Harvard Business School 2014 MBA Application Tips

Click here for more info about Harvard Business School.

Make Every Word Count.

Harvard Business School MBA Admissions Director Dee Leopold is once again shaking up the admission world. With the 2013-14 Harvard MBA application she is simultaneously demanding less and much more of applicants: Fewer essays. Fewer words. Fewer characters. More thought. More brevity. And as much substance as you can cram into the responses limited not to a few hundred words, but to a few hundred characters. If any of you think creating a compelling HBS app will be easy, think again. Required Portions The required portions represent what Harvard wants to know about you. The HBS admissions committee is quite clear and specific about what it wants to know. And how much it wants to know. Please realize that your resume and the boxes are now the heart of your application Before you begin completing the application, first review Harvard’s three criteria for admission. Write your descriptions and response so that you show these qualities:

•   Habit of leadership. •   Capacity for Intellectual Growth. •   Engaged community citizenship.

Because of the brevity required – most of the longer answers have a 500-character limit — you must be succinct:

•   Focus on business and leadership achievements, not technical feats. •   Don’t merely describe your responsibilities; highlight your accomplishments– where you have made a difference, where you have gone above and beyond the expected, the typical, and the ordinary. •   Quantify as much as possible. •   Write tight.

The Optional Essay: (No word limit)

“You’re applying to Harvard Business School.  We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.  What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

Now what else – really and truly — do you want HBS to know about you? The HBS admissions committee has told you what it wants to know. That’s in the required sections of the application. What do you want the HBS readers to know? The answer to that question is not something I can give or even suggest to you in a blog post aimed at the many. (For individual advice, please see Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting.) It should be different for each of you. Again, refer to the HBS criteria, as you contemplate possible topics, but the options are infinite. A few possibilities:

•   Context for events described in the required elements. •   Motivations for the decisions or commitments you have made. •   Challenges you have faced. •   Something you would like to do at HBS. •   More depth on an activity or commitment that is particularly important to you.

Please don’t limit yourself to these suggestions. I am offering them to stimulate your creativity, not to shut it down. Some of you may wonder if you should write this essay given that it is optional. If you don’t have anything to say, say nothing. Nonetheless, I can’t believe that accomplished, remarkable people have nothing valuable to add to the required portions of Harvard’s application. Persuasive, impressive essays simply give Harvard more reasons to accept you, and you should want them to have those reasons. On the other hand, if you slap together something hastily or rehash or copy-and-paste another school’s essay, then you run the risk of actually reducing the quality of your application. Bottom line: Make it worth reading. Write a thoughtful essay that reflects you and complements the required components. Since I’ve been in MBA admissions consulting (almost 20 years now), HBS has valued concision. And, in today’s tweet- and sound-bite-driven world, it is requiring even shorter responses, at least in the required portion of the application. Don’t take the absence of a word limit on the optional essay as a license for verbosity. Say what you have to say succinctly. Make every word count. If you must pull a number out of me, don’t go over 800 words. And if you can say what you need to say in less than 800 words, do so. A few caveats and warnings on the essay. It is not:

•   Stanford’s “what matters most to you and why?” •   The kitchen sink in which you throw everything. •   An autobiography.

Interview Reflections

On a personal note: While I have no way to know if anyone at Harvard read my post proposing an effective revealing MBA application — and Harvard’s 2013-14 app is certainly quite different from what I proposed — the idea of writing about the three most meaningful experiences in greater depth is something I suggested then. HBS 2014 MBA Application Deadlines

Application Due    Decisions Released
Round 1    Sept 16, 2013 Dec 11, 2013
Round 2 Jan 6, 2014 Mar 26, 2014
Round 3 Apr 7, 2014 May 14, 2014

Join us live for "The Secret to MBA Acceptance"!
Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for HBS, please provide the following information:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

    • CN

      Since you offered :)
      1) 6 years sales experience in building solutions and energy conservation. 2 companies equaling 3 promotions (left last company for current firm to cut years off career trajectory)
      2) GMAT 760; 99%
      3) Texas A&M University, 3.7, BBA Management, International Business Minor, 2007
      4) I’m not listing them all directly (too easy to identify me if I did), but generally Board Member, Marketing Chairman, and Fundraising Division leader for major humanitarian organization in major metropolitan area, alumni organization 5 year officer running large events and raising scholarship money, several professional organizations some with leadership roles and awards received, co-ed sports captain
      5) N/A
      6) Move to management consulting in energy sector

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        Thanks for your post. You have a competitive profile for HBS and are applying appropriately if you include it on your list of target schools. Where else are you applying?

        Linda

        • CN

          MIT, Wharton, Kellogg, and McCombs; evaluating Stanford and Chicago but haven’t decided if I’ll apply yet. Thoughts? Oh and reading over my post last night I forgot to include that I’m also a commission officer in the Navy Reserve, not sure if that really changes anything. Thanks.

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Your choices make a lot of sense. Good job!

            Given that HBS, Wharton, MIT, and Kellogg are as competitive as they are, having McCombs there is a good idea considering its strength in the energy industry. If you want to increase the likelihood of acceptance to a top 10 program, then include Stanford and Chicago. But split up your apps over R1 and R2.

            Hopefully you will get accepted to multiple schools and be able to choose.

            If you would like help with your applications, please let me know.

            Best,
            Linda

          • Ab

            Is there a possibility to get into one of the ivy league colleges without any work experience?

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Unlikely. Columbia has occasionally taken MBA students straight from undergrad, but it’s unusual. Stanford, which actually isn’t in the Ivy League, is an elite business school and does accept some students straight from college. But it is very difficult.

    • Pundit

      Is it true that HBS prefers younger candidates?

    • MG

      Hey Linda,

      I am applying to the last application deadline for the HBS 2+2 program. I am very curious to hear an unbiased opinion on my chances of getting in.

      1. Management Consultant- Accenture (1 internship)
      Manufacturing Engineer – Fortune 50 company (1 internship)
      Associate Consultant – Mid-sized software consulting firm (3 internships)
      Project Development Engineer – Small project management and data management company (1 internship).

      2. Unofficial GMAT Score (took exam last week) 690, 87% ~ (48Q, 76%; 36V, 80%; 7IR)

      3. School: Georgia Institute of Technology (Graduation Spring 2014)
      GPA: 3.8/4.0
      Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering with a concentration in Economic and Financial Systems.

      4. President – ODK (Leadership Honor Society) (50 members)
      President – College Social Fraternity (100 members)
      Treasurer – Greek Honor Society (50 members)
      VP of Logistics – Campus wide philanthropy project (Event planned for 1500 students)
      Several other small scale leadership roles.

      5. N/A

      6. I will most likely go back into management consulting for 2+ years in order for my MBA’s tuition to be fully reimbursed. Long term, I think I would like to try my hand in something entrepreneurial. I would be extremely interested in pursuing an operational or financial venture in the health care industry.

      Thanks :)

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        MG,

        Your work experience, leadership experiences, and grades certainly give you a shot. They’re exactly what HBS would like to see. However, I’m concerned that the late round and lowish GMAT (when combined with the notorious competition) could keep you out. I’m not optimistic, but I would love you to prove me wrong. :-) And if I am proven wrong, please post the good news!

        Best,
        Linda

  • Margo McCann

    Thanks for the tips! I am in the beginning stages of researching different MBA programs!

  • EHEC3

    Hi Linda, I know I am a few weeks late on this, but I also see that you only received one measly request for a profile evaluation, so hopefully you will see this!

    1) 2.5 years for an urban infill real estate developer, received one promotion to project manager. 2.5 years for Fortune 500 large oil and gas company in Corporate Development – 2 promotions so far while working on a small demand growth team (CNG, LNG, strategic partnerships)
    2) GMAT 740 (97%) – Q47,V44
    3) University of Oklahoma (2008) – double major in International Business and Entrepreneurship. Minor in Mandarin Chinese. Graduated with honors summa cum laude with 3.98. Named top senior in my major.
    4) VP of college fraternity (200+ members), VP of Student Ambassador type club (hosted Colin Powell when he visited), current involvement in program called “Better Block” that transforms impoverished neighborhoods into thriving urban hot spots over a weekend to convince city to cast vision for neighborhood reinvestment
    5) Several real estate accreditations
    6) Transition to a large, multi-national real estate development firm and one day lead this type of company. Have enjoyed my creative role in oil & gas but RE is my passion. Have researched my post-grad target companies and they regularly recruit from the blue chip MBA programs.

