The Ding Report: Who Was Rejected & Why

Mr. Fortune 250

  • 770 (49Q / 47V) GMAT
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting from top public business school (think Kelley/McCombs/Ross)
  • Work experience includes four years at a Fortune 250 company with three one-year roles in finance, accounting and operations. Lead a 300-member organization as a fiance analyst in the cmopany’s roadmap product line. Highlighted significant projects in resume, including leading the first financial health check at an acquired site, developing an analytics toolkit for supply chain planners, and preparing/presenting competitor analyses to company SVP’s
  • Extracurricular involvement as the founder and leader of a youth group at church
  • “It’s my GPA, isn’t it? I’m curious what you think my best shot to mitigate this would be for a second try at these schools if I don’t get in with the remaining apps. I thought nailing my GMAT would mitigate the GPA, but I know Harvard is big on that. I could take the CPA to further demonstrate my academic dedication and prove I have the accounting knowledge, but is it really about that with my GMAT? Or they just don’t want a 3.0 guy when they have so many 3.5+ to choose from? Do I throw the towel in at HBS?”
  • 26-year-old white male

Outcomes:

Dinged without interview at HBS
Outstanding decisions at all other M7 schools

Sandy’s Analysis: You’re a serious and accomplished guy but the vibe and profile does not align with Harvard Business School’s preferred frequency.

Let’s put the 3.0 aside for one moment. You’re an accounting major from a flyover university, a university they take kids from, but not accounting majors, unless that was a toehold position for URM or interesting candidates.

Your job at a Fortune 250 company is similarly iffy. I assume it is not a company with a history of sending kids to HBS? As I often say, not all Fortune 500 companies are equal. In fact, there are a good many Fortune 100 companies that most people have never heard of, and that includes HBS adcom ladies.

I think you probably would not be interviewed at HBS, even if you had presented a 3.5 GPA. What they wanted you to do, basically, was get a different job out of college (nuts I know) or hustle your way to a different job at a sexy company or hot startup after two years.

Usually a rotational leadership development program is a solid place to apply from, and you did very well in that program–e.g “Highlighted significant projects in my resume, including leading the first financial health check at an acquired site, developing an analytics toolkit for supply chain planners, and preparing/presenting competitor analyses to company SVP’s.”

I’m impressed but the guts of your resume (and this is true for everyone) don’t count as much as the top lines–company name, what you do, whether you stayed too long at one company.

The way to capture that is with powerful recs, but many rec writers, even guys who love you, are often not capable of combining the correct amount of raving with the selected details to make it stick. Not sure what yours were like, but did they sorta say, “This guy is the most impressive young talent I have seen in X years, in terms of innovation, team work, individual accomplishment” and then prove that in some clear, concise and convincing way?

Just saying. Throw in the 3.0 and that makes it easier for them to confirm their own prejudices about a flyover university and no-name companies.
I really think you will get better outcomes at other places, especially, if you had a chance to meet Tuck kids and fit in (well, did you???)

Places like Wharton and Columbia may take you for the merit reasons and the 770. Getting into HBS next year is going to be a long shot–if there were some dramatic new things in your story at work, even with the same employer, and some other x factor, maybe, and if you could maximize recs along lines I suggest.

Getting a CPA could maybe make your case worse and would not really add much upside. Do that if it is needed and part of your plan, but in terms of HBS admission, that is nothing more than a sideshow.
 I hope Columbia, Wharton or Tuck sees the light. You got a lot of strengths, they just don’t fully register on Planet HBS.