t matter to them as they will nevertheless end up with a class oozing of high GPAs and GMAT scores.

  • wekwak

    how come they put a “losee” as a gatekeeper?!