    THANK YOU!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      EHEC3,

      You’re most welcome, and you’re not late. I provide evaluations until the final deadline. No worries.

      You have a competitive profile for HBS and are applying appropriately if you include HBS on your list of schools. You should also consider CBS, Wharton, and Chicago.

      Best,
      Linda

      • EHEC3

        Thanks Linda! I was thinking of Wharton Columbia as well with their strong reputation for real estate.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Great minds… :-)

  • LT

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for this article – it was very helpful! I would be interested in getting your take on my profile as well. I am 26/female and plan on applying to R1 for HBS, Columbia, Wharton, and Stanford. Here are my stats:

    1) Eclectic background: management consulting, internet tech start up, and currently in investment management at $3 billion hospital endowment fund.
    2) GMAT: 770 (99%), Verbal: 99%, Math: 85%, AWA: 6 (91%)
    3) College info: McGill University, Bachlor of Commerce with Joint Honours in Economics / Finance, 2008. GPA 3.65, Major GPA 3.78. First Class Honours + various academic prizes and scholarships.
    4) Grad school info: McGill University, MA in Economics, 2010, GPA 3.87
    5) Extracurriculars: ASPCA (animal shelter) adoptions councilor, private cancer hospital pediatrics unit volunteer (weekly activities night), obstacle course race enthusiast.
    5) Designations: passed all 3 CFA exams back to back; awaiting charter application approval.

    6) Your post-MBA goal: venture capital investment.
    7) Extras: I have lived in various countries across 3 continents, and am fluent in English and Mandarin, and conversational in German and French.

    Thanks in advance!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Impressive!

      You are a competitive applicant at your target programs, including HBS. You may also want to consider LBS, Haas, and Booth.

      Best,
      Linda

      • LT

        Hi Linda,

        Thanks for your feedback. Do you think I am reaching by applying to the top 10 schools? Should I focus my attention on schools ranked 10-20 instead? I know my undergrad GPA is not great..will that be a big strike against my candidacy?

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          No. I think you are applying appropriately. No harm in applying to 1-2 schools outside the top 10 if it supports your goals, but really think you are aiming right.

          Don’t like at your GPA in a vacuum. First of all (per US News) the average GPA at HBS for admitted students last year was 3.67. All your other stats are way above average. Now you need to show meet the qualitative requirements that HBS has. I went through them thoroughly for Harvard in my HBS webinar, The Guide to Getting into Harvard Business School..

          We will host a similar webinar for Stanford in a couple of weeks.

          Obviously we are also happy to work with you individually on your application

          But I really think you are applying appropriately. :-)

          Best,
          Linda

  • Clark

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the wonderful tips. Would appreciate your inputs on applying to HBS and a few other top programs. Also would like to know about the feasibility of getting your help, can we do all of it online as I am not based in the States? Pls find my profile brief below:

    1. Worked in the manufacturing sector for 2 years (1 promotion) in sales/mktg, in a major IT firm for around 2.5 years (2 promotions) as a Sr. Account Manager. Currently, co-founded an IT e-commerce startup.

    2. GMAT – 710 (92 %)

    3. College – Bachelor of Management Sciences from St. Xaviers College, Mumbai University – 2006. 68% with high first class. Among the top 30% in class of 60, top 10% across the country. Have done my Post Graduate Diploma in Management but I have valid reasons for doing an MBA.

    High school – Distinction.

    4. Extra-curr – Contingent Leader representing college in various national-level inter-college festivals and leading the contingent with great success. Football captain in school, played guitar for college band and Cultural Secretary in college. organized NGO-corp conclave and BRICS meet of colleges. Elected Mktg Club head in college. Helped raise funds in high school for a major NGO for the elderly. Co-founded an NGO myself during college, still active. Worked with the social care wing of my former co to organize several funds for those affected during major calamities, to teach and play guitar for an orphans school regularly.

    5. Several IT certifications. eg- in Vmware, Cisco etc. And like I mentioned earlier, my management diploma.

    6. Post-MBA goal – Strategic consulting. To be able to scale up my firm and even explore international expansion.

    7. Traveled for work and lived across many cities within my country which most locals themselves haven’t. So adapt quickly to change and well-versed in at least 5 languages.

    Many thanks!

    Clark.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Clark,

      Thanks for the post, you have a chance at HBS, but it’s a stretch. I suggest you also consider UCLA, USC, Cornell,and Duke.

      We would be happy to <a href="http://www.accepted.com/services/mbaservices.aspx"help you with your MBA application. Please click on the link for details on our services and our prices.

      And yes, we work with people all around the world, including India, via email, Skype, and phone. No problem. We’d love to work with you too.

      Best,
      Linda

      • Clark

        Many thanks for your inputs Linda! Will definitely get back soon. Also wanted to say that I found your webinar on Stanford very informative and useful. A big ‘thank you’ for that too!

        Just one correction, the statistic is top 1% across the country not 10%.

        Also wanted to add a few more details. I do have a few strong leadership experiences. Transforming a complete competition stronghold account which never gave business to a flourishing client, consulting us for everything. Used unique, innovative techniques and displaced the competition completely, the first time ever this was done in the region, nobody expected us to make any inroads, let alone such grand results. Besides, other instances of coordinating/leading a record number of verticals in the company for a particular deal, again a first for the region and among the few in the country/world for my company. Have also had international exposure dealing with several global clients. Not to mention nominated for ‘best young recruit’, the only one to be nominated from my batch across the country (out of several thousands). A few others.

        As of now, 5 years of total work ex. I am clear about doing an MBA from a top program. Along with the ones mentioned, I am also considering applying to Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, CBS, INSEAD, LBS, some in Rd1, others in Rd2. Again many thanks for your inputs. Appreciate it.

        Best Regards,
        Clark.

        • Clark

          About the HBS recommendations, I have one from my supervisor and need to choose b/w a senior colleague and a client who is a prof in one of the premier educational institutions of the country. The client is the first eg I mentioned above.

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Go with the professional recommendation as long as he knows you well and is willing to write a strong, postiiive letter on your behalf.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Clark,

          Thanks for the feedback on the Stanford MBA admissions webinar.”. Glad you found it helpful.

          While I admire your determination, I still think you are aiming a little high. Apply to maybe 3 of the schools on your list and then look into 3 other schools that are a little easier to get into and still feed the management consulting firms. Consider Duke, Cornell, Ross, and Darden . Spread the applications over Round 1 and 2.

          Best,
          Linda

          • Clark

            Thank you Linda!

  • Ashfaq

    Hi Linda,
    I would like to just get your quick input on whether I should seriously consider applying for a few business schools this year, R2 probably.

    I am an Indian Computer Science Engineer who has worked in India as well as the Middle east.

    1) 2.5 years of work for 1 medium sized & 1 national importer and distributor in the healthcare sector of the country, during which I was promoted & switched fields from I.T to operations.

    2) Had my own software start-up in India for 9 months which folded in 2011.

    3)GMAT 700,( Q 47, V38), GPA 67 from 100, from a top 20 University in India.

    4) Extra-curricular: Played for Inter-college cricket team making 53 appearances, Elected Head boy in High School, won several academic awards, speak 4 languages.

    5) Community: Youth secretary of KTT a popular Non-profit community service org, member of environmental service org back home, volunteer at local parks preservation organization.

    6) Post MBA Goal: Undecided.

