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A Stanford-Harvard-Wharton Admit Describes His Application Process

Ray Temnewo, who graduated from Emory University in Atlanta in 2018 before working with McKinsey and Spotify, was accepted to Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Emory photo

It was the second week of December and Ray Temnewo was beginning to worry. The Emory undergraduate and McKinsey alum had applied to the full-time MBA programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — three of the toughest business schools in the world to get into — but he hadn’t heard yet from any of them.

Stories of acceptances — and rejections — were beginning to trickle in to Reddit and other websites where B-school applicants share stories. Temnewo exchanged texts and calls with friends who had also applied to grad school, and with family members who were almost as anxious for news as he was.

Then his phone rang. It was a San Francisco number. Stanford on the line?


Ray Temnewo, right: Advises taking the GMAT early

“I’m super excited, shaking as I answer it,” he remembers. “And unfortunately, the person on the other end is telling me that they work for the Office of Admissions, and they’re actually missing something for my admissions package. They need me to do a follow-up interview. I’m a bit heartbroken at this. I’m also realizing that I have to focus for a moment and figure out what exactly they’re missing and pay attention. And they’re kind of fumbling their words, and I realize as I push further and further, a friend of mine prank-called me.”

It was a cruel prank — but it would have been crueler had Temnewo not gotten a call just 10 minutes later from Stanford telling him that he had, in fact, been accepted to the most selective MBA program in the world.

That friend was lucky, Temnewo says with a laugh.

“I tell them, to this day, I would still hold a grudge if it didn’t work out,” he tells Poets&Quants in a recent interview. “So I’m infuriated at this point, a bit disappointed. I hang up, and I’m telling my younger sisters about this, who I’m keeping in touch with, as we wait. Ten minutes after that though, I actually get a call from Palo Alto.

“I still think it’s a cruel joke!”

Any anger or frustration he may have felt subsided immediately, Temnewo says. The next day, he got the call from Harvard: another admit. And a week later, Wharton made it three-for-three.


Temnewo, 26, is the Atlanta-born-and-raised son of Eritrean parents. As an undergrad he attended Emory University, graduating in 2018 with a bachelor’s in business administration with concentrations in finance and strategic management. Later that year he accepted an analyst’s position with McKinsey, where he would work for about two years until joining Spotify in fall 2020 as a manager of strategy and analytics.

Temnewo had grown up “a stone’s throw” from Emory, and attending Goizueta Business School “was super pivotal in my life,” he says. “It’s a school that I’ve always known about, always wanted to go to.” But he didn’t know he wanted to study business until his freshman year on the Emory campus. “Their most renowned program is their business school,” he says. “So after doing a bit of a random walk, you could say, in my freshman year, I ended up applying to the business school.”

One of the biggest lessons he took away from the two-year Goizueta undergraduate program: the power of teamwork.

“As much flak it as undergrad business degrees get, I do think in certain schools, and Emory being one of them, you do learn a couple of key lessons,” Temnewo says. “Every class at Emory is essentially oriented around a team, collaborative project. There’s a case study component. But nonetheless, you quickly learn how different dynamics conflict when it comes to achieving the same goal.”

Another important lesson: The importance of mentorships. Temnewo gives a special shout-out to Libby Egnor, assistant dean in the Goizueta undergraduate BBA program, who was “super helpful and influential in helping me decide to make big decisions along the way,” particularly when it came to recruiting for a job during his senior year.

“I was working at JPMorgan my junior year summer, and I received an offer to return in New York, but I wanted to be close to family in Atlanta,” Temnewo says. “And I also wanted to jump into consulting. That being said, I know many people, and the tried-and-true path is not to forgo an offer you have in the hand. People are lucky to have a job. You should take it. I was bit worried I wouldn’t get another one, and Libby was someone who told me to bet on myself. That ultimately ended up leading me to McKinsey.”

See the next page to learn what Ray Temnewo’s application process was like — and where he has decided to attend.