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

Mr. Ex-McKinsey Re-Applicant

  • 170V/167Q/6.0W GRE:
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Top 10 school
  • Work experience includes two years in the military, 2.5 years at McKinsey, and half a year in a family entertainment concept, such as a D&B or TopGolf; progressed from junior military officer to currently a director position
  • Would have five years of work experience at matriculation
  • Fiancee is a current HBS student
  • Extracurricular involvment includes 100+ volunteer hours with Vet-centric higher education organization
  • Essay focused on introspection and self-discovery after last year’s HBS rejection; led him to leave McKinsey to follow his true passion at current company
  • Want an MBA to round out a managerial toolkit and improve global business knowledge to be ready to head the organization in the future
  • Short-term goal: To return to current company and gain P&L responsibility over a geographic region
  • Long-term goal: To become CEO.
  • Recommendations from one direct manager at McKinsey (also military, HBS grad), and one indirect manager, a long-standing mentor and also HBS grad.

    “Both know me VERY well, and were intimately familiar with the story I was crafting”

  • Biggest differences from last application:

    + Improved GRE by 10 points

    + Left McKinsey, improving title and increasing responsibility

    + Took on significant volunteer effort

    + Story and future goals tied better to demonstrated past success

  • Re-applicant, interviewed but not admitted last year
  • Dinged, no interview this year
  • “Is it time for me to call it quits on a top MBA?”
  • 27-year-old white male

Sandy’s Analysis: GRR, I’m seeing a lot of kids who were interviewed last year, then reapplied, and got dinged with NO interview this time. I sure hope there is no adcom file called NEVER which contains interview kids from last time that were sooo annoying that the adcom just had to say, “NOT ONLY IS THAT KID NOT GETTING IN, THAT KID IS NEVER GETTING IN.” Hence, the NEVER file.

OK, let’s assume there is no such file, although there might be some unofficial version of it. As I say, an important issue in reapps is what is NEW, and you got lots of new stuff, including a new passion for “0.5 years in “FEC” (Family Entertainment Concept, like a D&B or TopGolf).” which I just Googled. Ahem, your FEC does not rise to the top of many meanings of FEC, and once you find out what it means, to wit below, I gotta tell you, I wanna go, but I think an adcom may have had second thoughts about this being a passionate exit and a great landing from McKinsey:


“A family entertainment center (or centre), often abbreviated FEC in the entertainment industry,[1] (also known as indoor amusement park or indoor theme park) is a small amusement park marketed towards families with small children to teenagers, and often entirely indoors or associated with a larger operation such as a theme park. They usually cater to “sub-regional markets of larger metropolitan areas.”[1] FECs are generally small compared to full-scale amusement parks, with fewer attractions, a lower per-person per-hour cost to consumers than a traditional amusement park, and not usually major tourist attractions, but sustained by an area customer base. Many are locally owned and operated, although there are a number of chains and franchises in the field.”


Don’t get me wrong, with the right amount of experience and passion, you can make any business sound promising but this “space” is a harder sell, certainly as something you fell in love with while working at McKinsey. Hate to say it, but it is a mighty interesting question if you would have been better off as a reapp if you never left McKinsey.

The difficulty of explaining all this, and their initial “whaa” when finding out about the idea, may have been a couple of bridges too far. I hope you did not sell goals as a business plan vs. a career, which would have been, and should have been, wider in terms of the ‘space’ involved, e.g. entertainment in general, or even real estate/entertainment, or whatever the correct lingo is.

Also saying you wanted to RETURN to current employer may not have helped. Kids sometimes say they are being sponsored by KKR or McKinsey and plan to return, That is not usually the case with folks working for SMEs. etc.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.