The Ding Report: Who Was Rejected & Why

For MBA candidates still waiting to hear their fates, the next few days will be a nail-biting, anxiety-ridden period. Over the next two weeks, admit decisions for round two applicants will come pouring out of Chicago Booth, Michigan Ross, Virginia, Harvard, Kellogg, Yale, Wharton, and Stanford.

The tens of thousands of applicants expecting to get word this month passed the initial screen, landed an admissions interview, and generally have 50-50 odds of hearing good news before March gives way to April. The vast majority of the round two dings, of course, have already been dispatched.

As always, the people getting rejected are more often than not exceptional candidates, with GMAT scores in the 95th and up percentile, undergraduate degrees from elite schools, nosebleed GPAs and great jobs to boot. But when only a small minority of applicants can be admitted and a lot of self-selection is going on, disappointment is inevitable.


Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Who didn’t make the cut this time around? Well, there’s the 25-year-old woman who works in a business development role for a hedge fund. She sports an eye-popping 790 GMAT score with splendid splits, a 51 quant and a 51 verbal. She racked up a 3.5 GPA at a mid-tier Ivy, and yet she was rejected by Harvard Business School.

Or how about the 26-year-old male who earned his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the National University of Singapore with a 4.7 GPA out of a 5.0. After working for in the audit practice of a Big Four accounting firm, he joined one of the major tech companies (think Microsoft, Facebook or Google). He walked out of the test center with a 770 GMAT. His outcomes: Turned down by Harvard, Columbia and Wharton.

Even several analysts at MBB (McKinsey, Bain & BCG) consulting firms turned up empty. A 27-year-old male professional with a 760 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA as an engineering major at a Top Ten U.S. school got dings from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and MIT Sloan. But there was at least one positive outcome for him: UC-Berkeley Haas, a great concession prize.


Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that of the 35 round two rejected applicants who asked Founder Sandy Kreisberg for a ding analysis, 29 scored a 730 GMAT (the current median at Harvard Business School) or above and 15 of them hit a 750 or better. They hail from Ivy and Near-Ivy League schools, the best colleges in their home countries, graduated summa cum laude. They work for the likes of McKinsey, Bain, BCG, bulge bracket banks, IBM, GE, Raytheon and Microsoft.

These dings often defy logic, at least on the surface. But the evaluation process at a business school is a lot more holistic than law school where it’s pretty much on the numbers alone. Truth is, it’s often easy to explain a rejection on a low GMAT score or a low GPA, or even on the perceived quality and reputation of an undergraduate college or an employer. But it’s much more difficult to assess why some of these super credentialed candidates got the boot.

Of course, many who have been dinged also have been admitted–and some have been put in waitlist purgatory. After getting dinged from Yale and MIT Sloan without interviews, Yansong Pang received a slew of admission interviews from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, UC-Berkeley, Cornell, Duke, UVA and London Business School. Born in China, Pang did his undergraduate degree in math and statistics at Carleton College where he graduated magna cum laude. He currently works for an investment management firm in the U.S. as a buy-side equity analyst.He scored an impressive 740 on the GMAT. Pang’s fate: He’s been accepted by Haas and Cornell Johnson, with scholarships from both, and he been waitlisted at HBS, Stanford, Wharton, London Business School, and Duke. “The uncertainty is frustrating, but still having hope is great. I really want to get into HBS because that’s my dream since I was a kid.”


Once again, we asked Kreisberg, one of the most prominent MBA admissions consultants, to analyze why these exceptional candidates were left hanging by Harvard, Stanford, Booth, Wharton, Kellogg and other top business schools during the current admissions season. He takes a look at a wide variety of applicants who shared their basic profiles with us after getting released in the second round.

To be honest, some of these dings has Kreisberg stumped as well. In any case, his commentary on these rejections is in his typical tell-it-like-it-is, no-nonsense style. As one current applicant says of Sandy’s assessments, “Your simple, brutal analyses have been an incredible well of information for me and have instilled a deep sense of self-doubt that, to be frank, drove me to work harder on my app execution than I would have otherwise.”

Well, though this young professional has gotten accepted at Kellogg, Haas and UCLA, the latter with the big scholarship, he was rejected by Harvard without an interview and is waiting on his Stanford GSB decision. If you’d like a “simple, brutal” assessment of a current or forthcoming ding from Sandy, just go to the comment section below and leave your profile and details.

  • sisiW

    So, to be clear, you came here to lecture people about lacking EQ while at the same time calling them clueless and oblivious – and seeing no irony in that whatsoever.

    No one has all the answers, and it is always helpful to seek in-depth guidance from others on important topics. These potential students obviously did a lot of introspection during their applications; the self assessment they conducted led them to believe they put together solid application packages. Even after rejection, they demonstrate a willingness to take – and in fact are seeking – critical feedback so that they can improve themselves. That is a great quality.

    But according to you – a person who likely has no experience in admissions (yet is here giving extremely simplistic and generalized views of why individual applications were rejected) – seeking critical feedback from an independent party means these people lack critical reasoning skills and are detached.

    I think you should take your own advice and do some self reflection before offering run-of-the-mill insulting, insensitive, generic “advice” to those who are genuinely seeking to improve their applications. Given your writing is laced with insults, it is unlikely that anyone who is seeking guidance will be open to your “advice” – a person with good EQ would know that.

    If you came here just to insult others, or if you came here to present yourself as some sort of admissions expert (even though your profile shows you are more concerned with Bossip and TMZ than admissions blogs), I’m glad you got that off your chest.

  • Bob Sagat

    Are you guys still responding to these?

    South Asian Male (Not Indian – think Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.), 26

    Undergrad: BS Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech, GPA: 3.3

    GMAT: 760 (Q49, V46) AWA 6, IR 12

    Work Experience:

    – Current Role: 3 years as a consultant in a tier 2/3 shop (Deloitte S&O, Accenture Strategy, EY). 2 promotions, both early.
    – 1 year as a software consultant at a supply chain software company (RedHat, JDA, SAP, etc.)


    – 1 year as a volunteer English teacher for an organization that helps refugees settle in the US
    – 1 year on the board of an education non-profit startup organizes programs/extracurriculars/activities for at-risk inner city kids
    – 4 years as an alumni mentor for my alma mater

    MBA Goal: Join the operations management team of an amazon, samsung, apple, google, etc.

    R1: Rejected w/out interview at H/S/W, WL at Sloan (rejected R2)
    R2: Accepted at Booth

    Happy with Booth, but wondering if I should apply again to HSW?


  • Run

    This is not a troll. I mean every word I say. You’re probably one of those entitled brats who was incapable of self-assessment.

    How detached can a person be? I’m not saying that coaching is bad, but the people here are clueless.

    If you have all of the hard factors covered, it has to be your soft factors. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Self-assessment is a skill that too many young adults lack these days.

    I have helped many people correct their applications after being rejected in prior years, and I’m talking shutouts.

  • Mike

    “The mere fact that these candidates couldn’t figure out what they needed to improve on without contacting an outsider for assessment suggests that they are a bunch of spoiled, entitled brats with poor people skills.”

    Your asinine response says more about you. If I follow your way of thinking then companies don’t need managers because the employees should figure out what they do wrong. Teams don’t need coaches because the players should figure out what they’re doing wrong and so on and so forth. Troll on another forum.

  • Run

    …172? Isn’t that an LSAT score? Don’t you mean 720?

    #Trivia: Btw, LSAT scores were once scored that way, they removed the rightmost “0” and added a leftmost “1” to the scoring system. So a 172 = a 720.


    I’m wondering if your post is a flame.

  • Run

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these people looked good on paper but interviewed poorly, wrote poorly, exhibited high IQ but low EQ (emotional quotient), or just had bad manners – or possibly all of the above!

