What A Harvard MBA Rejection Letter Looks Like & What To Expect If You Got An Invite

Thousands of Round 1 applicants to Harvard Business School’s MBA program received this notice yesterday

The email is straightforward and direct, with a subject header that read simply: “HBS Decision Available Online.”

I’m sorry we are unable to offer you a place in the MBA Class of 2024.

Every year we receive roughly ten applications for every spot in the class. While we are pleased that so many talented people want to be students here, the numbers make for very difficult decisions. As we build a class of students with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives, we must turn away many qualified candidates.

Thank you very much for your interest in Harvard Business School. We wish you success and happiness as you go forward.


Chad Losee

Managing Director, MBA Admissions & Financial Aid


Yesterday was the day of reckoning for many round one applicants to HBS who received that succinct ding letter from Losee. By any reasonable estimate, thousands of candidates got that letter, with no insight why they failed to make the cut. An exasperated white guy who brought a 770 GMAT to his application put it, “No idea, could be a million different things. To quote Dwight Schrute: ‘Not everything is a lesson Ryan, sometimes you just fail.'”

Whatever the reason, or lesson from The Office TV series, just knowing the answer is “no” hardly takes away the disappointment or the pain. As another dinged applicant asked on Reddit, “Why does it hurt so much?”

Another candidate put it differently. “I honestly don’t care,” he wrote. “I knew 99.99% I wouldn’t get in, I only applied to shoot my shot. I know I will be successful regardless of HBS and that it’s really their loss. The rest of our apps will go well!”


Along with those rejections, of course, came invitations to interview with Harvard’s admissions staff. With a 770 GMAT and a 4.0 GPA, an Indian male who works as a director at a unicorn startup shared his good news of an invite along with some thoughtful perspective on social media.

“If there’s one piece of advice I can give you: out-work everyone. I spent months studying for GMAT and I wasn’t going to stop until I got a 750+ (770 was attempt 2). I spent 10 hours/day for 2 months on applications for 5 schools, because the story had to be crisp and coherent. Now, even before I got the invite, I started preparing my room for the call. I got a DSLR camera, lights, a clean background.

“In my mind, the application process is as much about how much you want it as much as it is about what you’ve accomplished. The application process is a signal to the school: if he’s so invested now, imagine what he’ll do once he’s in! Just like an MBA is a signal to a prospective employer: if he’ll go $200k in debt to impress me, imagine what he’ll do once he’s hired!”


Meantime, for those invited to interview, the prep work now begins. Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, points out that once again there will be no in-person interview sessions due to the lingering impact of the pandemic. “The format is all video so sure, be certain  that anything on your wall that could potentially be offensive is out of camera range,” he says. “Clean you house and put some pants on. But the facts of HBS interview life have not changed. The purpose of the HBS interview is to flunk people, not find superstars.

“They want to see if you:

1. Can speak English well enough for a case method classroom
2. Are otherwise obnoxious, annoying, don’t want to sit next to, physically repulsive, smarty pants, or just not their type–a wide area of behaviors and presentation modes that they will never articulate fully, since many are illegal, unfair, prejudiced, random and deeply subjective.
“In some sense, they want you screw up the interview dramatically so they ding you with a free conscience.”


How Not To Blow Your HBS Interview 
The Inside Skinny on Harvard Business School’s Admission Interviews 


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