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

Mr. Insurance Broker

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a top 50 state school in economics
  • Work experience started in a two-year rotational leadership program at the
    world’s largest multinational insurance broker; promoted from analyst to associate where he serves defense contractors
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer with educational nonprofits
  • Goal: To transition into investment banking to focus on large health insurers with a long-term objective of opening his own firm that offers ‘trading solutions to health insurers who need alternate means to manage their excess capital”
  • 25-year-old African-American

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Northwestern: 30% to 40%
Wharton: 20%
Chicago: 20%
Dartmouth: 30% to 40%
Michigan: 50%
Columbia: 30%
Virginia: 50%
Duke: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Rotational programs like the one you were in are frequently the source of diamonds in the rough. If you go to a top 50 state school and haven’t become the valedictorian and have a 3.0 GPA, if you interview well you can get a job at a manufacturing company or a big insurance broker. What that means to a business school is that if you have survived a rotational leadership program, you can sit still, eat crap and spit it back. Those are the three pillars of success in business school.

Your 720 GMAT cuts through a lot of stuff. Your 3.0 is your weak spot. After that, you did what you had to do. You got a boring job in a big company in a rotational program and you survived and won a promotion. But your goal does not compute. Your goals are odd and not helpful. The proper aspirational goal is business development in healthcare.

That is a job you can get from either an elite business school or a second-tier school. Business development is what a lot of MBAs do. You might pursue investment banking with an MBA from a Kellogg, Booth or Darden. But I wouldn’t tell a school’s admissions staff that because it’s too much of a break from what you currently do. You can’t apply to schools with unrealistic, odd or inconsistent goals. That is why business development at a health insurer is a better goal that would help you get an invite to a great school.

You didn’t list Harvard, but I think you should apply to Harvard Business School. Your chances there can be as good, if not even better, than your odds at Wharton or Booth. And the Harvard application allows you to explain away your 3.0 in a way that the others don’t.

If you had a 3.7 GPA instead of a 3.0, you would be a perfect diamond in the rough and would have a powerful profile. Any one of your target schools could like you. You’re aspirational. You’re well behaved. You’re smart. And you can survive in an insurance rotational program and get promoted. I couldn’t do that.

Take that wild shot at HBS. You are an acceptable reach there.