    I guy with 98% in objective metrics but 12% in subjective qualities is completely inferior to an aggregate 70-75%er.

  • engineergirl

    White-American Female, Age 25

    Undergrad: BS in Computer Science, BA in Business at top 30 liberal arts school
    GPA: 3.7

    GMAT 650 (Q45/V34) AWA 5.5, IR 6

    Work Experience: Goldman Sachs, Software Engineer (3 years)

    Extracurriculars: Mentor students at Engineering High School and Teach 9th grade programming class to underprivileged girls school.

    Focus in MBA: Product Management/Entrepreneurship

    Planning to apply 1st round to top 15 schools next fall. Wanted to know if everything is lost with a 650?

  • Alex C

    Sandy and John I’d like to get your feedback on my app too.

    Undergrad: 2.9 Pre-Med
    Gmat: 630

    Work Experience:

    1: Started an online auto related business after college. After a year, the business was closed because I wasn’t able to gather the funds needed to expand.
    2: Worked for a start up saas company in sales and biz dev role (received multiple awards and I was the top sales rep for 2 two years running) **had many accomplishments leadership related too**

    Currently: Work for smaller tech company as program manager.

    Extra Curr: Advisor to former fraternity, help at local church, help organize local charity events

    Short term: Start business in tech space (healthcare or space my current company is in)
    Long term: VC investing in businesses that work to solve social problems.

    I decided to throw my hat in for round 3 with HBS, GSB and Wharton. Not surprisingly, I was dinged by HBS and Wharton. I expect to be dinged by GSB when their decision comes out in 2 or so weeks. I realize my Gmat is low and I will be retaking it in order to apply in round 1. The goal is low 700s.

    Two pieces of info: I was involved in accident that affected my appearance at young age and I required 40+ surgeries. In my essay, I discussed what it was like immigrating to America, undergoing surgeries, staying here and how those circumstances drive me in business. I was also sure to address my low gpa which was primarily due to working full time in school and not having a clear focus on what I wanted to do with my life. Any advice for round one would be greatly appreciated.

  • Sid

    Hi Sandy and John,

    Need your insights.

    26 year old Indian Male

    Undergrad: IIT Kharagpur (Bachelors+Masters in Geophysics)
    Grade: 8.12/10 (Rank 3rd of my class)

    GMAT: 730 (51 Q, 37 V)

    Work Experience:
    1) Worked as Field Geophysicist (offshore) in Schlumberger for 2 years in different countries including US, Malaysia, UAE, Honduras and Mexico.
    2) Moved back to India and joined a startup based online tutoring company as a Product Manager. Have completed a year here in February 2017.

    Extra curricular: B-Certificate holder in National Cadet Corps (NCC) under the authority of Defence, Government of India

    Post MBA goal: Switch to large tech companies such as Google and Amazon as a Product Manager. Long term Goal: Product leader in online consumer space

    R2 applied: HBS, Wharton, Michigan, Stern
    Dinged without interview

    Planning to apply in R1 in other B schools including Sloan, Haas, Kellog, Insead and UCLA.
    I am completely clueless about my profile now. Not sure what went wrong last time and what I can do better this time.

    Thanks for you advice.

  • hc.ss11

    African-American, openly gay male, Age 28.

    -Have not taken GMAT yet (currently in prep mode, proactively looking for feedback)
    -Undergrad GPA = 3.4 @ state school.
    -Have been out of school for 4 years next month

    Work Exp:
    -Current roles:
    1. CEO of early-stage travel startup
    2. Startup consultant at a consulting startup with offices in Mexico, Portugal, and possibly China soon
    3. Staff Writer at NYC-based syndicated blog focusing on NYC-based tech startups and new trends
    4. Publicly elected Democratic District Leader in my hometown (I commute to work)

    -Prior roles:
    1. Lending internship early 2016
    2. Telemarketing job (quit after 1 year)
    3. Democratic political campaigns from 2008-2014
    4. Staffer on Capitol Hill for senior Democratic Senator on Foreign Relations Committee
    4. Geopolitical risk policy fellowship focusing on Iran’s nuclear program

    -Current Extracurriculars:
    1. 6 nonprofit boards of directors
    2. Blogger for the Huffington Post
    3. Founder and chairman of a startup founder-focused peer support group at my private club (we do pitch nights, expert talks, entrepreneur panels and more)

    1. HBS (likely a reach unless I get higher than a 172)
    2. Wharton (prob. same as above)
    3. Yale SOM (because of the impact focus)
    4. Columbia
    5. Kellogg

    Would love any and all constructive feedback! If anyone wants to talk more in depth, email me at 🙂

  • AC

    US top 30 public university, not Ivy

  • AC

    21 year old Asian Female, Chinese nationality
    Math and Business (finance concentration) double major
    About to graduate with distinction from a top 30 university
    lower-tier bulge bracket investment bank internship in Hong Kong, will join full-time after graduate
    Internship at big-four consulting firm, boutique investment bank
    VP for a student organization, strong community service
    Recommendation from a MD and a HBS alumni (professor)
    GMAT – 750
    GPA – 3.62

    Only applied to HBS 2+2, straight reject, no interviews.

    Any idea why? Chances for top 10 business school program in 2-3 years?


  • RB

    Thank you for this opportunity.
    Indian Male.
    Delhi College of Engineering ’14 graduate in Mechanical Engineering.
    6.75/10 GPA
    GMAT: 730 (50Q/38V)
    Set up my family business in the States for the last 2 years. Handled operations in India too.
    Extracurriculars: Created an empathy building module for a local school; worked as a pro bono consultant to a non-profit.
    Short Term Goals: General Management
    Long Term Goals: Entrepreneurship

    Applied in round 2 for 2017 admits
    Rejections: Yale, Kellogg, UCLA
    WL after interview: Cornell, Rice, USC

    Planning to apply for early admits to Tuck, Fuqua, Tepper, Haas, Mccombs

  • Saurabh Shinde

    Hello Sandy,

    Would appreciate a your take on the following profile –

    Indian, Male, 27.

    Undergrad: B. Engineering from non-IIT University. Low GPA (2.5-3)
    GMAT 750 (Q 51, V41)
    Work Experience:
    1) 1.5 years at GE India as Graduate Engineer Trainee. Handled mega power generation and distribution projects in engineering, switched to sales and then to marketing.

    2) 1.5 years at Education Technology startup as Pre-Sales Associate. Worked directly with Head of Sales to bring in clients from all over India, made changes to product with the product team. Headed partnership efforts in West region for launch of B2C services, major player in the setup of the same. Set up 2 major cities, was offered nearly 100% raise as a result.

    3) Founding Member, Accel-funded logistics startup:
    Headed national sales, managed team of 65 and annual revenue of ~$ 2M. Responsible for HR policies of sales, collaborated with other departments for operational optimization and 190% reduction in cost/delivery. Set up operations for and launched 2 major cities on the same day, increasing revenue by 20%.

    Helped set up a Cultural Committee in undergrad. Lead actor for their theater production for 3 consecutive years.
    Lead actor in a play about Swami Vivekananda, performed across my state.
    Cultural Secretary for department.

    Post-MBA: Join a consulting firm or a technology firm (in product management). Long-term is to have my own product-based technology startup.

    Please let me know what can be improved and which schools would be within range for me.

    Thank you.

  • JY

    Thanks @ArmyPilot, I will probably add that near the top right next to my title as runner-up to “Top Gun” in my financial statement analysis class at WP #drbloom

  • AP

    Thanks John. Would you say that the application would be significantly strengthened with a higher GMAT score? And based on your experience, what would be a good score for an Indian candidate in relation to a school’s average GMAT score; 20-30 points higher?