    What schools should I consider applying to and if I should apply this year or not.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Ashfaq

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Ashfaq,
      If you do not have a post-MBA goal, I suggest you wait to clarify the purpose of your MBA. You need that in order to choose schools.
      If you clarify your post-MBA goal by early November, you would have the time to apply R2. (I’m assuming you either don’t need to take the TOEFL or already have it.)
      Best,
      Linda

      • Ashfaq

        Thanks for your response Linda.

        You are right, I don’t need to take the TOEFL.

        Regarding applying to schools after deciding my MBA goal do you think my current profile would have a shot at getting into some good schools or do I have improvements to make?

        Thanks again.

        Ashfaq.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          What are some of the “good schools” you are considering? I do not believe you have a competitive profile for Harvard. Acceptance would be unlikely, based on what you wrote above..
          Best,
          Linda

          • mahafaq

            I am aware HBS is a reach school for me, I was thinking columbia, booth, London, MIT and NYU.

            Regards,

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Unless you have a truly unusual level of achievement on the job (or elsewhere) I would say these programs are also reach schools for you.

          • mahafaq

            Thanks for your honest opinion.

            One final question: Would it help my case if I increase my GMAT score??

            Regards.

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Yes, but realize that for the schools you listed, you would also need leadership experience and achievements.
            Best,
            Linda

          • mahafaq

            Thanks!

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            You’re welcome!

  • Scott

    Dear Abraham,

    Thank you for the wonderful tips. Good article!

    Best

    Scott.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      You’re most welcome! Thanks.

  • MiriBim

    Hi Linda,

    I would very much like your input on my profile. I’m applying to UCLA, Booth and HBS.
    I took the GMAT 2 months month ago and was disappointed with my final score. I landed a 670 (81%) though my practice tests were in the 730s, with the following split: 45in Quant (66%) and 37 in Verbal (81%). I’m stressed b/c I know the quant is low.

    Here is my overall background:

    EDUCATION
    - Tel Aviv University graduate – Economics and Film (GPA 88 – I guess its around 3.6).

    - Volunteered at the Tel Aviv’s main welfare bureau where I assisted those in need with optimising their expenditure, paying off debts, writing letters to creditors, giving lectures where explaining about pensions, banks, social rights etc.
    -directed and produced a student film that was purchased by a TV network and broadcasted several times.

    WORK EXPERIENCE
    - Currently: a Business Development and Project Manager at an innovational Technological company changing k-12 Education in Israel.
    - Previously: *An Economist at Israel’s Ministry of Finance (1 year)
    * a financial editor at the largest Buisness newspaper in the country (3.5 years – worked nights as a student)
    - Served in the Israeli army as a group leader -Have led groups of 50 workers from all over the world. Finished service with distinction.

    PERSONAL BACKGROUND
    - Born in Moscow, Russia and grew up in Israel
    - Speak Russian, English, French (Limited proficiency) and Hebrew

    Post MBA aspirations:

    Would like to work at the Business Department/ internal strategy at a top tier company.

    Thanks in advance,
    Maria

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Maria,

      I share your concerns about your quant score. I also am concerned about the vagueness of your post-MBA goal.
      I hope you were more specific if asked either in your application or in an interview about your goals.

      I am not optimistic at all about your chances at HBS and Booth. UCLA is also a stretch, but given your strong experience, military background, and multi-cultural background, it may be more willing to bend.

      Best,
      Linda

  • michelew

    Hi Linda – I’m not sure if you’re still responding on this thread, but I’m applying to HBS and GSB, and I’m particularly curious if you think it’s worth it for me to retake the GMAT before doing so:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience. – 5.5 yrs general management/leadership program at a big investment management company with a presence at those B schools
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred. 710 – 92 pct (better V than M)
    3) College info: Dartmouth ’08, 3.9 GPA, summa cum laude
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience. – newspaper EIC, alumni board and cmte chair for Dartmouth community service organization, part-time contributor for Europe-based travel guides
    5) Important certifications: N/A
    6) Your post-MBA goal: pivot out of financial services into content-based or consumer-oriented web startups (I’m not sure, I want to explore)

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I’m definitely still here. :-)

      Could you tell me the percentile breakdown of your GMAT score?

      Also do you have reason to believe that you can improve it and still apply for the January deadlines or are you considering postponing your application in order to retake?

      Thanks,
      Linda

      • michelew

        Thanks Linda. My breakdown was 44 Q (61%) and 42 V (96%).
        I’m definitely in it for Round 2 – can’t see a good enough reason to push off to a longer-shot R3.

        I’m not sure whether I can improve it over the next few weeks. On my official practice tests I scored 740 and 770, always 99 pct verbal but crummier math. I can’t point to one specific thing I screwed up on the test day, though – that’s why I’m a little skeptical that I’d do a lot better (or, I should say, could reliably do better).

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          That quant score is an issue.

          I’m going to assume that you did well in a few quant classes given your job and your GPA. And obviously your work requires quant skills.

          You’re tough to predict and assess. Everything is competitive and strong for your target programs except that GMAT quant score.

          Will the schools be convinced of your quant ability given your grades and work experience? It’s possible. Is it likely? I’m not sure, and the only way to find out is to apply.

          I agree that given that it’s already early December and you want to apply R2, it makes more sense not to retake — just forge ahead, focus on polishing your applications and submitting the best you can.

          If you are accepted, great. If not, you then retake the GMAT and reapply next year., probably also applying to more programs.

  • Joseph

    Hi Linda -

    Wondering if I could get your take on my strength as a candidate for following schools: HBS, Stanford, INSEAD, LBS.

    High School: Completed IB program in Montreal Quebec. Finished 1st in program.

    I have a Mechanical Engineering degree from McGill University, 3.69 CGPA with a minor in management. During my time at McGill I completed an internship at SNC-Lavalin working on an oilsands project.

    Following graduation, worked 2 years at Canadian Investment (large from a canadian standpoint) focused on metals & mining (this group is ranked #1 in that field worldwide). During my time at this firm I helped finance a fledgling gold mining company, and accepted an offer to join the company.

    I have been working at this gold mining company for 3 years now in a corporate development/srategy/investor relations capacity, reporting directly to the CEO. The company has grown significantly since Ive joined them, and is now considered a leader in its field with a market cap of about $2B. A significant amount of that growth has resulted from M&A transactions that I have managed for the company. I have also branched out and developed new roles for myself within the company supporting various groups from a financial modelling point of view, including the engineering and accounting groups.

    I am also the chairman of my family’s indoor rock climbing business, which owns and operates the largest indoor climbing facility in Canada.

    GMAT: 710 – Q40 (50th), V47 (99th) – Planning to retake but would love your thoughts on this.

    Extra curricular:
    – Founded networking for young professionals in mining aimed at addressing perception issues among younger generation in respect to resource development.
    – Regular training for short distance triathlons and half-marathons
    – Played hockey at competitive level up until university

    Post-MBA goal:
    – Want to be a leader in the field of mining or energy and help the industry make significant advances towards regaining public confidence and its social license to operate.

    Me: 28yo caucasian male.

    Wondering what your thoughts are on my competitiveness as a candidate, and if I am targeting the wrong schools.

    Thank you!

    • Joseph

      Sorry, that should read “Canadian investment bank”. I worked there as an investment banking analyst.

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        Joseph,

        I’m really sorry my reply is so delayed. I thought I had replied to your comment, but I don’t see my reply.

        In any case, except for you GMAT, you are a competitive candidate. That quant score, however, is a big obstacle. I’m glad you are retaking and assume you are also preparing hard to improve that score. You could hope that the schools will look at your work experience and undergrad record and realize that the test score is anomalous, but you are much better off not relying on their reaching that conclusion and admitting you despite the quant score.

        Good luck with the GMAT! I hope this comment really gets posted this time.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    I’m reposting this comment because it got pushed down by other comments.

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for HBS, please provide the following information:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    I’m reposting this comment because it got pushed down by other comments.

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for HBS, please provide the following information:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

  • Syed

    Hi Linda,
    Hope you’re still here. I am a Pakistani male and am applying to HBS, Sloan and Tuck only and my credentials are:

    1. 1st Class Honours from The University of Nottingham in Electronics Engineering.

