Dinged at HSW...Now what?

So I got responses back and got rejected (no interview, no waitlist) from HSW.

General background for context:

Experience: 2 years at MM/UMM PE (+$2B fund), 3 years in Tier-2 Consulting

Stats: Asian Male, 750 GMAT, 3.8 GPA w/ Econ major from Top 25 College

Essay: Not revolutionary but I believe solid (researched the schools, got professionally edited)

Recs: Again, not revolutionary but solid (all sent to me before submission)

ECs: On a youth NGO board, founded / leadership of 1-2 clubs in college

Honestly I'm still pretty shocked - I thought I would at least get an interview. My main goal from an MBA was to lateral to a more growth-oriented / VC shop that is more generalist and less focused on financial engineering (currently at an industry-focused firm). Would also give me some time to explore, build a network, and think about what kind of firm would be right for me.

I guess I came here to see if (i) if anyone had a similar experience, (ii) any advice / tips on next steps, or (iii) what people recommend on next steps. I think my options are:

  1. Apply to a few other schools Round 2 - Not sure if it would make sense given what I'm looking to do next.
  2. Lateral to tech / start-ups / more growth-focused investing and apply again next 1-2 year - This would really put me at the old end in terms of investing professionals applying. But maybe it would be helpful to get more "growth" experience before applying? Just seems like at a certain point it wouldn't be worth it....
  3. Forget an MBA and try to lateral without one - I can try this but seems difficult and wouldn't build the network

Comments (49)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 29, 2021 - 5:21am

Dude, he's not even impressive, especially for a PE guy. Econ major at top 25 school (means prob at the bottom end of the 25), MM PE firm, tier 2 consulting firm, standard GPA/GMAT for PE applicant. I mean, what about that can't you achieve? Dont get me wrong, it's a decent career, but all he did was follow the corporate path as a less impressive version of the guys going Ivy->BB/EB/MBB->MF, many with double majors and better GPA/GMAT scores. Have some confidence in yourself. 

Edit: Bring on the monkey shits you mediocre fucks. 

Nov 3, 2021 - 4:29am

This is actually a good point. If you flag yourself as sort of "okay" in everything then your application is going to get overshadowed by literally every other overachiever with better stats than you. Need to make better impression on the non-work/academic stuff to get into the HSW cut.

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Oct 28, 2021 - 4:15pm

I would first just take a step back and try to get some fresh air.  Have some fun this weekend and let yourself reset a bit.  I also would not take it too personally.  HSW MBA spots have become insanely competitive - just think about how quickly MF/UMM PE class sizes have grown versus the MBA class sizes.  I'm biased because I decided to forgo the MBA route (think the value has continued to erode), but I would suggest exploring lateral partner track opportunities.  There are a lot of new funds with lots of dry powder looking for experienced hires.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Oct 28, 2021 - 5:48pm

This is really helpful and the advice I needed at this point. Would you mind sharing your experience / background going through lateral recruiting? Did you try to make an industry or investing-type switch?

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Oct 29, 2021 - 8:45am

I made an investing type switch and my background is very similar to yours. I should caveat that if you're targeting specific firms that typically hire MBA VPs, then you'll obviously be at a disadvantage. The lateral recruiting market is very fluid, and is driven by a combination of recruiter opps, your own network, and some cold outreach (which is a lot easier than IB given you have a solid resume now). I don't know if your firm is partner track/supportive of you recruiting but speak with your VPs and principals to the extent comfortable. They can be hugely helpful resources and often have a good pulse which firms are hiring. Timing of these opps is very fluid as well so you need to be somewhat flexible.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Oct 28, 2021 - 4:40pm

I would apply to the other schools. You can try to lateral in the meantime, but there are other great business schools out there and it's very challenging to get in as a PE candidate (from my understanding) without top tier PE experience or a really good hook (not to sound too college confidential).

There are growth equity roles available for CBS/Chicago/Sloan etc grads! Much like how MBB isn't the only consulting, MF isn't the only PE, there are mid-tier growth equity opportunities out there that will be in your reach at a mid-tier MBA.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Oct 28, 2021 - 7:19pm

Thanks for the reply. What you say makes sense but I'm definitely still struggling justifying to non-HSW. For me the pros (network, break, opportunity to slightly "rebrand") outweighed the cons ($$$, potential time you end up down the same career trajectory) at HSW but unclear if that would be the case at other schools coming from a PE background and trying to go back to an investing role.