  • For someone with an engineering background and not from an IIT, your friend failed to get a good enough score on the GMAT. He is competing with IIT grads with GMAT scores well above the averages for the schools you cite. They are simply ahead of him in line for admission to Haas and ISB and Ross. Haas, by the way, is one of the hardest MBA programs to get into. It’s prestige and its location allow it to be highly choosy over who it takes. That was never going to happen with a 700 GMAT, sad to say, unless there was a very big offsetting factor. I don’t really see that in the sparse profile you posted and when you say “virtually zero extracurricular activities” you give the impression of your friend as someone who is all about work and nothing else–not a very good fit for an elite business school.

  • Well, let me say that I am really impressed with your profile and your stats. The reason for your dings and WLs is for exactly the reason you state: You are in a highly competitive applicant pool and there are just other candidates in the line ahead of you from Ivy League schools at MBB instead of a Big Four firm. This also suggests what we have said before about admissions at the best schools: It’s a bit of an elitist game. The more selective your undergraduate school and employer, the more likely an elite school will bite. That is why Sandy always uses the gold/silver metaphor in evaluating applicant chances in our handicapping feature.

    Ivy is gold. Near-Ivy is silver. MBB is gold. Big Four is silver. Your life sciences focus and that 780 GMAT could have helped you overcome this unnerving adcom preference for gold and, I bet, played an important role in your acceptances at Kellogg and SOM.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Kellogg and Yale are both world class and frankly better choices than some of the schools that turned you down or put you on the waitlist. So you should feel really good and really proud about your two acceptances. You have a decision to make but you cannot go wrong with either school. An MBA from Yale or Kellogg, two schools with great leadership and lots of forward momentum, will allow you to achieve your dreams. Good luck to you and thanks for sharing your profile with our readers.

  • Curious Consultant

    White Male Age 26
    Undergrad: Econ major, Top 10 US University (“Near Ivy”), GPA 3.73, GMAT 780
    Work Experience: 4 year in management consulting at a Big Four firm focused on life sciences strategy & operations projects. Top rated performer every year, great recommendations, selected for MBA sponsorship
    Extracurricular: Significant non-profit leadership experience including leading the NYC chapter of a non-profit consulting program with 40+ volunteer consultants and serving on the junior board of a local education non-profit
    Goals: Short term – return to my current firm’s life sciences practice (required for my sponsorship)
    Med/long term – join a biopharma start-up in a business lead role to help them turn a high potential new treatment into a scalable business
    Results (Mix of Round 1 and Round 2):
    Accepted: Kellogg, Yale
    WL: Sloan, Booth, LBS
    Ding after interview: Darden
    Ding w/o interview: HBS, Wharton
    Comments: I’m very excited about Kellogg and Yale, but genuinely curious about what could have caused the bloodbath elsewhere, particularly given that all of my interviews seemed to go quite well. Is it just the process is a total crapshoot since I’m coming from a competitive applicant pool? Thank you for your help!

  • AP

    Posting for a Friend.

    27 year old Indian Male
    First class degree from a regional Engineering College
    5 years as a Business Analyst at a global IT firm (Accenture, IBM)
    Was single PoC with client for a large project with a Fortune 500 company based in the US
    Currently working at a start-up focusing on innovations in the healthcare sector
    Virtually zero extra curricular activities
    GMAT – 700
    TOEFL – 111

    Waitlisted by Ross. Dinged with Interview at Berkeley and did not get an interview call at ISB.

    Any idea what could have happened?


  • ArmyPilot

    I think you might have been good to go if you had listed 2 x Fort Rucker Flag Football Champion on your resume #WaiverWire

  • harsha2085

    Thanks Big Oil! This is great info!

  • Big Oil Business IT

    Hi harsha,

    Generally speaking it is fairly hard. The LDP-programs at any oil company are very limited in space (for example only 6 people started with me) and the recruitment process is stressful and very competitive, as in as competitive as say an analyst spot at McKinsey. Your best option is to upload your CV through the companies’ websites and try your best to get into one of the recruitment days. You can find more information on what these recruitment days entail exactly on the company website. I had to fight my way through a thesis internship through my university due to my unconventional background. Wasn’t easy, but I’m happy I did it.

    Please bear in mind that ALL big oil companies are looking for people, who have a long term focus on sticking with the company. They invest a lot of resources and time to shape you into a vital part of the company and doing so expect you to stay with them for 20-30 years. I’m saying this not to encourage you to apply, but to make sure that you understand what kind of a ”story” you want to be telling the HR. You don’t want them to think you are just going to leave after a couple of years (like I am, maybe).

    You seem to have the ”perfect” background for it. And the top MBA school will certainly help. Take time to ensure you understand what it is that Big Oil companies appreciate (VALUES! VALUES!) and place your bet 🙂 I think you got a chance.

  • Nubianqueen

    Just want to add – my school isn’t a feeder, but my employer is; every year since the office opened at least 1 person has been admitted to HBS.

  • Nubianqueen

    Hi Sandy, it would be super helpful to get your perspective on why I was dinged after my interview with HBS, as well as my chances at GSB

    Outcome: Dinged at HBS, Admitted at Berkeley, awaiting Stanford GSB and MIT
    Gender: Female
    Race: Black African; born and bred in native country
    Age: 25
    Work experience: CURRENT – 3 years in Management consulting (MBB) based in my home country; some international experience in other African countries . PREVIOUS – 1 year in strategy consulting at Big Four in my home country

    GPA: 3.9 from top 5 private uni in native country

    GMAT: 700 (42V, 43Q)

    Interview Report: interviewed by 2 admissions officers via Skype; it went well. Discussed my essay, my background/childhood, my time in university and my post-MBA goals at length

    Essay: talked about my childhood love of books and research, how this led to my discovery of veganism

    Extracurriculars: diet and health blogging, organising vegan meetups, choir

    Recommenders: One from a Partner and another from current manager at the time

    Post-MBA goal: Entrepreneurship; my dream is to set up a ‘Whole Foods’ type company in my home country

  • Reviewer

    1) A lot of EMBAs are sponsored by their employers, who see leadership potential of their ~30 year old employees. Are you blaming parents for not being rich enough to send their cute little 30 year old son/daughter to school? That’s insane.

    2) Yep, Trump acted like a loser. Don’t see how your point is helping “Harsha Kotthapalli” feel any less of a loser though.

  • Herald

    1- “Why wouldn’t they be eligible for top emba programs if their leadership is so great?” because top EMBAs are insanely expensive. I know dozens of people who turned down M7 school, for other MBA programs in top 25 to 30, for good scholarship money. You need to open your eyes, and see real world. Not every smart kid has rich parents, or born lucky, life is tough for many people!

    2- “Losers always have someone else’s to blame”. Completely agree, just see Trump face and his blame when he lost his ridiculous health care plan! he blamed Pelosi and schumer

  • Reviewer

    Are you seriously saying that 30 year olds at Wisconsin are better in leadership than 24 year olds at HBS and Stanford? Why wouldn’t they be eligible for top emba programs if their leadership is so great?

    My point again was that Trump became president elect half a year ago or so. This 31 year old guy could have gotten his MBA 4 times during the previous administration. Even this year he could have applied round 1 for the US schools when Trump’s chances to win the presidency were minimal. Losers always have someone else’s to blame. He wasted his time, and now blames the politics.

  • Herald

    The average age at London Business School is around 30 or 31, and at IMD is 31, sometimes at Washington Foster school is around 30, Wisconsin is around 30, Duke is known as 29 average age, Do you think all these schools and their students are late or losers, or not partner potential? It seems for me that HBS, and Stanford with avg age 25 or 24, drive many people from considering those two schools for the full time MBA. And the long term impact is not good of producing children good in numbers but very dumb in leadership.

  • Unsolicited Advice

    Apply to more than two schools next year. With your background your exit opportunities are going to be about the same as HBS/Sloan with any of the other M7 schools.

