Rejected By Harvard Business School. Can You Believe It?

Mr. Army Aviator Mental Health Enthusiast


  • 710 (49Q, 38V) GMAT
  • 3.36 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in systems engineering from the United States Military Academy
  • HBX CORe in 2017 (honors); 1st in class in flight school
  • Work experience includes eight years of active duty as an aviation officer (helicopter pilot); currently a captain; Deployed to Afghanistan; Stationed overseas for 1 year in Korea,  currently an instructor at Army ROTC program
  • Letters of Recommendation written by a direct supervisor and another supervisor. Both from current job and are strong
  • Essay: “I tried to be vulnerable early on, talking about how early in my Army career I overcame struggles with mental health dealing with: losing a soldier in an aircraft crash, marriage troubles, a family member diagnosed with cancer, and confronting childhood trauma (sexual assault). I talked about how counseling helped me overcome this adversity and how I wanted to pursue a career in entrepreneurship starting my own business to aid others to overcome mental illness/health. I also talked about how I became a better leader by becoming more empathetic, embracing vulnerability, and improving my ability to work in teams. I then talked about how I would continue to develop as a leader and develop the skills to be successful in entrepreneurship at Harvard.”
  • Extracurriculars include volunteer work with an organization to support wounded warriors, and started with Big Brother Big Sister in Spring of 2020
  • 30-year-old white male

Sandy’s Analysis: I’m gonna give you some tough love, and I may not even be right. The essay you describe could have been damaging because it was not fully in control of events and takeaways. It sounds like you were engaging in the primary process and repeating/reliving the events on the page more than showing some distance and perspective. It’s hard to describe but as they say, you know it when you read it.

To wit:

I tried to be vulnerable early on” –exactly, but that can sometimes go off the rails.

I talked about how counseling helped me overcome this adversity and how

I wanted to pursue a career in entrepreneurship starting my own business to aid others to overcome mental illness/health.

Those statements could strike a reader as a bit over worked-up and contrived, even though you might believe it. You need to sound more informed about the “space” and what your plan is to be impactful in it. Launching a start-up seems like something a dreamer or newbie would come up with.

Military apps are also always something a black box to adcoms since they often don’t contain the usual markers of finance and consulting apps, viz. and then I joined a blue-chip investment banking firm and then I went to a premier private equity shop. So it is often more difficult for adcoms to understand and fully appreciate military careers.

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