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Oct 28, 2021 - 8:51pm

I don't mean this in a way to bring you down or anything, but just to give you a gentle reality check. I would not at all expect someone with your background to get into or interviews from HSW. The pool for PE Associates is even more competitive than the general pool and basically split into MF "golden resume" people who went to firms that have a good relationship with the school and people with really deep, sector specific investing experience (or great stories).

That being said, schools 4-10 in the top 10 are filled with very successful, hardworking candidates like you that didn't have the stories or top firms on their resumes. I went to a "top" undergrad and I just have seen so many of my peers get shocked/pissed when they lose jobs to state school kids, because they place so much value on "branding" and not individual experiences. Don't make that same mistake and think rationally about what you can get out of a M4-7.

Lateral if you can, but do your research and don't miss out on opportunities because someone of WSO said going to Booth or Columbia for MBA will end your career.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 28, 2021 - 11:50pm

I think you is lost in the sauce. I encourage you to do some self reflection and ask why you actually think you need an MBA from H/S/W minus bragging about it, which is a pretty shit reason. Broadly the MBA generally offers 2 end goal benefits: a life experience or a way to make more money. Also, anecdotally-the amount of moron HBS individuals I have interacted with is enormous and I don't think it is the silver bullet you are thinking, A few points:

As others mentioned, it's competitive blah blah blah and admissions are largely pretty narrow minded on the candidates they are selecting for HBS/GSB/etc. (read cookie cutter borderline WSO obsession, with them caring most about firms they have relationships with). However, I've got to wonder why you think the MBA's from any of those places will radically change your trajectory especially if your goal is to continue in PE. There are 3 reasons for an MBA:

  • You are burnt out and need a break
  • You are trying to career switch 
  • You need to rebrand 

If you already know you want to continue doing PE and have prior experience, you just shouldn't be getting an MBA from a rebrand and career switch standpoint. If you are burnt out and need a break, booth sends 6% to PE, wharton sends 12%. How much of that is due to prior experience or interest? I would guess a great deal. Booth and wharton are basically identical in terms of banking recruitment, but booth sends significantly more to consulting. I think this is more a reflection on prior candidate experience and adcom class shaping than difficulty recruiting. Also, post MBA PE recruiting isn't about passing a modeling test, it's a networking game and largely one that many at schools like H/S/W have already won before enrolling because they have sponsorship and a seat waiting for them prior to leaving for b school. I'm skeptical that 12% of wharton MBA's are looking for a PE seat versus a significant portion having one already when they enter. 

In summary: If you will feel like a failure because you are a booth MBA, but think a wharton MBA is that different, you are a moron. It's like the kid that thinks he has a shit job because he works at Credit Suisse over Goldman. That said, it's your life so even if irrational, you need to make the call that is right for you. Personally, if you aren't burned out and don't plan on leaving the industry, I have no idea why you would leave your current seat outside of peer pressure from other people your age doing it. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Oct 28, 2021 - 11:54pm

Also, anecdotally-the amount of moron HBS individuals I have interacted with is enormous

Can't possibly overstate this 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Oct 29, 2021 - 1:42am

I worked for a hedge fund that just flat out didn't hire there because it was so bad. MBA's in general are kinda bullshitters that are looking for a trick to leverage their degree and get overpaid, but HBS mbas epitomize the MBA holder. It is often a bunch of people that think their credentialed MBA background gives them a boosted ability to run a business or a more advanced perspective, when really running a business is just hard and requires an insane amount of work no matter who you are. Honestly, I feel like I've seen MBA programs screw up a lot of humble hardworking people.

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Oct 29, 2021 - 10:20am

I think my question was less  thinking about going to HSW because of "prestige" and more about the best next step. Understood that there are a lot of schools past the top 3 where you'd be able to lateral into PE. And, if you work hard and network well, I'm sure you can go down nearly any path from an M7. I was specifically thinking about lateraling earlier-stage / breaking out of my industry vertical. I'm now wondering whether it would make more sense to do that just through lateralling or from a non-HSW b-school.