  • Nathan

    Both in R&D. I think my essays were fine. I have people read them and the feedback was positive

  • Reviewer

    Whatever makes them sleep safer at night. If Trump presidency is the only reason preventing them from trying themselves at being accepted at schools like HBS, Stanford and Wharton for some European schools, then they are doing something wrong. I am sure your friend would have cried like a little girl if he was accepted at HBS instead of Tuck.

  • Reviewer

    Another 31 year old MBA applicant?

  • hbsguru

    “Interesting. Wasn’t aware that I could request feedback.”
    HUH? Isn’t it still the case that if you are dinged after interview at HBS, the ding letter or some later email, says you can call in to adcom in May (or maybe June)
    to get some general feedback.
    Those calls are often not super helpful, but in the past, if your ding notes fr. the adcom (which telcom adcom has access to ) indicate that you screwed interview, they sometimes hint at that, and sometimes read the actual interview note, e.g.
    “tried to get all his points across in answer to each question.”


  • Harsha Kotthapalli

    Hello Big Oil Business IT,

    This is off topic but could you please give me some insight into Big Oil LDPs in Europe?

    This is my short-term goal post MBA hopefully at Insead/IE

    Just want to know what my chances are and how I should plan to get in.
    There is not much information out there!

    My background is Petroleum Engineering degree and 5 years a drilling engineer at Canadian E&P.

  • GZRAMS124

    This isn’t constructive feedback, just a bunch of condescension. Sit down, kid.

  • TrumpMatters

    His concerns are valid.. Many of my friends have ditched US b schools for European schools (Insead for Tuck for example)..

  • Reviewer

    Well, how can you improve yourself if you can’t accept constructive feedback and only looking for people adding positive hopes in your life.

    Here’s a positive for you: you should consider applying to top law or poli science schools, you seem to be very well rounded in this area.

  • Harsha Kotthapalli

    WOW! is this person for real!
    I did not ask for your advice. If you don’t have anything positive to add, what are you doing here?

  • Reviewer

    Well, you are competing against all Indians with GMAT scores above 750 and a higher GPA. Is there anything unique about you to differentiate yourself from all others?

  • Reviewer

    Oh, these people again being afraid of the political situation in the U.S. If you didn’t worry about political situations, maybe you could’ve saved yourself 6 years of your life and applied for an MBA when you were 25? People become partners at their consulting/banking jobs by this age, and you are worrying about political situations to get your MBA. Funny.

  • Harsha Kotthapalli

    Hi Sandy,

    I have a big dilemma and am hoping to get some help deciding what to do,

    Here is my Profile:

    31 M Indian (citizen) / Canadian (PR)
    6 years WE mostly in Drilling Engineering at a multinational E&P OG company in Canada and 1 year in US
    Gmat 730 (V42 Q48)
    Education – Chemical/Petroleum Eng. Undergrad ( Top Public India – top 5 in class ) ; Grad ( Top Canadian – 3.7 )
    Extracurriculars – Leadership position in community assn. last 2 years and loads of volunteering during school
    ST Goal: Consulting – Energy ( O&G LDP if I get lucky 😎 )
    Location Preference – None (Easy with NA or Europe)
    Program preference – very slight preference to 1 year MBA (with internship)

    I applied to Insead/IE R1 Jan18 intake and might apply to IMD in Europe (decided against LBS R4)

    My dilemma is whether to apply to US business schools (Stanford/UCLA/Texas) in R3 ??
    I know my chances are low since I am an international applicant in over-represented category (slight advantage with Energy background and Canadian / US experience)
    Also, I am discouraged to apply to US schools given the current political situation which is hostile to internationals. But my friends here are pushing me to aim big and apply to Top 10 schools even though it is R3. (reason – if I get into a top school, companies would have better motivation to sponsor visa)

    Any advice would be a huge help to make this call

  • Reviewer

    Sorry to hear that. What exactly do you do at your company and what department do you have an offer for at apple/google? Not all jobs at apple and google are prestigious.

    Also, what did you write in your essay about? Perhaps the combination of your age, having a masters degree already and a non-sense essay made they go with their decision.

  • Harsh Singh

    Hi, Please review my current profile for HBS, INSEAD, LBS, Columbia
    Indian, Male
    UNDERGRAD YEARS (YEAR X-5 to Year X) (5yrs)
    1) Undergrad- Instrumentation Engineering (University of Mumbai)
    GPA- 7/10 (First Class) (Top 10% of the class since the Stream is known to be particularly tough and less rewarding in terms of grades)
    2) GRE-327 (Q-170/170 ,V-157/170)
    P.S -Gap year during undergrad where I worked for 10 months for an agri-business company in Supply Chain Management & Market Research founded by a Chinese-American Kellogg Alumni who moved to India alongside an intern from Stanford GSB. Extensive experience in rural development and innovation through this tenure.

    • Other Internships during undergrad-
    1) Siemens (Engineering intern )
    2) Ernst & Young (Risk Advisory Services)

    • During College –
    1) Founded Entrepreneurship & Business Cell enrolling 600 students (highest amongst any student body in college)
    2) Consecutively won Best Speaker in the Mumbai Model United Nations Conference two years in a row amongst a competitive pool of law, liberal arts and humanities students.
    Year X to X+2 (2-YRS right after graduating)
    • WORK
    1) Joined Full time, TEACH FOR INDIA as a fellow for 2 years (amongst top 6.3% applicants to make it that year). Led several community oriented ventures and helped generate a business for women in the community I worked in that led to sustainable income of their own which was heavily lauded and awarded
    2) Simultaneously, I worked on a project run and funded by the State Government as one of the founders who worked in Strategy and Market Research to improve conditions of rural artisans in the State of Maharashtra. It was a 2 Million US$ project and helped improve market outreach of artisan product by 35% and helped restore 17 dying art forms and brought back 1200 families to handicraft making.
    3) Summer internship during the fellowship – NDTV (Analyst Intern) (Leading NEWS Channel)
    1) Cleared CFA level 1
    • EXTRACURRICULAR achievements-
    1) Attended Harvard Project for Asian & International Relations (HPAIR) Conference in SYDNEY, Australia as a Delegate with scholarship (500 across the world)
    2) Attended ASEF ( Asia Europe foundation ) conference in Seoul, South Korea amongst top 100 participants across Asia and Europe
    3) Won 1st prize at the TEACH FOR INDIA Model United Nations Conference

    Year X+2 to X+3 (1-YR right after TFI)
    • Master’s Degree MSc in Development Studies – London School of Economics & Political Sciences, London
    GPA – 3.7/4

    Year X+3 to X+4 (1-YR, after LSE)
    • WORK- CITY MANAGER, Teach for India

    Year X+4 to X+6 (2-YRs after TFI)
    • PRS Legislative Research- Senior Associate- Analysed Policies and Government projects
    Consulted Member of Parliament over budget and outreach issues.

  • HolisticProfile??

    Hi Sandy,
    I am Indian male (brought up abroad) with below profile:

    IIT undergrad (Dual Degree – Bach+Master in Energy); 8/10 GPA
    – International Paper working with US DOE, Student Secretary, Part of Institute Sports Team

    GE Energy (3 years) – Topped Rotational Leadership program, 2 patents, MM $ savings in projects, University relations core member
    Supermajor (3.5 years+ – Current) – Project Management, International Assignment (Worked directly with Client (Govt. Officials)), Major improvements in processes and created savings, Advanced Leadership program for experienced folks, Mentored graduates

    1 Reco from supervisor at each company

    GMAT: 720 (51 35)

    R1: Without Interview: Duke, Darden, Columbia (Applied in Dec); With interview : Tuck
    R2: Without Interview: Booth, MIT, Ross; With Interview: Yale

    Goal: Consulting
    Should i take UT Austin or reapply next year or try R3 anywhere? Any chances of making it to MBB from UTA?

