Who Should Apply To Harvard / Stanford / Wharton?

You’d give a lot to attend any one of them, but do you have what it takes to get in? And if you do, how can you present yourself effectively, compellingly? Also, how do you get accepted if you have below-average stats?

Watch this live discussion where John A. Byrne grills MBA admissions veteran Linda Abraham of Accepted about the secrets to success when applying to this triumvirate.

See below for the Q&A: 


  1. Is a failed startup seen in negative light? Is it a deal breaker?

A failed start-up isn’t as attractive as a successful one, but it isn’t an automatic deal breaker or even necessarily a negative. It depends how far you got with your start-up and how much you learned from the experience. You at least had the initiative to try to start a business and are demonstrating resilience by deciding to acquire the skills necessary to make your next start-up a success.

How your experience will be viewed will depend on how you portray it. If you portray it as a learning experience and discuss challenges faced and lessons learned, it could be a positive. The failed start-up could also be one of the drivers for your wanting to earn an MBA. 


  1. How would you rate a role at the Strategy practice of a Big4 ? (for an international applicant)

In very general terms it is competitive work experience, but nothing about working  in the strategy practice of the Big 4 that tells me you will get in or will be rejected. The details count. What did you do for your consulting firm? Your clients? Did you make a positive difference? If the answer is yes, then your Strategy work in the Big 4 will help you. If not, it won’t.


  1.   Would you recommend I go for a trad MBA or a MSc/MBA Biotech at Harvard considering that I have a Life Science degree but 6 years experience at a tech start-up?

GPA: 4.67/5.00 (1st class)

Leadership: Yes

Work Experience: 6 years working with no-brand tech start-ups. Currently VP of Business Development.

I think it depends on what you want to do after your degree. Here are a few questions:

  1. Will your qualifications for your desired future be enhanced by the second degree? 
  2. Will you still have the time to take advantage of the amazing extra-curriculars at HBS if you are pursuing the MS? 
  3. If the answer to #2 is “no,” is the MS more valuable to you than those other activities? 

If the answer is yes to 1 and 2, or 1 and 3, then go for it!


  1. Hi, I’ve quit my job to prepare for the GMAT and plan to apply this year for 2020 admission. Would this be seen as a red flag by the adcom?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: It’s a competitive disadvantage to apply while unemployed. It also takes the sheen off whatever score you get if you got it by studying full-time. Your competition was working full-time, studying when not working, and got the same or better scores. Furthermore they were advancing in their careers.

Please ask your H/S/W admissions questions to Linda Abraham, Founder of Accepted, in the comments section.

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