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Oct 29, 2021 - 12:28am

Second what the poster above said - I am not surprised by the outcome, it is stunning how competitive HSW has gotten for Asian / white males in finance. I have a 3.8 from HYP, worked at GS and a MF (KKR/BX), 770 GMAT, good recs and essays, and got dinged. Multiple associates in my class and in other MF classes with similar stats also got dinged. It's just an impossible crapshoot for guys that have this kind of profile, because we are not particularly rare. 

Don't despair. There are tons of funds out there (the vast majority at this point) that are skipping the MBA as a requirement. For what it's worth, I'm a VP at an UMM fund ($10bn+) and am ahead of my friends who went to get their MBA. I definitely wish I could've enjoyed those two years, but it's made no difference professionally. Has probably benefited me to be honest from a purely professional perspective - lot more reps, far more industry/banker/management team connections, much more developed professional network. But I still wish I could've drank my way through Europe and south america for two years with a bunch of friends. 

Last thing, I would caution you against going to anything other than HSW if you want to stay in PE. Booth and Columbia are filled with smart people, I'm sure, but the list of Booth/Columbia MBA grads at good PE shops (in our age cohort, I'm not talking 10 years ago or older when MBAs were basically a requirement) is very slim. It's probably a negative versus not going at all. Again, this is purely if you are focused on staying in PE

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Oct 29, 2021 - 10:25am

Thanks for the reality-check...crazy how competitive these spots are (especially given a trend towards firms hiring more non-MBAs). Your last point is definitely one of my key questions - whether schools like Booth / Columbia would be a 'neutral' or 'negative' in the grand scheme of things when thinking about next steps. As mentioned, I was thinking about moving more down-stream (growth-oriented PE, earlier stage investing?) and trying to figure out if lateraling or going to one of these schools would make the most sense. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Nov 1, 2021 - 6:43am

To the VP in PE - which team were you on at KKR / BX? Don't need to mention specific industry group but would be helpful to know if it was BX BCP / KKR buyout, or was it a different team? Asking as I am going to be in a very similar position from a profile perspective, and would really appreciate your advice. 

Nov 1, 2021 - 9:18pm

Candidly, because you were HYP undergrad, I don't think the MBA would have added that much value to your professional network. Especially because you were at GS/MFPE. Had you attended a state school or even a school ranked between the top 10-50, an MBA could have still provided you with immense value. 

idk clearly you were extremely qualified, but you are one of the very few lucky ones where you have the pedigree, and network fully set without needing the MBA

  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Oct 30, 2021 - 1:36am

CEO of my LO AM went there and is among the more brilliant people I've gotten to meet in my life. Tight network and able to get you into certain industries in finance. 

Oct 29, 2021 - 2:08pm

That is very surprising that none even gave you an interview, but I would not stress to hard about. Don't stress about things you can't change - such as your major, college, past work experience, etc. With the trend of firms hiring more non-MBAs, I think you can skip it all together via networking and connecting with headhunters. Also, you def have time to wait a year, gain better experiences, then reapply. A wild amount of HBS guys get rejected the first time to get in during later years. 

  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Oct 29, 2021 - 2:30pm

The schools you named are largely a racket and generally imbibe people with a superficiality and lack of genuineness that is hard to scrub off with soap, water, and a pumice stone. It's great if you're at GS or Boeing or big 4 accounting. If you're in PE and go get your MBA it's bc you really really want to go or because it's 2005.

For the switch your describing the Baker Library is not the gateway. Move on.

You can get to where you want, bschool would have been a easier launchpad but also would have eaten up 2 years of your life, a few hundred k in cash and a million plus in foregone income.

Its a very hot market. Get after it, you can do it. If you can't do it, it's because you're not getting after it… in which case you don't really want it, don't deserve, and even if you got it you wouldn't be able to hold onto to/capitalize on it.