  • Not good

    With these stats and background, I am very surprised that Kellogg accepted you. Weak!

  • JY

    Interesting. Wasn’t aware that I could request feedback.
    Also would it make any sense for me to change roles within the company at this time – for example a day-to-day operations role with Amazon Alexa machine learning – or stay right where I am? My concern is that I won’t be able to make much impact within 6 months, but the title and job sounds intense and fun.

    I really appreciate the quick responses

  • Nathan

    West European with immigration background, Age 30

    Bachelor and Master form a top university on the European continent, GPA 3.5

    GMAT 780

    Work experience: 4 years at a mid-sized high-tech company as an engineer, 2 promotions. The company is not well-known outside our industry, but I work on a hugely popular consumer electronic product

    short-term goal: business development in Tech

    dinged at HBS, Wharton, Sloan, Booth without interview and Kellogg after interview.

    My question: currently have an offer from Apple/Google, how much difference does it make if I work there for half year and reapply in round 1?

    Thanks for any insights!

  • hbsguru

    Stay w. Amazon.
    Based on small sample of your HBS answers, could have been the interview.
    If you gave cliched and ‘expected’ answers like those (esp. reading HBR!!!) to several questions, and that habit of trying to guess what they want to hear vs. some authentic and smart answer, well, that is a scripted interview. Classic and it =ding.
    They may hint at this when you call them in May for feedback. Ahem, in your next life, and if you get an HBS interview next year, hire me for a mock interview. I don’t usually use this space to shill for my own services, but a mock interview can often turn around a guy like you to just put in a different CD in the answer slot.
    And that can make all the difference.

  • JY

    Thanks for the quick response!

    I interviewed at the HBS research center in San Francisco with 2 ladies on the adcom. I felt like the interview went pretty well but I may have lacked depth in some of my answers. (eg. what are you reading, what company do you follow and why, what do you foresee to be the biggest challenge at HBS) I responded with HBR, Google because easy access to information is crucial for our future, and FOMO respectively. (pretty weak answers in hindsight)

    For my next crack at R1…
    If it was a matter of demographics being filled, should i keep things as they are professionally and work on sharpening aspects of my app? I have a few more building launches coming up in April and August. Any other tips?

    I think I will shoot for HBS and GSB this time around.

  • hbsguru

    No interview at Sloan is a surprise, either they did not believe you were interested in attending, or app. was odd, OR as sometimes happens, applying to Sloan in R2 puts you at real disadvantage since they often fill out a good many demographics via R1 or earlier R2 apps. All that said, I wudda predicted an interview.
    As to HBS, this was prob. interview influenced, how did that go?? It is real easy to screw up an HBS interview, and I don’t mean barfing on the floor or saying some head-slappingly stupid answer, I mean just appearing ‘scripted’ by their dog-whistle radar system for judging such things, as my HBS interview advice videos and articles stress again and again.
    Who interviewed you and how did it go???

  • JY

    Korean-American male, Age 25

    Undergrad: BS in Economics at West Point, GPA 3.46

    GMAT 750 (Q48/V44) AWA 5.5 IR 7

    Work Experience:

    – Current role: Regional Learning & Development Manager at Amazon

    – 2 years in Amazon after leaving military. Started as an operations area manager. Launched Amazon Fresh site in Boston, then promoted to regional learning and development manager within 10 months. Trained operations teams to launch Atlanta and Miami sites shortly thereafter. Streamlined on boarding and training processes throughout Fresh network.

    – 2 years in US Army Flight School. Flew Blackhawk helicopters and served as class leader throughout. Completed survival school and graduated as a rated aviator. Medically discharged 1 week after graduation due to respiratory issues.


    – Coached youth football team (Ages 8-12) while at flight school. Team went undefeated for season.

    – Coordinated food donations for Boston food bank while working as area manager for Amazon.

    – Own 2 residential properties. Renting out to tenants.


    – Direct supervisor from military and direct supervisor from Amazon. Had very strong positive relationships with both.

    Post-MBA goals:

    – Rejoin Amazon as Sr. Product Manager and work closely with engineers to drive company goals. Long term plan to utilize experiences to launch service-focused technology.

    R2: Dinged from HBS w/ interview. Dinged from Sloan, no interview.

    Planning to reapply R1 this coming year. Thanks for any insight

  • Swolecdn

    Oops. Undergrad at top Canadian Uni.

  • Swolecdn

    Canadian Male (but Korean descent), age 29 (30 for next round of apps)

    Undergrad: Biological Sciences, GPA 3.67
    – ECs: President and VP of two clubs (music & medical field)

    Graduate: MS in Medical Sci, GPA 3.7
    – ECs: Co-Chair of student association
    – Others: 3 scientific publications, couple scholarships (~15K total)

    GMAT: 710 Q50, V37

    Work experience:

    – 3 years at the largest non-profit, healthcare organization in Canada. Promoted twice in the three years, starting from: Data Analyst -> Research Assistant -> Health Technology Assessment Analyst

    Extracurriculars include:

    – overseas volunteering in Laos, volunteering in first nation reserves, church activity stuffs, hospital volunteering

    Short-Term Goal: Consulting
    LT Goal: Lead a life sci company ex. Genentech, J&J, etc.

    Interview invites to: Tuck & Yale
    Also interviewed: Kellogg
    Dinged @: Duke, Columbia.

    Would really appreciate some thoughts! Thinking of retaking GMAT and applying earlier. Also try to get promoted to another company outside of my organization.

  • Booth ding

    Dinged from booth with interview R2, but accepted to Kellogg. 29 y/o US white female, non trad background, 710/3.65 from lib arts school. Comms background in tech/sustainability, lots of mgmt experience. Currently a director at a PR agency in a big city. Good, but not great, volunteer experience. Wondering if it came down to interview with a sort of awkward second year and lowish quant GMAT for booth. I am WL at another M7.

  • hbsguru

    ahem! I said HBS ADCOM is politically left. Not HBS alums (altho that is prob. true as well, w. several exceptions). Adcoms are not Titans of Industry etc, they are admissions officers and academic administrators, a trad. left-leaning group in almost all settings, and cert. at Harvard in general. Starting at the top w. Pres. Drew Faust.

  • Sami

    Why do you think the HBS alumni are so bad in politics and somehow populists? It looks counter intuitive as the HBS is the birthplace for MBA, and modern business management and globalization! See these names: Bush, Romney, and Bannon! It is quite strange, unlike the law school or kennedy school grads..

  • hbsguru

    haha, I’m as prankish as the next guy, but just to make this clear, coming fr. ME, and especially under-repped countries like UAE, is a PLUS.
    Also, as often noted, HBS ADCOM is politically left-ish to the point of near-PC, cert. as to affirm action, globalism, energy, etc. and would in most cases only hold “offensive” political views against an applicant, e..g. hate speech or close to it. And that does not happen very often, given that most applicants, whatever their real views, are usually on their best behavior during the app process.

  • hbsguru

    Were you interviewed? Given low-ish stats (however explained), outcome could really turn on what they thought of size and impact of your family business and how well you convinced them that you are serious about taking it over, expanding etc.
    There is a LOT to like here, including coming fr. UAE (as explained below) and what seems like possibly tight connection between solar energy job and goals for family biz. That could be enuf, along w. grad GPA and 720 GMAT to have them wink at undergrad low grades, etc.
    Execution of this story: “Long term goal: start an energy development company with the focus on clean tech & further develop the family business” could have been important, if they believed you, and there was credible evidence of you doing so, that is a real positive narrative.

  • Ahmed

    Thanks for your response.

