Rejected By Harvard Business School? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!

Mr. Biotech

  • 780 (50Q 48V) GMAT
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a top 50 school in chemistry
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Master’s degree in computer science earned part time from a top program
  • Work experience includes three years as a researcher at a medium-sized biotech company in the northeast as a top 5% performer with two promotions, working on rare diseases
  • Extracurricular involvement teaching computer science at an inner city high school, also mentor to high schoolers entering science fair; marathoner
  • Recommendations from one direct supervisor, one previous supervisor
  • Essay focused on sister’s struggle with a rare disease and how it has motivated me to help
  • Goal: PM at a health tech company focusing on using artificial intelligence and genetic data
  • 25-year-old white male

Sandy’s Analysis: If I had to guess, you got a ding from Harvard for the following reasons:

1. A “researcher” is not a common source of admits, even though biotech is a hot area. I am not sure if there is a “technical leadership” track at your company, something that leads to a vice president of research job, but often that is something that does not necessarily require an MBA (although some of those guys do have MBAs, especially at super big companies).
2. Your sister theme in the essay is an okay hook to start with but you sound like your real passion is curing disease (well sure) and not creating R+D and distribution platform to cure disease.

3. Your PM at health care company goal focusing on AI (using your CS background) and genetic data is an inspired idea but has a MacGyver feel to it, and is one of those things that may wind up winning a Nobel Prize but adcoms cannot see at this point.

It’s mostly, to sum up, how convincing you were in knowing what MBAs do and whether you actually seemed to want and need one.
All that said, given your stats and biotech background, I would have predicted an interview at least. So it’s possible that the size and reputation of your current company could also have been a factor. There is a cohort of guys like you from Fortune 100 and 500 feeder device and pharma companies (often with medical/science backgrounds) and rotational leadership gigs, saying they want MBAs and their case is just more clear to the admissions people.

If you sell your MBA reasoning better, you should have better luck at some other top schools.