    2. Worked at Huawei Technologies for 2.5 Years as a Key Account Manager in Pakistan.

    3. Going to Oman to work as a Sales Account Manager at Kalsoft until August (If i get admission)

    4. College Activities: i) Project Manager at SIFE. ii) Assistant PR and promotions manager at Rotract Club. iii) won 7 medals in various university sports tournaments.

    5. GMAT of 660 Q:47 V: 34

    6. Member of MENSA the high IQ society.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Syed,

      Still here. :-) Thanks for your post.

      I am not optimistic about your chances with your current GMAT score. Your grades are excellent. The international elements of your profile are strong, but your work experience is on the low side. Unless you have achieved at an exceptional level at work, I think these 3 schools will reject and hope you retake the GMAT and apply again.

      There is no harm in applying now, but (except MIT) I would encourage you to prepare again for the GMAT and if possible take it again before R3 and apply R3. I am not usually a R3 advocate, but in your case and provided you don’t anticipate visa issues, it may be a better option.

      You can also apply now R2, see how you do and if not accepted simply, prepare for and retake the GMAT and then reapply R1 next year. That is also a viable option.

      Best,
      Linda

      • syed

        Thank you so much for the reply Linda. would it help if i explain my GMAT score in my application? ive been getting A grades in Math since high school and scored a 780 in SAT math section and a 780 in SAT2 Math as well.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          You’re most welcome. I just wish I could be more encouraging.

          It is very hard to “explain” away a mediocre GMAT score because you can always retake it. Why do you think you did not do as well on the GMAT as you did on the SAT or as your grades would predict? How would you explain it? As an anomaly and just ask them to look at your grades and work? It might help and probably can’t hurt.

          Linda

  • todd

    Hi Linda. Can I ask you a quick question? I’m applying to several top schools and have a GMAT score of 710. I took the test twice and got the same score both times but the breakdown is different. Which would you recommend that I submit? I’m leaning towards #2 due to the higher math mix and I also hear that the AWA has little bearing on decisions. Thanks!

    Test 1:
    Math: 54%
    Verbal: 98%
    AWA: 6
    IR: 8

    Test 2:
    Math: 66%
    Verbal: 96%
    AWA: 5
    IR: 8

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I agree with you and would go with #2. I would definitely rather have a low AWA than low quant score. And even the 66% is not great for these programs.

      Linda

  • Teresa

    Hi Linda – This is a very late question, but I heard from a friend at HBS that I should consider listing my GMAT Q/V split on my resume. I got a 730 with a 49 on math (88% below) and 40 on verbal (89% below). Since I’ve already added this under my test scores section within the application, do you think there is any value to adding this on my resume as well? If you do, what is the suggested format…list GMAT score under GPA and then Q: 49, V: 40?

    Thanks so much! I’m applying tonight so totally understand if you don’t see this in time!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I would not list the GMAT on your resume. The resume is to show leadership, achievement, and impact. They know where to find your GMAT. They don’t need it here.

      • Teresa

        Thank you so much, Linda! I appreciate you letting me know so late in the game!

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          You’re welcome. Good luck!

  • T Hogge

    Hi Linda, would appreciate your thoughts. applying to HBS, Tuck, and Stanford.

    1) 4 years at an enterprise SaaS firm named Clearwater Analytics (about 300 employees) – two promotions – started and now lead our sales team of 14 individuals. Oversaw our first international sales office in the UK. Oversaw 5 best revenue quarters in company history
    2) 660 GMAT. 90% verbal, 54% quant
    3) Southern Utah University. 3.75 GPA. Finance Degree. graduated 2010.
    4) Was voted captain of SUU’s NCAA D1 baseball team two years in a row. Am the president of the local young men’s for my church group leading 13 youth ages 12-18 in leadership development and service projects. Fastest manager promotion in company history. 2 year service mission for the LDS church to Ohio. Founded and led SUU’s first academic integrity club – over 500 student members.
    5) CFA level III candidate
    6) Near term: enter the technology consulting division of Bain, Mckinsey or BCG, specifically in the software sales/marketing consulting function.

    Long term: lead an enterprise software firm, not dissimilar from Clearwater Analytics.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I’m not optimistic about your chances at these three programs mainly because of your quant score on the GMAT combined with a non-elite undergrad school (albeit with a great GPA.). Your work experience is solid, and your leadership is good. Realize also that at least some of the companies you aim to work for will prefer to see a 700 total GMAT score before they interview you.

      If you retake the GMAT and get your quant score up, my assessment would change dramatically.

      Have you already applied or do you plan to apply R3?

      Linda

      • T Hogge

        Thanks Linda. I just finished applying to round 2.

        I agree with your assessment, although I may be more optimistic. Could be rose-colored glasses, but I believe my leadership experience could outweigh the concern. I also have positioned my low quant GMAT as a result of focusing on the CFA tests.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          OK. Well I hope you prove my pessimism to be unfounded. :-)

          In the meantime, you might want to start prepping for the GMAT again. If you are waitlisted and are primed to raise that score, it could really help you to have already started studying. If you are rejected, you will be well on your way to raising the score and positioning yourself for an excellent R1 app. And you may even want to consider retaking the GMAT for future employers’ sake. (And no I don’t own stock in a GMAT prep company. )

  • james

    Hi,

    Hope you are doing great. Kindly check my profile below and let me know in what aspects i need to improve in order get the admission in HBS (or top 5 business schools). Do i have any chance?

    1) I have been working as a software engineer since 6yrs in level 3 and level 5 organisations.(Does working for many big MNC’s help me in improve my chances of admission)

    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    GMAT score:-710

    3) College info: The name of the college:-I didn’t get chance to study in big universty, GPA is 2.3, your major, year of graduation,2007 and reason of for low GPA is i didnt work hard.

    4) Organised events with in the community where i live.

    5) CFA level -2 completed.

    6) Investment Banker.

    Thanks,
    James.

  • James

    Hi Linda,

    Hope you are doing great. Kindly go through my profile and please suggest me in which areas i need to improve in order to get into HBS(or top 5 business schools).Do i have any chances?My age is 27yrs.

    1)6 years of work experience as a software engineer.
    2) 710.
    3) College info: Studied in Normal college and my aggregate is 59%,graduated in Information technology in the year of 2007.
    4) Organised events in the community where i live.
    5) CFA level 2 completed
    6) Investment Banker.

    Thanks,
    James.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      James,

      To improve your chances at getting into HBS and other top MBA programs, I have a few suggestions:

      1) Assume leadership roles on and off the job. You may have them and seem to indicate so in #4 above. It’s not clear if you have also served in a leadership role at work. One of Harvard’s 3 criteria for admission is a habit of leadership. . All top business schools want to see leadership.

      2) I’m not sure what you are doing as a software engineer. If it has nothing to do with finance or the financial services industry, moving into a role or working for a company related to finance or financial services may help.
      3) Your GPA seems low to me for the elite U.S. programs. Take a few graded, business-related classes to improve your chances, although your CFA exams may be serving the same purpose and also showing your interest in finance.
      4) You don’t provide a break-down of your GMAT. If either the verbal or the quant is below 70%, consider a retake,

      Best,
      Linda

      • James

        Hi Linda,

        Thanks for the valuable suggestions. Kindly go through the below points and give me your valuable suggestions.

        1)I am working as a software engineer in India and so we interact with clients to discuss about the technical related matters and we often arrange meetings with them(one to one as well as team meeting, but i am not the team leader).

        2)I don’t have any financial background. I am working as a Oracle Application Database Administrator. I don’t have any experience in finance but i wanted to become investment banker that’s why i opted to study for CFA so that it shows both my interest towards the financial industry as well as it will cover up my low GPA in graduation.

        3)Yes my GPA is little low for elite U.S programs, Kindly let me know what kind of Business-related classes can improve my chances of admissions.

        4)I will retake GMAT again.