    Saying I was from the Middle East was possibly vague, I’m actually from the United Arab Emirates. Not many people from here go to HBS (50% of who went there graduated from the same school I went to)

    I plan to apply next year to different schools, would love to hear an insight.

  • Heidelberg

    “Middle Eastern” explains it all. HBS is the alma mater of Steve Bannon, the godfather of Drump. No “aliens” mid eastern allowed any more.

  • Ahmed

    Middle Eastern male, age 24

    Undergrad: Mechanical Engineering in a American university in the UAE, GPA 2.65

    Graduate: MS in Engineering System Management in the same university, GPA 3.5

    GMAT: 720

    Work experience:

    – 6 years serving as a director in a family real estate development company. increased the growth and the assets of the company. responsible for setting the strategy for investments. (low undergrad GPA explained in the essay due to working and studying post real estate crisis)

    post graduation:

    – 2 years at government utility company as a project engineer working on the largest solar power plant in the world. Did everything from preparing and evaluating the tenders, choosing the consultants and contractors and planning of the project.

    Extracurriculars include:

    – advisory board for youth minister

    – worked in an international event for 6 weeks as a volunteer

    – Active executive member of the student clubs

    – started a cycling amateur team and got sponsorships

    Long term goal: start an energy development company with the focus on clean tech & further develop the family business

    dinged r2: HBS

  • hbsguru

    Ahem any HBS Round 2 dings that want a quickie guess, just post and I’ll try my best. Note whether you were interviewed or not. If interviewed, say how you thought it went.

  • hbsguru

    As to company, I kinda knew that but my main point is still worth noting: youdings fr. USNEWS 1-6 etc. were in part caused by working for a firm without a history of sending kids to those schools. If that is wrong, please let me know. Your outcomes could also be caused by your inability, as in posts above, to explain exactly what company does do, altho I got some rough idea, e.g. it is NOT trad. pharma marketing, which actually could be OK as an analytical gig at big Pharma company, but I agree w. your note, sales rep is not a feeder job.
    As to where to apply, I already suggested USNEWS 8-20. I don’t have the micro skills (esp. in that part of USNEWS) to suggest which of those might be a bit better or worse, but check ’em out, go visit, and altho I don’t always say this, if you are serious, hire a consultant to make sure your story and work history is REAL clear, that is not always the case w. your posts.

    To wit, WHAT does this mean:
    “6 years of work experience into startup of pharmaceutical market
    research ( the only company in India of this kind) to do this work. 2
    promotions and have been handling team of 5-6 people since joining of
    this company and currently looking after pilot project of a
    pharmaceutical and directly engaging with the MD of supply chain and
    logistics, resulting in data capture up to 200%.”

  • Aditya Srivastava

    thanks hbsguru…but one things i would like to ask the job i am in currently is not pharma marketing(likes a sales rep.) but as a data analyst and clients are mostly of pharma. so does this mean this is not a favoured area for schools. If you could suggest me some for schools where I can try to put together an application

  • hbsguru

    low grades at non-feeder school, one job for a long time (six years) at non-feeder company in pharma marketing (not a favored area to B schools, altho that could depend) a 750 GMAT (good!) and recos fr. clients instead of direct supervisor. Lots of that is off the grid as a profile.
    Not sure how theatre and shot-put went down w. schools, not super important, but just more unusual stuff that makes them wonder what really gives here, when combined with no-name schooling and staying at one firm for 6 years.
    None of those things are app stoppers (well, 3.0 at no-name school is a big deal) but you put all of them in one app, you got something that could be hard to swallow, esp. if execution was affected or odd as well.
    I dont thnk you are headed for USNEWS 1-8 or so as a reapp. The Question then becomes is it worth it to try to get your ducks super in a row and try for USNEWS kinda 8-20 vs. Kelly + $$$.
    Answer could be no. Not sure there is super big diff that warrants the risk and hassle.

  • hbsguru

    let’s limit profiles under this article to DING REPORTS. As stated, ahem, several times below. Apply to HBS + Stan and when you get dinged, tell us all about it,
    Happy to explain it all then.

  • Elle

    Thank you so much HBS guru 🙂

  • OG

    Agreed… if Yale declines and Cornell waitlists you, I don’t think Wharton makes sense.

  • Rahul Sharma

    Hey Sandy & John!

    Applying to Round 3 (HBS 2+2, Stanford Deferred). What do you think the chances are (or what could be limiting)?

    23-yr old Indian male
    Undergrad: IIT Computer Science. GPA 8.1/10 but explained compellingly.
    Masters (current): Top 3 US CS (think Stanford, MIT, Berkeley) . GPA full.
    Internship & Pre-MBA Job: Top 3 CS (think Google/ Facebook/Apple)
    Recommendations from masters and internships advisors
    GRE: 170Q / 166V
    ECs: Volunteer in US-India edu initiative, led 50-member univ robotics club, Nat Geo photographer
    Awards – Full scholarships for 10 years, quant competitions
    Essay on childhood tragedy motivating professional decisions
    Post-MBA Goals – Move to PM / general mgmt, return to India to start company

  • hbsguru

    dude, write back when you get dinged from those places and tell us which.
    this thread is for DINGS.

  • Aditya Srivastava

    Hi sandy and john,

    Lovely insights and great article. It would of great help if you could do a review of my profile.

    1) GMAT 750 (Q51 V40)

    2) CGPA 3.0 Undergrad from JIIT (Top 50 india)

    3) Indian Male not into IT.

    4) 6 years of work experience into startup of pharmaceutical market research ( the only company in india of this kind) to do this work. 2 promotions and have been handling team of 5-6 people since joining of this company and currently looking after pilot project of a pharmaceutical and directly engaging with the MD of supply chain and logistics, resulting in data capture upto 200%.

    5) extracurricular – theatre artist (perform plays) was coordinator at undergrad for arts society, national level shot-put player.

    6) recommendations from clients ( alumi of IIM and SP jain)

    7) short term goal : to transition into healthcare consulting

    8) long term : to be in leadership position in healthcare driving functions across the globe

    target school : hbs, mit, booth, kellog, kelly, ohio, purdue

  • hbsguru

    let’s limit profiles to DING REPORTS. Apply to Stan and MIT and report back w. results.
    You may get lucky, get admitted to both, and kiss this site good-bye.

  • hbsguru

    big oil rotational leadership programs are an excellent first job, esp. for guys w. STEM background, non-Ivy, or in your case, EURO edu background. Fact that it was your 2nd job, prob. not a big deal, but first job needed to be explained.
    Along w. going to grad school while working, or whatever actually happened.
    Just a lot to explain, and as noted, that may have impacted outcome. Some adcoms, like HBS, if they like you based on some core things, will meet you half way, and interview you, and get things straight there. Other schools just want to get thru the pile, and any real confusion in your app (in reality or as you present yourself, or both) is just a happy moment, they can ding you with good conscience and move on. That, or infinite variants of that, is what prob. happened to you.
    It was not Big Oil per se, it was maybe issue that Big Oil was 2nd job, and surrounding activities were hard for them to digest, and there was no super motive to work real hard to do so when the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is another white guy in Oil. Even if fr. Sweden.
    A mildly off-the-grid set of facts like yours submitted by URM or up-from- adversity woman fr. Slovenia etc, well, in that case, you may have had better and more patient readings.

  • Big Oil Business IT

    Hi Sandy, thanks for a swift response. Such a great service you do for us!

    To clarify, my current job is Delivery Lead (a combination of project management and innovation implementation) at the Big Oil company I work for.

    As for the ”previous MBA”, I have a one-year master of international business degree with focus on Business intelligence and Information management, a fairly common thing to have for European applicants (according to my adm. consultant about 60-70% of european applicants with business undergraduate degrees also have a business master’s degree). So NOT an MBA.

