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

Ms. Former Pro Athlete Turned Digital Marketer

  • 169 V/164Q/5.5 AW GRE
  • 3.96 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in English & French from a top liberal arts college, graduating Phi Beta Kappa
  • “Limited undergrad quant experience (Microeconomics & Calculus, both A’s) but taking classes through Wharton Online to shore that up”
  • Work experience includes five years as a professional athlete, two years in journalism, and slightly less than a year in marketing at a regional digital services firm
  • Essay focused on “my family’s small business/entrepreneurial experience and my journey back to the business world after playing professional sports”
  • Recommenders include direct supervisors with no HBS or MBA connections. “Previous position was entirely remote so had to go back to one job to get recommenders that had known me in-person”
  • Post MBA Goal: marketing/entrepreneurship
  • 30-year-old female

Sandy’s Analysis: Yikes. A 3.9, with high GRE’s, plus a pro athlete from a select college. SO far so good.

Your two years as a journo is a bad turn although not fatal. Your age at 30 is older but not a deal breaker per se.

But then there is this: “<1 year marketing at regional digital services firm, post MBA-field: marketing/entrepreneurship.”

Marketing is also a suspect category and so is digital, although solid gold versions exist of both, obviously. Also you’ve only been doing that job for ~one year. SO those are shadows on this application, depending on what your firm is, actually does, and how you explained it.

Your background was sorta OK. What was possibly damaging was the time spent in each of your three careers, with you “goal” career and current job being very recent. Also journalism can mean anything from TV anchor to blogger. In most cases, adcoms view journalism jobs as sketchy, and then you followed it by working for a regional firm. Hey, it’s all OK to me, but this could look like a redemption application and life turn-around, and not someone gung-ho on marketing.

I’m just guessing. The effort you are making in taking quant courses shows them that you are serious, so you may have better luck at other places.

If you only applied to HBS, ahem, that is a revealing and dumb thing to do. It probably bled into you an application that HBS would reject. The school does not like trophy MBA seekers.

You already got a wall full of trophies, my guess.

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.