        Thanks,
        James.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          James,

          While your CFA certainly does show the seriousness or your interest in finance and also somewhat mitigates the low GPA, it still would help your MBA admissions application (and post MBA employment opportunities) in finance if you could move out of a purely technical role. I don’t know if that’s feasible, but it would be advantageous. If it’s not possible, at least start to look at your work and your impact at work in a broader context. What have your projects accomplished for Oracle or its clients? How has your work affected the top or bottom line?

          Possible classes: accounting, economics, statistics for business, calculus (if you didn’t have it or didn’t do well in it.)

          I really can’t overstate the importance of leadership experience at the elite programs.

          Linda

          • James

            Hi,

            Thanks again for your valuable suggestions. I am from Informational technology background,but i want to become a investment banker(that’s why i started studying for CFA ).So i don’t have any subjects related to accounting, economics, statistics for business, calculus in my graduation. So if i do any such course will that help my chances of getting admission in any of the top 5 Business schools? (Like can you suggest me any such course which i can start studying immediately i.e any diploma course or i don’t really have any idea about it)My work –we deal directly with customers and i got appreciation emails from customers(but i cant be sure how its influencing the top or bottom line as i am not the manager , i am a software engineer). Kindly let me know by doing above all will improve my chances of getting admission in HBS or top 5 schools.

            Thanks,
            James.

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            You don’t need a degree or certificate. I’m talking about a few A’s in relevant courses from credit-granting recognized universities. Since you are in India and I’m not sure Indian schools extension courses (which is what they are called here), I suggest you check out UCLA Extension. It offers classes online for credit and graded.

            Best,
            Linda

          • James

            Hi,

            Thanks for the reply. Yes in India we don’t have these kind of extension courses. I have checked UCLA Extension web site and there are few online courses related to Business and finance. So you want me to take those classes and clear the exam? In my under graduate, my subjects are related to computers sciences. Now you want me to take classes related to Business and Finance through UCLA , so that it will help me in my admission process? Kindly suggest me i will surely follow your guidelines as i need admission in top 5 schools at any cost.

            Thanks,
            James.

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            James,

            A couple of clarifications:

            1. I don’t “want” anything from you. You asked me how you can strengthen your qualifications in anticipation of an application to Harvard and other top MBA programs. Given what you told me, I suggested several steps you could take including taking classes that may lessen possible concerns about your undergraduate record.

            2. Don’t get stuck on the “top 5.” You may not get accepted at all. Look at programs that support your goals and where you have a good chance of acceptance. Then apply to to 1-2 schools that are “reach,” 3-4 schools where you are competitive, and 1-2 safety schools.For more on this topic, please see Best Practices for MBA Admissions

            Actually, what I really recommend is that you get my book, MBA Admission for Smarties, where my co-author and I provide step-by-step guidance for MBA applicants. It is available in India at both Amazon India and Flipkart. I think reading that book will be more helpful to you than a series of posts here.

            Linda

            ,

  • James

    Hi Linda,

    Hope you are doing great. Kindly go through my profile and let me know in which aspects i need to improve to get into HBS(or top 5 Business schools). I need your valuable suggestions in order to get into Business School. My age is 27.

    1) I am working as a software engineer since 6 years in MNC’S(Do working for any specific company will improve my chances of getting into HBS).
    2)710
    3) I graduated in 2007 with an aggregate of 59% from a normal college.
    4) I organised many events within my community in which i live.
    5) CFA 2nd level completed.
    6) Investment Banker.

    Thanks,
    James.

  • david

    Hi Linda,

    First of all I wish you a happy new year ! Thank you in advance for your help.
    I am a Belgium male applying to HBS, Wharton and INSEAD. Here are my credentials:

    1. graduated in 2009 from a Tier 1 French business school after intensive 2-y preparation for the exams to enter the Business school

    2. have been working in French bank industry since 2009, now as Associate within the Corporate and Investment Banking department of a French bank in Paris. I work in the energy markets, offering credit solutions to clients based in the Europe and emerging markets.

    3. After the MBA, I would like to join international corporations such as the World Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) in order to manage investment solutions in emerging countries and actively participate in the development of the private sector in some developping areas. I have a strong interest in global commerce and trade finance. The MBA will open the doors to the international institutions. I would like to move to the US and/or to Asia.

    4.Extra-curricular: I enjoy sports and football. Travelling is a passion (Asia, Africa, Europe and the US).

    5. GMAT 740 (97%) – Q47,V44
    Thank you thank you for your help !

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      David,

      Thanks for your post and question. A couple of questions:

      1. How were your grades as an undergraduate?
      2. Do you have any leadership roles either on the job or off?

      Thanks,
      Linda

      • david

        Dear Linda
        thank you for your prompt answer.
        I graduated with excellent grades from ESCP EUROPE, a first ranked European business school. I obtained a master in science in management with specialisation in finance.
        During my studies, I was active member in the most important student association, as I was managing a group of 25 student members in charge of the organisation of events (social events, parties, cocktails, sport events) for 600+ students.
        In my current job I am also in charge of the integration of interns and newcomers within the team.
        Thank you very much for sharing your views on my application.
        Kind regards
        David

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          David,

          You’re welcome!

          You have a competitive profile for HBS and other elite business schools. You might have little trouble explaining why you need an MBA, but I think you’ll be able to handle that. If you would like help with your application, please let me know.

          Best,
          Linda

          • david

            Dear Linda,
            Thank you for your answer.
            I believe that an MBA from HBS/Wharton would be a real plus for my career, since it shall help me to move outside Europe and later obtain senior management position within top US energy corporations or international institutions, don’t you think ?
            Thank you again and I may contact you later on to help me finalize my application. Have a nice week end
            Best,
            David

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            I completely agree with your assessment of what an MBA from HBS/Wharton could do for you (and tons of others.) At the same time, I encourage you to consider other programs that would also further your aims including Columbia, Chicago, MIT Sloan, and Kellogg in no particular order.

            Thanks for keeping us in mind when it comes time to apply.

  • john

    1) 3 years at an investment consulting firm
    2) 730-96% Q51-97% V37-82%
    3) UVA Business school CumGPA: 3.52 MajorGPA:3.88
    4) sports team within firm; investment & consulting organization; volunteer at a local school
    5) Passed 3 levels of CFA
    6) work in investment management (more specifically a hedge fund)

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      John,

      Thanks for posting. I’m assuming that you are aiming for R1 of next year.

      You have a competitive profile for HBS provided you can also show leadership, which doesn’t really show up above. It makes sense for you to apply to HBS, but don’t apply only to HBS. Also include other programs that support your goals including Wharton, Chicago, Columbia, and Stanford (if you’d consider West Coast).

      Best,
      Linda

  • Marco A Campos

    Hola Linda,

    I would also appreciate an assessment on my profile below for attending Harvard MBA

    Age: 29
    Nationality: Mexican American (first citizen in the family)
    First to graduate from college and high school in the family
    1st Essay to be around my vast acquisition experience both corporate and Government
    2nd Essay to be on growing up with a single mom and dealing with tragedies
    Letter of Recommendations: An SVP from a $4 Billion company endorsed by the CEO and from a High level Government official at the General rank equivalent

    - Have not taken GMAT (Thinking about a prep course) took a practice test and it was 510 30Q 31V
    - 3.1 GPA from a State University