    I feel that my HBS interview went smoothly and they seemed positive, not sure if I raised any red flags through my performance.

    The fact that HBS granted me an interview made me feel I managed to at least on some levels deliver a proper execution when it comes to my applications. But then again I was outright DOA on Columbia and Cornell, so there must have been something that made them unsure about me.


    Do you have any idea how the schools see Big Oil company’s rotational leadership programs? There’s so few people applying from my firm throughout the years that I’ve failed to establish a clear picture of success rate.

  • John

    Seems to be the case with CBS (most of the time) and with Booth?

  • hbsguru

    note to you and everyone else posting

    As to you, how was interview at HBS? How much did they make you explain steps on your resume? What else did they ask? How do you think you did??
    This is confusing and mixed bag, including what appears to be prior MBA, so lots of explaining needed and that could result in choppy outcomes, turn this profile one way, it’s real interesting, turn it 20 degrees in another direction, it’s confusing –diff schools turned it different ways. Not sure if better execution could have cured that a bit.
    Your dreams can come true at Tuck and you already got the Nov-March wardrobe needed from growing up in Sweden.
    As between Tuck and Duke, hmmmmm, go visit each, and sniff around about how hard to grad from each w. job at MBB.

  • hbsguru

    This is not an MIT profile, stats are too low, and they are not going to cut some non-American boutique consultant a break [just giving it to you straight]–even tho story is OK and extras are interesting.
    Schools that may be interested in this package, including 720 GMAT, are Kellogg, NYU, Tuck, UVA, Duke.
    I’d wait til next year vs. R3, you got too much DING KARMA in the air this year. Take a deep breath and start over.

    esp since you are youngish.

  • Nics

    sorry V41

  • Elle

    Hi Sandy and John,

    Thank you for doing this! I would very much appreciate it if you can do a review for me 🙂

    Here are my profile:
    R1: dinged from H/S/W/MIT/Chicago/Yale, waitlisted Cornell
    R2: dinged from Columbia, waiting for Oxford
    R3: thinking whether should apply

    1. GMAT 690 (R1); GMAT 720 (R2, V40, Q48, 6th attempt)
    2. GPA 3.25
    3. Undergrade: BBA Finance from Top university in Thailand (Thai Ivy)
    4. Female Asian 24 years old
    5. 2 years at boutique energy consulting firm, focus on strategies/finance to transition firms to clean tech, renewable energy. 7 months prior at Deloitte operations consulting. Moved because wanted more roles & responsibilities in strategy consulting. Promoted twice. Leadership role, team of 3-4.
    6. Internship/summer position at Deustche Bank and top Thai brokerage house
    7. Extracurriculars: VP of student association in college, business case team varsity (2 international case comps in Singapore, won 1 national). Led team to semifinalist in Shell competition for energy innovation and national 2nd runner-up in L’Oreal Brandstorm. Delegate in sustainable development goals MUN at Serbia. Assisting former prime minister in alternative energy research (6M+)
    8. Recoms from supervisor and the former prime minister
    8. Short-term goal: to work at MBB in energy sector to advise energy comps to adopt clean tech/alternative energy, new technology to reduce consumption/improve efficiency.
    9. Long-term goal: to be in leadership roles at energy companies to finance/support development of alternative energy/new infrastructure in Thailand to ensure access to clean, affordable, sustainable energy

    What are my chances as a reapplicant at MIT? Can I try to do something to reach Wharton? Kellogg? Should I apply R3 to Tuck/LBS or wait another year? Thank you so much for your help :))

  • Kim

    Also, just wanted to add that I was accepted into Duke ($$$) and Tuck; awaiting Kellogg decision. Not sure why W did not pan out in particular.

  • Kim

    Thanks Sandy! A good track record of sending people to W, but probably not as much with H, with people joining almost every year. A lot of partners at my local office are from W as well.
    7.5 is in the top 20%.
    My engineering college has a few alums at W but probably not too many at H.

  • Big Oil Business IT

    Hi Sandy, absolutely love these reports you do! Could you help me figure out what went wrong?

    Northern European white male, age 27
    Undergrad: A good university in Sweden, GPA in top 30% of class
    Graduate: top 25 business school in europe, just under average GPA of graduating class (ext. circumstances, see below*)
    GMAT: 750
    Extra coursework: Berkeley Ext. accounting course: grade A

    Work experience:
    – 1,5 years at a CPG-startup that I joined right from the start as a COO. Did everything from negotiating with subcontractors to improving operational efficiency of the factory. The startup witnessed a revenue increase of over 300% (2€M+) partially as a result of my work. Gave examples on an essee.
    – 3 years post graduate school at Big Oil company (think Shell, Chevron, Total etc.) in their rotational leadership development program in business IT (so digitalization, devops etc.). 3 promotions so far, currently work as a Delivery Lead for Major capital portfolio projects at the company’s upstream practice, leading a team of 6 and managing multiple projects. My developmental focus at the company’s leadership program has been Innovation management and all my roles have had something to do with it (ie. it is my domain).
    – Outstanding recommendations and job performance on top 1/3 on each assessment.

    Extracurriculars include:
    – President of graduate university consulting club
    – Member of Lions Club for 4 years, have organised fundraisers etc.
    – Active member of company’s young graduate network

    Short term goal: Transition into MBB energy practice
    Long term goal: Innovation management SPM related role at Cleantech/Greentech

    * My graduate GPA is lowish due to me working full-time for the Big Oil company during my studies to prove myself and earn the spot for their rotational leadership program. Also simultaneously went through a painful divorce, all this while living in a foreign country. Did my best to own my failure and not to make it sound too sobby.

    Results (some of these are R1):

    Ding /w interview Harvard
    Ding without interview at Columbia, Cornell
    Accepted to Tuck, Duke

  • MBA17

    It must be the low GPA isn’t it? 75/100… What can I do to better improve my candidacy given that there is nothing I can do about the GPA? Thank you!

  • Josh Moon

    Hi Sandy, thank you for a great insight. Would love to receive some feedback on my profile, too, if I may.

    Australian Chinese Male, age 30
    Undergrad: Bachelor of Pharmacy
    Post-grad: Master of Business (innovation & entrepreneurship)
    Both done at the University of Queensland
    GPA: 2.7 (undergrad), 3.7 (post-grad)
    GMAT: 750
    Work experience: 1) intern at a marketing research company – producing marketing reports based on primary and secondary data – 3 months
    2) intern at a technology transfer company, doing market analysis and preparation of investment proposals – 10 months
    3) business development manager at a start-up company to do with materials engineering. Joined as a co-founder and led to over $20M revenue company. Company now has presence in Australiasia and NA and have won numerous awards as a fast-growing start-up (3 years/current)

    I’m worried because of the low GPA especially in undergrad and having only 1 full-time job experience (although it’s a start-up which forced me to reject offers from boutique management consulting firms).
    I would like to take the skills, as well as credentials, from MBA back to the current company.

    My dream MBA provider would be Stanford or MIT, and I do realise the competition. Would I stand a chance?

  • MBA17

    I’ve been thinking it’s a GPA issue (75/100 is pretty low). Do you have recommendations on what schools I should apply to if I decide to try again for 2018? Thank you!

  • hbsguru

    ~5 years of experience on joining, with a well known healthcare consulting firm;–
    what is track record of that firm sending applicants to H and W.
    7.5/10 is what percent class rank?
    What is record of your engineering college sending alums to H and W?

  • hbsguru

    dunno. this seems like a together profile [college, job 1, job 2 all fit] and a 740.
    Jobs seem solid altho maybe not super elite, they fit goals.
    Female in “tech” another small plus.
    Could have been the intangibles, essay, recs, touch and feel of the app, did not show schools the right type of intensity of love, etc.
    Mildly crowded cohort and both schools are either mid-size (UCLA) or small (Berk), so that could be an overhang. Still, female, techie, 740 . . .ok-ish jobs.
    No interview was unexpected.

