How To Apply To Harvard Business School’s 2+2 Program

Mr. Non-IIT

  • 720 GMAT (Q87/V86)
  • 3.8+ GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in computer science from a top non-IIT institute in India where he graduated first class with distinction and was ranked third out of 65
  • Passed all three exams of a CFA in the minimum possible time
  • Work experience includes two years as a banking product consultant, working for a software provider to top-tier global banks; three years as a business analyst for a major British bank; three years in trading control in finance at the same bank in Singapore where he has been working the past six years
  • Extracurricular involvement with an NGO, providing image consulting to under-privileged women in Singapore; does investment research and manages the family portfolio; enjoys boxing, badminton and cricket
  • Goal: To move to a financial advisory consulting rule, with a long-term objective of becoming a CFO
  • 29-year-old male Indian

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10% to 15%
Stanford: 10%
MIT: 10% to 15%
Wharton: 15%
London: 30%
INSEAD: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: So let me get this straight. You are a guy who started life as a provider of financial software. You were trained in software, but your real love is finance. You are looking in the window but you are close. For the past three years, you’ve transferred to finance in trading control. Trading and control are dirty words on a business school application. Schools don’t consider trading jobs as selective, and the people who excel as traders are often rogues and one offs.

I think you’re close but not quite there. Here’s why: You didn’t go to an IIT and you’ll be competing with candidates who did. That is not good but it’s not a deal breaker. Your first job was in IT. You then transferred to a commercial bank and got into a banking function but it’s just not strong enough. Now you are in this amorphous thing called trading control. The killer is your current job. Compliance is where schools find under-represented minorities and you are an over-represented minority.

As the schools say, ‘We like you a lot. We just like other people more.’ And those are the people who they will admit to fill their Indian male IT/finance cohort. The candidates who get in went to an IIT. They worked for Goldman Sachs right out of school or changed careers and just did a little bit better. And at 29, you are old for Harvard and Stanford. For INSEAD and LBS, you are just a little on the high side of normal. And with a 720 GMAT, you are not bringing any gifts to the dinner party. You want to show up without a bottle of wine and you’re asking to sit at the head of the table. It’s not going to happen.

Friend, if you believe in reincarnation, be born as a woman who goes to an IIT. Your life will be a lot easier. You are a very worthwhile hire, but you are only a silver and not a gold applicant. My advice is look for a job you want right now. Forget the MBA. Or you take the ten-month program at INSEAD which is right down the street from you with the campus in Singapore.

Make no mistake. I like you. I think you’ve worked hard and are a striver. So hang in there. Go to INSEAD.