Betsy Massar, founder and CEO of Master Admissions MBA Consulting, recalls a book written by a couple who each graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School: “Marketing Yourself to the Top Business Schools” by 1994 HBS grads Phil and Carol Carpenter. “I always found it to be enlightening on a bunch of matters,” Massar tells Poets&Quants. “The thing that I took from them is that they applied to a lot of schools, and that seems to be a good strategy for couples.”
Massar has worked with couples but more commonly works with one candidate who has a partner. “That partner may be working on their own and getting advice from the candidate I am working with, or even working with another consultant, which actually works out just fine. To be honest, I prefer working only with one side of the couple because I don’t want to fall into a trap of finding one candidate stronger than another. That can happen!”
She recommends that candidates apply to schools in the same region: MIT/HBS, Kellogg/Chicago, Haas/Stanford, Wharton/CBS or CBS/NYU, for example. “The most successful candidates I know about are at Tuck,” Massar says. “In one case the couple made a big effort to meet with alums in their city, and made so many good friends, that I’m not surprised the alums all wrote in that the applicants were strong individually and together. I do know they were evaluated separately, however, because one got a merit scholarship and one did not.
“Cannot tell you what why a school would admit a couple because of their coupledom. I think it is more that they find two students who are compelling in their own right and, well, compelling people can be attracted to each other, right?”
NO REASON TO HIDE YOUR COUPLEDOM FROM ADMISSIONS OFFICERS
“Every year we hear from couples who want to attend business school,” says Scott Shrum, president and COO at Veritas Prep. “I’d say we hear about this at least several times each year.
“If it’s two people who want to attend the same school, then the question that will be in the back of admissions officers’ minds (when reviewing each application) will be, ‘Do you really want to attend our school, or is it more because you’re following your partner?’ That’s what could give an admissions officer pause.
“An applicant can answer this question in much the same way as any applicant can impress an admissions committee — by demonstrating academic smarts and a clear career progression that naturally leads to an elite MBA as a next step. If one half of a couple has an impressive management consulting background and the other has had a series of jobs with no demonstrated growth, then that won’t work. Often, the couples we hear from actually met on the job (maybe in their first job as analysts at Accenture, for example), so there usually isn’t a terrible imbalance in terms of impressiveness of backgrounds.”
Shrum says being a couple can be an asset, too. “Schools are always looking for signals that an applicant is seriously interested in the program (rather than just applying as a backup). If two partners apply together, that’s sort of ‘doubling down’ on interest in the program, and as long as the question above is answered, it can work to the applicants’ advantage. Also, for schools in cities where partners often don’t have a lot of career options — think of schools in more remote locations, such as Tuck, Darden, and Johnson — if both partners plan on enrolling, then that helps to answer the question of ‘What will your partner do while you’re enrolled?’
“If you’re applying as part of a couple, there’s zero reason to hide this from the admissions committee. This is perfect fodder for a short, to-the-point, persuasive supplemental essay. MBA admissions teams love a great human interest story, and if you can help them envision both of you thriving on campus, then that’s a double win. Definitely don’t try to hide it.”