    - 12 years of military experience (6 Enlisted in the Army and 6 as an Air Force Officer)
    - I have commanded 3 units in the acquisition field each around 25 personnel (3 years)
    - I have awarded/executed/negotiated over 200 contracts worth over $3 Billion
    - I was recently stratified and awarded #1 of 652 Company Grade Officers, 2013 (CGOs) at Space & Missile Systems Center (include other officers in careers such as Pilots, Space professionals, Finance, lawyers, doctors etc… and schools from Ivy league to Air Force Academy)
    - My team was stratified as #1 of 15, 2012 and won GPS team excellence award (I was team leader)
    - #1 of 15 contracting officers, 2012
    - I was competitively selected for AF Education with Industry (1 of 3 from a pool of over 800) It is a highly competitive program to work 1 year at industry and return to the Air Force to apply corporate knowledge within the military.
    - I was competitively selected for Language Enable Airman Program (LEAP) 5% selection rate to learn Brazilian Portuguese and deploy to Brazil for a month every year to hone language skills and local business practices by attending symposiums and networking.
    - I have 4 years of international experience: Brazil, Japan, Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia
    - I have Merger & Acquisition exposure to the negotiation and integration of a $900M company as part of my current industry tour
    - I have exposure to investor relations, how Top management communicates to wall street
    - I’ve also been exposed to strategic growth campaigns and branding campaigns
    - I Led a $420M source selection which is a process to build a requirement and award a contract in addition to being a team member to 6 other source selections
    – I know how to capture business as part of my current industry experience linked with Government source selection experience
    - I was promoted to SGT at age 19 in the US Army (ultra rare)
    and so much more like saving a total of $220 Million in projects throughout my career etc…

    - The goal is to leverage my breath of exposure in acquisitions and to fuse it with an Ivy league MBA to begin my passion in finance and salesmanship by working as an Investment banker specializing in Merger & Acquisitions

    So sorry for the extensive profile but I am fact finding if I am competitive and if studying for the GMAT can make the difference for me as I am confident to do better by knowing more about the test.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Your military experience and leadership will be highly valued by HBS. I suspect there is also quite a personal story there. However, you GPA from a state school is below average for HBS and you need to get that GMAT up significantly if you are to have a serious chance of acceptance to HBS and other top MBA programs.Invest the time and money in a serious GMAT prep course. And it will probably take both time and money. (I have no ownership interest in GMAT prep. ) Yes. Studying for the GMAT can make a serious difference.

      Best,
      Linda

      • Marco A Campos

        Linda,

        Thank you so much for your time to provide me an honest profile assessment. I studied over the weekend and took another practice test last night and scored a 600…making me optimistic about it However, I’ve probably maxed the limit of my logic and will require content training from here on.

        Just one last question in regard to the personal essay. I’ve been working 20+ hours since age 11 to support the family so I was not able to attend school regularly but I always went on test day to pass. Similarly, I’ve been active duty since age 17 and completed my degree while working full time in the military and another part time in the weekend. I have one other factor exponentially more challenging than the previous two, but bottom line. If I write about the factors above, would it be perceived as excuses?

        What I really want them to know is how much I’ve evolved from self teaching myself academically to fill gaps and the extend of my leadership prowess backed by winning the highest level awards in the Air Force to include being selected continuously to the most highly competitive programs.

        Once again Linda, thank you for your time.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          That’s a serious improvement with no prep. Congrats.

          Considering your question, my answer is unequivocal: absolutely not. (And I can equivocate. :-) )The reasons you provide above are not “just an excuse.” They could really affect academic performance without reflecting academic ability. They also positively reflect strong character, commitment, leadership, and a sense of responsibility.

          Now go pound that GMAT. And please come back when you’re ready to apply.

          You may also want to look into the Consortium as well as ML4T.org.

          Best,
          Linda

  • Guest

    Hi Linda, I’d like to hear your comments on my chances on a top MBA admission.

    I have a medical background with MD from a Northern European university, which isn’t internationally recognized. My primary targets are HBS, Stanford & Columbia. I consider some on the west coast (probably Berkeley) and also some on the east coast if I manage to find one with strengths in healthcare. Any suggestions on these?

    1) 2 years as a GP added by short periods as a resident in surgery and internal medicine. On the business side an internship at a management consulting boutique specialized in healthcare and 1-2 years as a medical advisor at big pharma. I might seek for additional experience with MBB or Accenture healthcare practices before applying.

    2) GMAT 740 (97%)

    3) The medical school mentioned above uses pass/fail, GPA not applicable. I’m now enrolled on a top Nordic business school aiming at bachelor in business admin / economics. GPA there 4.6 / 5 which would give me graduation with honors. The school is appreciated nationally and in the Nordic region and generally in Europe, ranks maybe 100-200 on the Shanghai list. The school also holds a partnership with Stanford with some exchange study possibilities provided there.

    4) Volunteering on a clinic that provides free healthcare for immigrants and others not qualified for public healthcare services in my country. Involved in the entrepreneurship society of my business school which has created a remarkable startup hub / ecosystem in the Nordic region. I have worked with life sciences startups and act as a sort of a healthcare specialist in the team.

    5) -

    6) 3 main options, all of these bridging medical background with business skills. One is climbing up the big pharma ladder. The second could be a industry specialist in consulting. Third would deal with investments / banking / venture capital focused on healthcare / life sciences.

    I’m 30+, which could be a problem. However, the medical background could explain it quite well. I’m still pondering whether to major economics or finance at my current business school, any ideas? I personally think that economics could fit me better and at least HBS could appreciate it more. Finance undergrad might make MBA slightly not useful for me. Additionally, I have a possibility to take another bachelor degree in engineering (major in applied maths and industrial engineering / management) in the same university where I’m doing business studies at the moment. Would it be a pro or a con in your opinion? Personally, I think that might be a bit too much for one person…..

    Thank you and sorry for the long posting!

    • DrFrank

      For some reason the name was displayed only a guest, I’ll reply my own post to leave a better mark here.

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        Dr. Frank,

        In terms of programs with strength in healthcare, in addition to the programs you are considering, look into Wharton and its Healthcare Management Program. (Here’s an interview with the director of this Healthcare Management at Wharton and at Large” ) Also look into Yale, Duke, Tuck,and NYU.

        Choose the major you enjoy more. Either one is acceptable for business school. Finance may make it easier to get a job if you want to work for a year or two between your bachelors and bschool. Frankly, I’m not clear why you need to complete this degree when you are already a doctor, but I’m sure you have a good reason for it.

        Unless you have a specific need for that second bachelors — and it doesn’t sound like it– I recommend against going for it. It would make you seem like a degree collector as opposed to someone who simply changed career direction. It would also make you older.

        Best,
        Linda

        • DrFrank

          Thank you Linda for your reply. I certainly forgot to mention Yale, that’s a very, very good option.

          The reason I’m completing my current bachelor is that I almost managed to finish it before even getting an idea to seek for a top MBA. Additionally, I will get a very good GPA, which could be a plus since there’s no GPA from my medical school. Also, we have no premeds (MD takes 6 yrs) here at Scandinavia, which means my MD degree contains almost zero mathematical courses. I think I would’ve been a bit lost at a top business school without revamping my quantitative / statistical etc skills. Now I definitely master them.

          I’m basically indifferent about economics / finance, both are very interesting. I know I might look a bit degree collector, but that’s definitely not my reason to apply. However, I was just pondering that economics might leave me a better reason to apply for an MBA instead of majoring finance now.

          I agree on skipping the engineering, although I know a couple of HBS graduates with 2 or even 3 undergraduate degrees. Quite many of those have a combination of economics + engineering or a bit similar. I guess it could be seen as also a sign of talent in addition to degree collecting.

          Given these elaborations, what do you think, would I turn out a decent applicant? I’ve understood that healthcare is appreciated at least at HBS. Or should I still seek for additional experience in top tier consulting, for example?

          Much appreciated!

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Dr. Frank,

            Given that you are indifferent between finance and economics, I agree that economics makes more sense. You can get more finance in your MBA.

            Yes, with good grades in your current course, a competitive GMAT, and an articulate presentation of your qualifications and fit via your application, you would be a competitive applicants. Would of top tier consulting possibly make you even more compelling? Probably. There is nothing to stop you from applying and then getting a job if you don’t get in and then reapplying while working.

            Best,
            Linda

  • HSWaspirant

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for answering our queries.

    I would like your take on my profile for Top 10 schools in US and Top 5 schools in Europe.

    Here is my profile:

    Program Interested: MBA FT
    Work experience:
    Total 5 years in
    Technology consulting (SAP). First 3 years in Indian IT consultancy firm
    and next 2 years in Big 4 consulting firm (think PwC, KPMG)
    2 promotions in these 5 years.
    Have
    experience in leading a team of 10 people in my project. All my work is
    from home country (India) but worked with US, Europe people on daily basis. Holds a valid H1B visa.

