Foster School of Business | Mr. Tesla Gigafactory
GMAT 720, GPA 3.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Digital Marketing Analyst
GMAT 710, GPA 3.27
Kellogg | Ms. Kellogg Bound Ideator
GMAT 710, GPA 2.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Business, Tech & Education
GRE 332, GPA 3.5
Kellogg | Mr. Hope-I-Get-In
GMAT 720, GPA 3.62
Harvard | Mr. MBB Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.9
SDA Bocconi | Mr. Hotel International
GMAT 570, GPA 2.8
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Career Coach
GRE 292, GPA 3.468
Wharton | Mr. Corporate Monster
GMAT 750, GPA 9.12/10.0
Darden | Mr. Deloitte Dreamer
GMAT 700, GPA 3.13
Columbia | Ms. Cybersecurity
GRE 322, GPA 3.7
Tuck | Mr. Federal Civilian
GMAT 780, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Ms. Lucky Charm
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Tuck | Ms. Green Biz
GRE 326, GPA 3.15
Cambridge Judge | Mr. Nuclear Manager
GMAT 700, GPA 2.4
London Business School | Ms. Aussie Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Young Entrepreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Retail Innovator
GMAT 750, GPA 3.84
Harvard | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Geography Techie
GMAT 740, GPA 3.9
INSEAD | Mr. Media Startup
GMAT 710, GPA 3.65
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Emporio Armani
GMAT 780, GPA 3.03
Wharton | Ms. Female Engineer
GRE 323, GPA 3.5
Darden | Ms. Teaching-To-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.47
Stanford GSB | Mr. Financial Controller
GRE Yet to Take, Target is ~330, GPA 2.5
Kellogg | Mr. 770 Dreamer
GMAT 770, GPA 8.77/10
Ross | Ms. Middle Aged MBA-er
GRE 323, GPA 3.6

The Round 2 Ding Report For Harvard Business School MBA Hopefuls

Mr. West Point

  • 170V/164Q GRE
  • 3.27 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in chemistry and mechanical engineering from West Point, with significant research but no publications from it
  • A third of the way toward a CMS at the part-time (online) program of another Ivy’s engineering school
  • Applied to the MS/MBA program. Did not use a consultant
  • Work experience includes nearly five years as a U.S. Army Infantry Officer, Ranger qualified; currently a Company Commander of ~150 Soldiers a year ahead of my peers; no combat experience( although only 10-20% of his peer group has it now
  • “Without doxing myself I would assume it would have more “wow/elite” factor than normal positions outside of Special Ops. Previous assignments consistently rated top in my peer group”
  • Recommendations from his former company commander and his current brigade commander
  • Essay addressed two formative experiences: “1) growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, father died violently when young, had to homeschool and work part-time to support family, then got admitted to West Point against the odds. 2) Overcoming failing Ranger training the first time through, mentored by Commander (who wrote 1st rec), went back, and completed it. The MS program essay hit on my current involvement in the DoD product development/research process and how that links into my career goals, focusing on why I think that innovation in that space is needed”
  • Short-term goal: Consultant in defense/aerospace practice at MBB
  • Long-term: Start a defense contracting company focused on soldier-borne systems and weapons
  • “Mostly think I was turned down because its too much bronze/silver and not enough gold, with a low GPA, not Special Forces/Pilot, no combat experience, no General Officer recs, maybe a poor translation of my military resume to something civilians would understand”
  • 26-year-old white male

Sandy’s Ding Analysis: Grrrr, as often noted here, adcoms have a hard time evaluating military resumes, so big-ticket items like rangers or pilot count a good deal. Once you get past that, and many HBS military admits are not pilots, it gets murky, but as also often noted, GPA and GMAT count as one way to do the sorting.

Not sure how much combat counts, but battle deployment certainly could be made to count if woven into an application story correctly, but often that attempt just leads to “war stories.”  Soooooo . . .six of one and bananas of the other. (I like war stories, but I’m not an adcom girlie.)

But you are a West Point grad and that counts for a lot. In HBS’ Class of 2020, there are seven West Pointers along with a dozen MBA students who punched their cards at the U.S. Naval Academy.

You say that in your essay you wrote about two formative experiences, “1) growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, father died violently when young, had to homeschool and work part-time to support family, then got admitted to West Point against the odds. 2) Overcoming failing Ranger training the first time through, mentored by Commander, went back, and completed it.”

That is rich material if you managed to sort it out correctly and did not verge into pity party territory. Your goals are OK if perhaps too granular. The better version of that is, 
”My goals are to lead an impactful organization in consulting or manufacturing. I admire companies and leaders like A B and C and hope to use them as role models.” You need to be real careful about who A B and C are: they can be folks we don’t know but you gotta explain why. Something like this, 
”Joe Blow has managed to lead ACME, diversify its offerings, and expand its footprint to Latin America by doing 1, 2 and 3 .”

You also need to really hand-hold rec writers to the point of letting them know that we need believable raves. No time for understatement or military reticence. As often noted, it is YOUR job to get them to agree to YOU writing the recommendation in some acceptable form [through an outline, suggested language, or samples].

All that said, even after you take out the pilots and special ops guys, and even take out the guys who do a version of the above, you are left with a cohort of solid military guys and getting picked out of that group involves some luck.

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.