The Round 2 Ding Report For Harvard Business School MBA Hopefuls

Mr. Fortune 200

  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree with a double major in math and economics and a minor in Chinese from a top 10 U.S. university
  • Work experience includes four years in corporate strategy at a Fortune 200 company; in a role where he is the only junior person on a team of ex-MBB colleagues, all with MBA degrees
  • Extracurriculars include a role as co-chair of large affinity group at his company, NCAA D1 athlete, a lot of volunteer work and religious leadership
  • Recommendations are “good” from the last two heads of his group who were ex-McKinsey partners
  • Essay addressed his fluency in four languages and how that has shaped him and h choices
  • Goal: To transition into the investment or private equity field
  • “My guess is I was dinged because my GPA was below HBS average, no exceptional ECs/leadership, my career goals were not consistent or realistic enough (investments/PE), or my employer is not prestigious enough (no one sent to HBS in recent memory)”
  • 25-year-old white male

Sandy’s Ding Analysis: Let’s take a look at your own analysis of what you think sunk your HBS application.

My guess is I was dinged because GPA was below HBS average…

Not really an issue!

…no exceptional ECs/leadership…

Not a super issue!

my career goals were not consistent or realistic enough (investments/PE)…

That’s an ok thing to say but it gets you in a very crowded bucket of stars with better stats and stories than you may have.

or my employer is not prestigious enough (no one sent to HBS in recent memory)…

So this is a real issue that could have been overcome if the rest of your application was rock solid but it was not. A recent study of the work backgrounds of HBS’ Class of 2020 shows how much of a real issue this is. An amazing high percentage–21%–had worked at MBB: 41 from McKinsey, 36 from BCG, and 27 from Bain. And you have to count in the ocnsulting crowd 27 who had worked at Deloitte and 17 at Accenture. Another 14.1%–or 126 students– worked at some point for Goldman, JP Morgan, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America or Citi. Then you have the private equity and investment firms like Blackstone (8), Blackrock (7), Advent International (7), Carlyle Group (5), KKR (5), Warburg Pincus (5), TPG (4), Hellman & Friedman (4), Bain Capital (3), American Securities (3) and at fifteen other firms.

Notice the trend here: Who are the Fortune 200 companies supplying talent to HBS? They tend to be the big well-known players like Exxon Mobil, which sent eight employees directly into HBS, Google, which was on the resumes of 13 students in the Class of 2020, Apple (7), Microsoft (7), IBM (7), General Electric (7), Facebook (4), Amazon (3), Johnson & Johnson (3), Procter & Gamble (3), and the big public banks cited above. Once you get beyond the big names in the Fortune 100, it’s pretty much a lottery. You have a chance but it ain’t all that good, unless you make it less relevant with the rest of your app.

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