    GMAT: Preparing for GMAT – will score ~700
    GPA:
    Bachelors 77% (First class with Distinction) in Computer Science from Anna University (2008) (Top 5
    student in my class) – Diploma 90% (first class with honors) in Instrumentation & control
    engg.(2005) (State 4th Rank – news came in paper but i don’t have the
    paper with me now), received lots of rewards and prizes during colleges.
    Extra curricular activities:
    During college I
    developed a Student Management software for my college to help
    efficiently manage students information, College football team captain,
    Company cricket team captain, Also organized the cricket tournament in my present company, volunteer for Rotary club International
    and other NGO involved with under privileged children.
    Nationality: Indian
    Age: 26/M
    Certifications: SAP Certified in Supply Chain module
    Target programs: Top10 US /Top5 European schools
    When you apply: In the next 1 year
    Post MBA goal: To get into Management consulting in Strategy.

    Thanks for reading and evaluating the profile.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      For the programs you are aiming for, you really want that GMAT above (not around) 700. Everything else in your profile is competitive for your target programs, but the competition you face well be intense.

      You might be interested in Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants.
      Best,
      Linda

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    Alex,
    I’m still here and happy to answer questions.
    I think you are aiming appropriately. If you score under 700, it depends how far below 700 you are. If you are at or above 680. Proceed. If you are below that the farther away you get, the more inclined I would be to say wait. But, some of my recommendation would depend also on how much you want to have the chance to go now and how hard you would take a ding now. In other words your personal preference. The only way you have zero chance of acceptance in Fall 2014 is not to apply. If some chance of acceptance is worth an increased risk of rejection, then it makes sense to apply now especially if you do well on the GMAT and given your high level of work experience.

    I discussed these question much more extensively in my recent webinar, Round 3 vs Next Year: the MBA Admissions Debate.”
    Please let me know if you would like help with your application either this year or next.
    Best,
    Linda

  • Alan

    Hi Linda,

    Im a 29 year old peruvian male. I speak spanish, english and portuguese. I hope that you can help me understanding my chances on a potential HBS application and maybe recommend me other alternatives that you would consider fitting.

    1) 2 years as senior corporate credit anlyst and 2 years as senior investment banking analyst in the largest peruvian bank, 2 years as infrastructure investment associate in the largest latin-american construction company (this is my current possition) + 1 year of managing my own business (a gift confection and gift advisory company)
    2) 760 (99%), Q48 (76%), V47 (99%), IR8 (93%)
    3) Industrial and IT Engineering, GPA 3.0 + Economics, GPA 3.3, both from a well known and highly demanding peruvian college
    4) National Cancer League volunteer, math and programming teaching assistant, avid sport practicioner: surfing, kite-surfing, muay-thai
    5) CFA charterholder + was invited and assisted to the annual Central Reserve Bank of Peru’s Advanced Finance Course (only 20 invitations are made available every year)
    6) Investment Banking

    Many thanks!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      You have a competitive profile for HBS and the other programs you are considering. Well done! You may also want to consider Chicago, Kellogg, Tuck, Haas and Ross.

      Are you planning to apply now for 2014 or wait until Fall?

      Best,
      Linda

      • Alan

        Thanks a lot for your answer Linda. I’m planning to apply this fall as I want to spend a reasonable amount of time preparing my essays and getting some strong referrals.
        I have a couple of questions regarding the application process. I hope that I wont bore you with them:

        1. Would it be an issue to obtain only referrals from my former employer? I haven’t informed anybody at my current company that I will be applying. Although it is a great company with an impressive worldwide presence it has a really paternalistic culture in which its considered that every individual education must come mostly, if not exclusively, from the experience he or she may gain within the company. Post-graduate education is not openly encouraged within the firm.

        2. Having a referral letter from a former alumn would increase my chances of being admitted?

        3. Considering my GMAT score and my CFA charter, and considering that my GPA scores are correct, would my GPA affect my chances of being admitted?

        4. What would you recommend me to do in the following months to strengthen my application?

        I would greatly appreciate any piece of advice that you could give me Linda.

        Thanks!

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Alan,

          No boring at all. I hope you find my answers helpful.

          1. Many people cannot ask a current employer for a letter of recommendation. Most schools will ask you to provide a brief explanation why you are not asking your current boss, but it’s not a big deal.

          2. ONly if the former alum were equally qualified in other respects to be a recommender. The chief qualities that you want are A) an ability to comment based on personal experience supervising/working with you on your qualifications for business school; and B) willingness to write an enthusiastic and substantive letter showing that you are a competitive candidate. Being an alumn comes after A &B. If you have 2 recommenders and they both have A &B and one is an alum and the other isn’t, go with the alum Don’t forego A or B to go with an alum.

          3. Your GPA will be considered amongst everything else. Realize that the adcom will also know the grading system in Peru and will be better able to translate it. If your grades were excellent or above average in Peru, they will be evaluated as such. If they really were equivalent to a much more average or mediocre performance, they will also consider that. And it would be a negative in your profile. I can’t say for sure whether it would keep you out or not. However your GMAT and CFA will definitely mitigage, if necessary.

          4. A) Keep doing what you’re doing. B) Clarify your most desired post-MBA path. C) If you haven’t worked outside of Peru, try to get experience abroad.

          You might be interested in my book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. It’s available on Amazon around the world in paperback and Kindle formats.

          If you would like help with your MBA application over the summer and in the fall, please let me know.

          • Alan

            Thanks a lot for your time and patience Linda, everything is clearer now. I will for sure get your book.
            Thanks again!

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            Thanks for getting my book. Good luck with your MBA plans.

  • Zach

    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for all of your thoughtful responses. I have read through other posts and it has provided excellent guidance for me. Below is my profile. I would love your input on whether you would consider my application competitive in the third round. I believe that 2014 would be excellent timing for my goals in getting an MBA, however, I would definitely consider applying in the fall for 2015.

    1) 2 years Lehman Brothers / Barclays Capital M&A investment banking analyst in New York, followed by 8 months in Hong Kong. Left to pursue goal of starting a company. Worked for a well-funded startup in business development role for 3 months. ~1.5 years self-teaching computer programing and co-founding a web startup. Total experience ~5 years.

    2) GRE 170V (99%) / 165Q (91%). Have not received writing score, yet.

    3) Middlebury College 2009. Econ major. 3.82 GPA, phi beta kappa, suma cum laude. Proficient in Mandarin Chinese.

    4) Helped (was not lead) co-found a community service program in NYC for youth in Harlem. Rugby team at Middlebury.

    6) Post-MBA goal is to found a start-up and build a tech company. I would focus on entrepreneurship program.

    Concerns for round 3 (and in general): diversity – caucasian male in US, recommendations – I am not sure who I could use for start-up experience given that was an individual pursuit (with my brother as co-founder). I would have to use supervisor from finance which was ~2 years ago, but I think would be strong supporter.

    Considering HBS and GSB R3 and those two plus Sloan for R1 2015. I would really appreciate your input on my qualifications for R3 and R1 2015, and any advice on how to manage my weakness in recommendations (long request, so not expecting feedback on this).

    Thanks again.
    Zach

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Zach,

      Thanks for the gracious feedback!

      You have a competitive profile for HBS and Stanford GSB and MIT Sloan (in 2015) These two schools have a round 3 because they want to accept people at this point in the cycle (Please see the latest post from Dee Leopold.).

      In my opinion it is harder or statistically less likely that you will be accepted R3 of 2014 than R1 of 2015. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. If you feel now is a good time for you, go for it. Just be realistic. If you aren’t accepted now, then you will need to reapply next year. It’s not the end of the world, unless you feel that it’s the end of the world.

      If a chance of starting your MBA in 2014 is worth a higher risk of rejection now, then you should apply. If you would find rejection now somehow devastating (which you shouldn’t ), then wait until Fall to apply for 2015. (For more on this topic, please see my webinar, R3 vs. Next year: The MBA Admissions Debate..)