  • MBA17

    Apologies for not being clear the first time around. Here is more info on my profile:

    I studied at a top engineering school in Canada (UofT, U of Waterloo)
    Age: 27
    I moved to NYC after graduation and worked at a boutique consulting firm for 2 years. 1 year and half ago I moved to Silicon Valley and joined a Big Four Advisory firm doing Operations consulting for Technology companies in Silicon Valley.

    I had a promotion during my first consulting job, and got promoted again when I joined Big Four.

    My career goal is to do business strategy for startups/tech companies in Silicon Valley, hence applied to Haas and UCLA.

  • Cora Thompson

    Hi Sandy, Could you please evaluate my profile? Really appreciated !
    VERY atypical profile, an HR headache, GOOD or BAD?
    Codename: Mr. FORTUNE 500 Career Changer

    Work experience:
    1 year Internship in project management at Big Oil (Exxon / Shell / Chevron)
    1 year Technology consulting at top IT Consulting firms (Deloitte / Accenture / IBM)
    0.5 year Business project management at top 5 Canadian bank (TD / RBC / CIBC)
    1.5 years Brand management at top CPG company (P&G / Unilever / Nestlé)

    720 GMAT
    GPA Engineering Undergraduate from Canadian University (first year
    below 2.00 GPA due to personal/family circumstances , last two years
    above 3.6+ GPA)
    Professional certificate in Strategic planning from top US University (Harvard / Stanford / Booth)

    A lot of pro bono consulting / strategic planning for major non-profits
    in Canada. Director of a corporate governance non-profit promoting
    board of directors training to young professionals.

    Goal: in three
    letters, MBB. I have been a generalist problem solver since the
    beginning of my career and I want to stay a generalist post-MBA for a
    few years with a strategy powerhouse like McKinsey. Coming from a
    non-target Canadian school with a relatively low GPA due to exceptional
    personal situations (I was carrying my family for two years by working
    full-time during my engineering studies), my goal was to get top brands
    on my CV no matter in which industry to help me land an offer at MBB.

    Target Schools: Harvard, Booth, Kellogg, Wharton, Stanford, Tuck

    28 years old visible minority male

  • hbsguru

    ??? did I say that??? Where? Both are solid places to work, depending on what you do, when you worked there, and how job fits your career plan. 😉

  • hbsguru

    those are excellent questions. And why did you apply to those two schools, and how clear did you make it WHY you wanted to attend.
    Is it the case you are now in NYC? Seems that way, but not 100 pct clear fr. post.

  • Kim

    Hi Sandy, could you help me with your insight?

    I applied in R2 as an Indian female applicant, with ~5 years of experience on joining, with a well known healthcare consulting firm; one promotion and a transfer from India to the US, similar to a promotion (increased responsibilities and new title).
    Undergrad: Top Indian Engineering college with 7.5/10
    GMAT: 770 (51,44)
    Strong volunteer experience at education/economic upliftment non-profit in India
    Career goal: Healthcare/healthcare consulting
    Visited the schools last year and spent a lot of time crafting essays, but dinged without interview from HBS and Wharton.

    I would love some feedback on my profile, if possible! Thanks!

  • HBS

    Can I ask couple of questions?
    Where did you study(country, university)?
    What’s your age?
    What was the reason for the change in your job (salary increase, etc)?

    It may be a hard sell since you moved from Cali to New York, and are now applying to schools back in Cali.

  • MBA17

    Hi Sandy. Thank you for the article. Can you please give some feedback on my profile?

    Canadian Female
    Undergrad: Mathematics
    GPA: 75/100
    GMAT: 740
    Work Experience: 1) Management Consulting in a boutique consulting firm in NYC doing financial software implementations for investment banks 2) Big 4 Advisory doing operations consulting for tech start-ups in Silicon Valley
    Career Goal: Business strategy at Tech Start-ups
    Extracurricular: Career mentor at a education service startup

    Dinged with no Interview from Haas or UCLA.

  • HBS

    The real question is how did you score only 750 with Q50/V51?

  • curious16

    Why is Pepsi a feeder firm for HBS but Heineken is not ?

  • hbsguru


  • hbsguru

    odd, on the face of things, this is a pretty solid profile for those schools.
    how were interviews?

    “Did not have international experience/ Volunteer experience”

    Not sure that was a major deal in this case, altho you never know.
    Your first job was at leading national firm (and HBS feeder you say).
    2nd job was at ‘one of India’s largest but not well know abroad.’
    I suppose that could be an issue, so in other apps and recs, make sure size of firm etc.
    is well established. INDIA’S LARGEST should be on your resume in some clear way and in other parts of app, along w. stats as to sales, employees, etc.
    If you don’t get far w. K and UVA, you prob have messed up the app.

  • hbsguru

    that is a real possibility — and explains some odd WL or even Dings.
    If you are in that situation you need to visit school and make it clear you are serious about coming, and follow up w. that in essay, etc. .
    No one likes to be a safety and some schools keenly protect their yields.

  • A

    Honestly wonder if your test scores and GPA are too high ie 3.8+ and 760+ that most schools don’t take you as seriously and think your first choice must be somewhere else.

  • Nics

    Dear Sandy
    Thanks for the Article.

    I would be great if you can give some feedback on my profile

    Indian Male
    CGPA : 8.4/10
    Undergrad :: IIT (Chemical Engineering)
    GMAT: 750 ( Q50/V51)
    I joined a leading consumer goods company in India. Feeder firm to Harvard.
    In my two years with the firm I underwent rotational leadership program followed by many cross functional projects aimed at Operations excellence and quality improvement across multiple manufacturing locations.
    Also won National level food safety awards for the firm. Left the firm in order to find solutions to the supply chain problems in food sector globally.

    After this I joined an automotive firm in the Corporate strategy department. Here I was formulating operational and digital strategy for the group. This firm is one of India’s largest but not well know abroad. I joined this firm to learn more about the automotive supply chain which is more safe and robust.
    Position and profile was a jump. Was involved in IoT and other technological initiatives at this firm.

    Short Term post MBA goal :: Join MBB
    Long Term Goal :: Move back to food sector and build sustainable supply chain.

    Didnot have internation experience/ Volunteer experience

    Dinged : TUCK and Sloan
    Awaited : kellogg and UVA.
    Not Applied to HSW.

    Your feedback on the Ding from Tuck and Sloan would be great.

  • Kim

    Wonderful article, thank you Sandy and John. It got me thinking, because I have been having the very same question for the last few weeks, after R2 interview decisions were released. I applied to business school for this first time this year with a lot of preparation and was surprised by some of the results. I’m an Indian female candidate, with 4.5 years of work experience at the time of application at a well known consulting firm (not MBB but a smaller firm specializing in healthcare that is well known for recruiting at business schools). In my tenure here, I was promoted and transferred (been here less than 1 year) to the US offices. With the transfer came an elevated role and new title. I did my undergraduation at a top Indian engineering school with a GPA of 7.5. My GMAT score is a 770 with good splits. I also have a strong focus on social impact and community service. I did lots of research, visited schools last year and spoke to many students and in one case a program head before I applied in Round 2 this year. Unfortunately, Wharton and HBS rejected me without and interview, which surprised me. Duke and Tuck admitted me. Kellogg is yet to come. I would like to understand what could have gone sour with my applications, because I put a lot of thought and hard work into my essays. I understand that these schools are quite competitive but hoped at the least for an interview, especially at Wharton which I was very keen on. I would really love it if you could share your insights, if possible!

  • Erri Pooku

    Love Sandy’s insights. Please do more with him!