The Round 2 Ding Report For Harvard Business School MBA Hopefuls

Mr. Ex-Goldman Marine

  • 710 (41V/47Q) GMAT
  • 3.73 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in psychology, with a business minor, from public state university, ranked #160-#170s, graduated in three years, recognized with school and national leadership awards
  • Work experience of just under three years at Goldman Sachs in operations; promoted from analyst to senior analyst; spent ten months at firm then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; was a Cyber Network Operator, recognized with several character awards/graduated top of class. Returned to GS from military leave, then promoted four months later. Left six months after promotion.
  • Last year and one half as an Officer in the Marine Corps. Graduated top 1% at Officer Candidates School, graduated top 12% of basic officer training (1/4 of class were Naval Academy grads), selected among 150 to liaise with international officers, one of two among 65 selected to lead a 30-man platoon of peers; currently lead a team of nine Marines as a Manpower Operations Officer in a billet typically filled by an officer two to three ranks above him
  • Extracurriculars include being a member of a top 25 NCAA Division I sports team; president of two 100+ member organizations including a community service organization he founded; among 50 selected to lead Marine officer peers in community service projects for a year; mentor to veterans applying to undergrad programs; captain of GS office intramural soccer team and captain of Marine Corps base soccer team
  • Essay addressed background and influences that have shaped him by touching on his North African immigrant family background, commitment to soccer, and military leadership/humility lessons
    “Optional essay about how my current supervisor has been my manager for less than 2 months, therefore I used my last supervisor”
  • Recommendations from a previous direct supervisor at GS who reinforced his quant skills, communication skills, and leadership, especially with international peers, and a previous direct supervisor in the Marines who wrote about command presence, x-factor, inspiring teams, ranked him in top five of 98 officers.
  • “Found out after the fact that the Marine recommender changed the recommendation for HBS at submission b/c he thought it was 250/300 characters instead of 250/300 words for each response. That hurt. I thought that I had a shot to be a different applicant with a unique background of GS to USMC, but I recognize there was a lot of silver and some bronze. Anything I’m missing?”
  • Short-term goal: Consulting at MBB/Deloitte
  • Long-term goal: Leadership role in the aerospace/defense industry
  • “I felt alright about 41V 47Q since the class of 2021’s medians were 41V 48Q, but I know 710 is low. GPA was fine but lack of quant background probably hurt. I know my undergrad institution hurt me big time, just not sure how severe. For work experience, GS is gold but Ops is silver/bronze.
  • “Ended up in Manpower as an Officer in the Marines which is bronze, but I was hoping to compensate by outperforming officer peers. I felt my extracurriculars were solid with leadership positions. I felt the goals made sense given GS ops experience and military leadership/manpower management to consulting, then to aerospace/defense given experience in military/passion for the industry. I didn’t follow your essay format, so I missed the mark there.”
  • 25-year-old white Muslim male

Sandy’s Ding Analysis: Anything I’m missing? you ask.

Not much. I seem to have inadvertently trained a generation of viewers as HBS handicappers 😉 You hit on a number of valuable insights, including your degree from a public state university ranked outside the top 150.

As Poets&Quants has noted, virtually half of Harvard’s Class of 2020 (49%) earned their undergraduate degrees from only 24 universities. You can guess who leads that parade: Harvard, Penn, Stanford, Yale, and Princeton. The only publics among the top 24 are pretty much public Ivies, including UT-Austin, UVA, Michigan, Berkeley, and UNC at Chapel Hill.

Besides, as noted before, 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 made clear, GPA and GMAT count as one way to do the sorting.

Your military experience seems to have a good deal of hands-on leadership, even for the military, but I am not sure how much of that is discerned or credited by an adcom. Basically you need to tell that story in a persona they both “get” and “like” — great stories can be damaged by a voice that is braggy or discursive or just unclear. Not saying that happened, but I had a mildly hard time putting it together.

You say, you “wrote about background and influences that have shaped me by touching on North African immigrant family background, commitment to soccer, and military leadership/humility lessons.”

A totally right idea if you were able to execute it with clarity and sympathy.

Did that revised recommendation get considered? Not sure that was an issue.

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