      Regarding the recommendations. Asking your manager from two years ago sounds like a great idea for one. I would like to see you have one rec that is more recent for the other rec. For the second one, consider a major client or vendor or someone like your accountant in the start-up. If the Harlem program is more recent, there might be someone there who could write the rec.

      If you would like help with your MBA application, either now or later, please keep Accepted in mind.

      Best,
      Linda

      • Zach

        Linda,

        Thank you so much for your response. The chance of starting in 2014 is worth the risk given my aspirations and years of experience. The only thing holding me back is recommendations, but I can hopefully find a second recommender that works. My co-founder is my brother – so assume that would not be well received. I could use a mentor who is an HBS grad, but I don’t have any real work experiences with her, so not sure about that either. A bit stuck on this issue, but hopefully I’ll figure something out.

        Thanks again. I will certainly keep Accepted in mind and am checking out your book now. Also, great webinars!

        Best,
        Zach

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          You’re most welcome. Thanks again for the feedback. I’m glad you’re moving forward.

          You’re right about your brother not being a good recommender. ;-) Lacking a little credibility there.

          The mentor may work, but I don’t have enough info to opine. I think this is a solvable problem.

          Thanks for the feedback on the webinars. If you do buy, I hope you enjoy the book. And again, if you need us for help with the MBA application, you know where to find us.

          Linda

  • Nat

    Curious to know do most Ivy league MBA programs look at your last 2 year GPA or overall 4 year GPA?
    Thanks

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Both. They will also look at trends over the 4 years and your grades specifically in quant and business-related courses.

      Best,
      Linda

  • CBM

    Does it make more sense to list your major GPAs (if you have multiple degrees) on the HBS application or the Cumulative.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I’m not sure I understand your question. Sorry.

  • http://batman-news.com Mari

    Hi Linda! Thank you so much for doing this!! I wanted to share my profile with you to get your opinion on whether or not you think I might have a chance at getting into HBS, Wharton or MIT.

    1) I am in the engineering leadership program at GE. I had 2 previous internships with GE and also interned at another fortune 500 company during my graduate studies.
    2) I’m scheduled to take the GMAT in June. (Would you have a suggestion as to what I should be aiming for based on my profile?)
    3) 3.2 GPA in Mechanical Engineering with concentration in biomechanics. 3.6 GPA for my MS in Mechanical Engineering with concentration in materials science. Both BS and MS from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. My BS GPA was low because I played varsity basketball. However, I only played the first two years of college and my second two years consisted of mostly A’s.
    4) Varsity Basketball, club lacrosse, Athletic Leadership Program for Student Athletes, won several competition in engineering and was leader of those groups, leading WPI/GE women’s networks, Technology Development Club Leader at GE, Big Brother Big Sister program for 5 years, and my current work position is part of GE’s leadership program. .
    5) None
    6) Private equity

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Mari,

      Given your profile and target programs, I suggest you get the highest score you can, but a 710+ would be competitive at your target programs considering your major and academic record.

      Given your major and grad GPA and athletic commitments as an undergrad and assuming a competitive GMAT, my biggest piece of advice would be to wait a year. Yes you have a chance now, but an additional year of work experience would really enhance your profile.

      On the other hand, if you really are ready now and feel a possibly reduced chance of acceptance is worth the time and effort go ahead.

      FYI, at these programs there are enough superstars round 1 and round 2 that I don’t think it makes a difference. However, there are a lot more spots in the class available round 1. If you are ready, I would say apply R1, unless there is going to be some major promotion at work before R2 or you need more time to prepare for the GMAT.

      You might be interested in http://www.accepted.com/mba/harvard_business_school_guide.aspx and http://www.accepted.com/mba/penn_wharton_admissions.aspx.

      Best,

      Linda

      • Mari

        Thanks so much! I did some research and saw that HBS R1 GMAT scores are around 740 while R2 is around 720, do you think if I had a 710 that I could still go for R1? Also, how much do you think my undergraduate GPA (3.2) might hurt me? Or does having a tougher major help me out at all?

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          Mari,

          You’re welcome.

          I assume your research was on a site like BTG or GMAT Club, both of which have incomplete data and with the relatively small data sets for each round the difference could be exaggerated and basically statistical noise. I checked on BTG for last year’s class and there the R1 average GMAT for admitted students was 734 (28 in the group) and the round 2 was 722, but only 14 respondents.

          While I will guarantee you that your math skills are better than mine, that does not seem like a large enough sample upon which to base a decision.

          So yes, given everything else, if you got a 710 and felt that score was a good representation of your GMAT test taking abilities, then I would apply R1. If you felt you could raise it significantly, then maybe I would consider postponing to R2 in order to retake, but probably not.

          Please see The Great Round 1/Round 2 Fight What’s the rush? and Round 1 v. Round 2 for MBA applicants .

          Your undergrad GPA is a hurdle, but the trend that you described, your grad GPA, and your major will all mitigate.

          I encourage you to apply to the schools you listed, but also apply to additional ones to enhance the chances that you get in. You have to be choosy about the schools you are applying to because of your career goal, but apply to maybe 3 round 1 and 3 round 2 if you aren’t accepted. Please see Which Schools are Good for PE/VC .

          Best,

          Linda .

          • Mari

            Linda, I really appreciate your time and feedback. While I still have you, I had one more question! I have tossed around so many different ideas in my head as far as an essay topic. I have learned so many life lessons from playing basketball but my eyes have also been opened due to the short period of time that I have spent in corporate America. Do you think HBS and Wharton would prefer an eye opening experience that I had at work or would I be better off talking about my story of perseverance through sports?

          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            You know where to find me. I’m not going anywhere.

            I really think I would do you a disservice if I voiced any opinion on your question. The details count. The substance counts. And also the options you may have in the different applications for including the information elsewhere. It may not be a this or that; it may be that with a little planning it can be a this and that situation.

            Finally, you may be asking the question prematurely. It is difficult to address given that the applications for next year are not yet out. They make a big difference.

            So I’m afraid I can’t help you here and now on that question. That is the kind of issue that we help with in consulting. If you want more information, please see http://www.accepted.com/mba/admissionsconsultingservices.aspx .

            Best,

            Linda

  • Scorpio1987

    Hi Linda,

    1. I am an Indian female, 26 years with 5 years experience in an oil and gas multi-national with work experience spanning areas of project management (including lead roles in CAPEX intensive projects in uncommon (high risk in terms of security) countries), design and engineering and operations support. I have worked in three different countries (Netherlands, India and Philippines) and most of my work has been focused on leading on projects (small to large).

    2. GMAT-700 Q48/V38

    3. Undergrad degree: Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering; GPA of 3.7 from a top 10 institute in India. I have scores of 96% and 94% in High school and Higher Secondary School boards

    4. As part of the National Service Scheme in India, I led the demonstration of the usefulness of solar energy in cooking and lighting to rural communities close to my university; I volunteered for offering services to the cyclone Yolanda hit victims in the Philippines during my stint there, in a non-English speaking community; I have organized many workshops while I was a student at the undergrad university including one on Intellectual Property rights and their relevance to university students, as a classical vocalist I have given a few concerts,

    6. My post MBA goal would be to enter the strategy department of any of the energy industry majors for I have been quite good so far (based on my work experience) at steering work processes towards a certain goal, cutting out the excesses. My experience in the relevant sector i believe will be quite useful here.

    I’d be grateful to know your views on my odds of making it to the HBS or any of the top 10/20 schools.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Your work experience and GPA are highly competitive, but your GMAT is low for HBS and several in the top 10. Given that you are a woman, and schools are trying to increase the representation of women and that your grades do show you can do the work, I recommend you apply to let’s say 2-3 schools in the top 10 (and HBS could be one of them) and 2-4 schools in the top 20 where you will be more competitive.

      I recommend you consider HBS, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Wharton, Duke, UT, CMU Tepper, Darden, and Ross.

      Best,
      Linda