Oct 29, 2021 - 4:34pm

Echoing the other thoughts in this thread, you have the most valuable prerequisite for getting your desired job, which is existing buyside experience. Unless you just want to take 2 years off (which would be totally understandable), you should be able to find a GE/VC job through networking and it'll likely be easier than you expect. 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Oct 30, 2021 - 2:07pm

Take one of those 23andme tests to recheck if you're like 1/10th black or something. Or yeah like comment above, just become gay

Oct 31, 2021 - 12:41pm

Sorry to hear about the dings, as others have mentioned, it's crazy competitive out there, especially this year, I wouldn't take it too hard. H/S you probably had a very low chance at , Wharton was probably 50/50, I feel like folks like you get into Wharton with this type of profile. Rest of the M7, you'd have a decent chance at. The unfortunately fact is, spots for PE folks are H/S are fairly limited, especially at S given the class size. If you think about all the top firms that H/S have to pay attention to, so most of the MF and UMM funds, a couple of up and comer MMs, international funds, etc and they can also take a couple for each fund, the PE bucket at those schools fills up very fast. With regards to your what next questions.

Applying to Other Schools: Given you've put the time in to take the GMAT and write essays, I'd probably lob another app or two in just for the optionality. Do 2/3 more, Booth, Columbia, Kellogg, etc. Draft up a few essays, get your consultant to look them over and put some low efforts apps in. With decent execution, you'll probably get an acceptance. As someone above posted, if you're somewhat flexible with where you want to end up, there are a decent number of folks from the non HSW M7 that end up with solid PE jobs, especially those who come in with a strong background. If you're shooting to get back to an UMM/MF in a VP level role, it'll be much tougher, but if you're ok with solid MM shops, especially in the Midwest, Booth/Kellogg have ties to a lot of them. There are handful of kids that do get into select MF from each school each year as well, again, they have significant background prior to school, but you could be one of the folks that would have a good shot at a MDP, GTCR, Apollo, KKR, etc that do some limited recruiting on campus. Recruiters will also likely to be helpful to someone with your background.

Lateral: It's a great market for job seekers out there now. I'd be on the radar with all the recruiters and potentially reaching out to folks at your target funds. This is probably the easiest time to lateral.

Apply again in a couple of years: To be honest, you're starting to border on the above age/experience level for an MBA. I went after 6 years, and 4 in PE. From a PE learning perspective, I can't say there was a ton that I needed to get of the MBA. I'm much more experienced than my peers, and you're already in a similar position. Two more years of experience will honestly be too much. I also don't think you'll be able to move the needle much on your application unless you want to try and lateral to a MF and even that probably wouldn't do much. Maybe with another reapplication you could get into Wharton vs likely getting into Booth/Kellogg/Columbia this year, but I don't see you moving the needle much at H/S. So it kind of comes down to a mix of how badly you want to MBA, where you want to end up after, etc. 

For context, I was a MM PE guy, with not as shiny of a profile as you have. I'm at a non H/S M7 now and have found PE recruiting to be relatively easy. With that said, I'm really only looking at other MM shops and am fairly flexible on Geo, I'm not a NYC or bust the way some of my peers are. I've had plenty of opportunities at some of the big funds that have come to campus and while my network in PE won't be as good as someone who went to H/S, that's kind of just is what it is. The big caveat is that I completely acknowledge that there are some funds, mainly the bigger ones in major cities, that I would not have gotten looks at. Would I have been a fit for those roles pre-MBA, probably not, do I think I'd be a fit for those roles in general? No. But that combined with the network are what make H/S so coveted for PE/VC. Again, I didn't really care but something to acknowledge when thinking about your decision. For me, I have no regrets at all about B-School. Hope this helps.

  • VP in PE - LBOs
Oct 31, 2021 - 11:20pm

Great post. I'm the VP who commented above, and this guy is spot on. I re-read my answer, and should have clarified - I got dinged from H/S, didn't apply to Wharton. Wharton definitely the most realistic for cookie cutter high achieving PE candidates these days. Harveyspecter is right though, it's a great time to lateral, so only chase the MBA if you care about it or want a two year break. He also made the valuable distinction of what non HSW M7 precludes you from, which is more brand name, NYC based PE (whether MM/UMM/MF - this ranges from places like BX/CG all the way to shops like GI/WCAS/Crestview that are brand name focused). If you don't care about necessarily being at those type of places, and are open to various sizes of PE shops and other geographies, then by all means go to a non HSW M7. But if you want those names/staying in NYC, I would encourage you to either re-apply (if you want to go to b school) to HSW or simply lateral. I think going to a Booth/Columbia is dilutive if that is your end goal. 

Nov 2, 2021 - 12:04pm

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