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

Mr. GE

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a Big 10 university
  • Work experience includes two years in a General Electric leadership program with full time rotations in Commercial Finance, Financial Planning & Analysis, Supply Chain, and Digital Technology; six months spent working abroad in Europe; won award for highest test scores in North and South America
  • Extracurriculars include mentoring inner-city students, university recruitment leader for leadership program, American Cancer Society, Philosophy Club, marathon running
  • Essay focused on “financial hardships growing up (food stamps, working through college) Also told story of how I wrote scripts for a YouTube channel my senior year, and made enough money to travel through South America. Tied this back to my desire to pivot from Finance in to Digital Technology”
  • Recommenders include Senior FP&A Leader and shop leader for Commercial Engine overhaul site in Wales
  • 24-year-old Caucasian male

Sandy’s Analysis: A white guy with a 700 and a 3.4 is going to have a REAL hard time getting into HBS.

Working for GE in a solid rotational program is a good start.
You said, “Won award for highest test scores in North and South America.”

Not sure what that means, but may I suggest you retake the GMAT?

“Essay: Discussed financial hardships growing up (food stamps, working through college, etc.) Also told story of how I wrote scripts for a YouTube channel my senior year, and made enough money to travel through South America. Tied this back to my desire to pivot from Finance in to Digital Technology”

Dunno. Growing up poor stories are hard to execute effectively, writing You Tube scripts in High School is OK (not that I know what it means) but not likely to be a door opener at HBS, ”

“Tied this back to my desire to pivot from Finance in to Digital Technology”

Ahem, OK idea in general, but this seems a reach. I got a feeling entire essay may have been trying to do three different things: pity party for growing up poor; brag story about You Tube; and creaky explanation of career trajectory.

Also, you note among EC’s: “Philosophy Club.”

That is always a red flag in my book.

Speculating a bit wildly, because you asked me to, but you may not have been their white, male GE type. That type has better stats and a real straight story. Not sure if that is helpful, but if the three things you were trying to do sounded like different songs, with different beats, that didn’t help you.

Adcoms are not the smartest sticks in the gum pack but they are experienced and they can sense when something sounds wrong. Even they could not in a million years tell you what, or why—and they don’t have to.

About The Author

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.