You’d Never Believe These MBA Applicants Were Just Rejected By Harvard Business School

Mr. VP For International Development

  • 168V/163Q GRE
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in politics with a minor in history from a top liberal arts college (Think Swarthmore/Vassar/Middlebury)
  • Work experience includes an internship at a major tier-two consulting firm; two years as a Fellow in a competitive national program (TFA/VFA/Fulbright) and currently a vice president at an international development nonprofit focused on Latin America for the past two years with one promotion
  • Extracurriculars include playing jazz trumpet throughout high school and college and still do occasional gigs; won a couple regional and national competitions in high school/ early college; purchased and am currently renovating a historic home in the city where I live; board chair of a young professionals group and board member of college’s Latino/Hispanic Alumni Association.
  • Recommenders include current supervisor and an indirect supervisor who he hs worked with closely on a number of projects.
  • Essay focused on his background “as a musician and how it’s affected my past decisions and future goals. I was actually accepted to several top music conservatories after high school so I talked about my journey to that point and how the lessons I learned from music have shaped who I am”
  • Also applied to Stanford, Wharton, Booth, and MIT”
  • Short-term goal: Management consulting, with a focus on international development.
  • Long-term goal: To return to Puerto Rico and run for elected office.
  • 27-year-old Puerto Rican male

Sandy’s Analysis: DUNNO MAN, this is a mystery as presented. Not sure what happened, and it will be interesting to see what Stanordf, Wharton, Booth and MIT make of this.

You are a URM guy with a solid story, solid stats, rare-ish origin (PR) and sensible goals.

Sometimes saying that you want to run for office can confirm a lot of wobbly issues in your story in a bad way, e.g. that you are more of a pol/arts/academic guy than a genuine business guy, and in that context, doing two years with TFA or Fulbright can add another reason for doubt.

All this is super subtle, in general, TFA and Fulbright are positive, but in your case it my have added more confusion, and that might have been abetted by unhelpful execution, and too much passion for music.

That would be a sad mess, but it might have happened. Only thing that I can think of, beyond no blue chip employers. I don’t think the GRE was the issue. Your GRE scores are right on or slightly above the HBS medians.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.