Q&A: Headed to HBS in the Fall

Deo et Patriae's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 2,236

I was fortunate enough to be accepted into HBS in Round 2 and will be heading there this Fall. I have never done an Q&A on this site before and I feel that now might be a good time to do so. I hope that sharing my experience with the MBA application process might be somewhat useful to the WSO community.

Vital stats:
Male
Caucasian
Education: AB from Harvard (Economics)
GMAT: 730 (HBS median, e.g. nothing special)
GPA: Slightly below HBS median (never came up during the interview as an issue)

Comments (65)

Apr 27, 2016

What was your pre-MBA professional experience, and how did you compensate for a below-median GPA?

Apr 27, 2016
zanderman:

What was your pre-MBA professional experience, and how did you compensate for a below-median GPA?

Pre-MBA professional experience exclusively in banking (e.g. no buyside experience) If memory serves, the median GPA of students who matriculated at HBS last year is something akin to a 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. My GPA was slightly below this, but close enough (we are only talking a few hundredths here). In all honesty, GPA is one of those things which it can hurt you (if it is too low) but it does not especially help you (if it is very high or perfect)

Apr 27, 2016

Could you please be a bit more specific? What type of bank (e.g. MM or BB)? What group?

Thank you for doing this.

Apr 27, 2016

What made you go from banking ->b school as opposed to trying out the buyside route first?

Array

Apr 27, 2016

How much time did you dedicate to studying for the GMAT and what resources did you use?

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Apr 27, 2016
onelifetolive32:

How much time did you dedicate to studying for the GMAT and what resources did you use?

I would conservatively say about 10 hours or so a week for about 3 months, so roughly 120 hours (not including time spent taking practice tests). I did 10 different practice tests, 6 from Manhattan GMAT and 4 from the GMAT prep software). Each test roughly takes 4 hours, so if you include that, it would be a total of 160 hours.

Resources used include the official GMAT guide (13th edition, which I think is outdated now) I did not bother with the quant and verbal supplement books because the questions in those are easier than the main book. I also picked up the Manhattan GMAT guide for Sentence Correction.

To be honest, my GMAT prep was not ideal. In banking, the mentality is that the work is a "marathon, not a sprint." That same mentality unfortunately carried over into my GMAT prep... The whole process would have been a lot more efficient/smoother if I treated the thing as a sprint (e.g. maybe doing 20 hours a week spread out over 6 weeks instead of 10 hours a week over 3 months)

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Apr 27, 2016

Why do you say that treating the GMAT prep as a sprint is better than treating it as a marathon? I find that to be counter-intuitive.

Array

Apr 29, 2016

Hi! Thanks for the ama. Just curious as to what your original score was if you took a practice exam prior to any substantial practice.

Apr 29, 2016

Can you post the scores you got for those exams? I am taking the GMAT in a week!

Apr 27, 2016

Fake AMA

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Apr 27, 2016

1) What are you post-HBS plans -- would you like to move to the buyside eventually or continue in banking?
2) Did you apply to any other business schools or was it a "Harvard or bust" scenario?
3) It seems like you were set on becoming a career banker (I imagine you were an A->A promote?) -- why did you decide to get an MBA?
4) I know MBA adcoms look at extracurriculars (e.g., volunteer work) -- how did you fit this in on a banking schedule and what sorts of activities did you take part in?

Array

Apr 27, 2016
dcrowoar:

1) What are you post-HBS plans -- would you like to move to the buyside eventually or continue in banking?2) Did you apply to any other business schools or was it a "Harvard or bust" scenario?3) It seems like you were set on becoming a career banker (I imagine you were an A->A promote?) -- why did you decide to get an MBA?4) I know MBA adcoms look at extracurriculars (e.g., volunteer work) -- how did you fit this in on a banking schedule and what sorts of activities did you take part in?

1) To keep this answer brief, my post-HBS plans involve entrepreneurship. I hope to avoid continue in banking (If I return to banking, that means I failed to use my time in business school effectively).
2) I applied to one other school besides HBS
3) I was never set on becoming a career banker. I wanted an MBA because I never had a formal business education.
4) Surprisingly, HBS adcoms actually care about what you were involved in as an undergrad. A good 15% of my interview was spent talking about the extracurriculars I did in college. The extracurriculars that I did as a working professional were never touched upon. The activities I took part in mainly consisted of volunteer/service-oriented activities such as tutoring/mentoring underprivileged children.

Apr 27, 2016

Thanks for your responses. Best of luck at HBS; a friend of mine (with a similar background to your own) is pursuing the entrepreneurship route there now, so you'll definitely be in a great place.

Array

May 3, 2016

Why would you go do your MBA and spend 200k instead of starting something w/ that cash and time if your goal is entrepreneurship? Don't take this question the wrong way, I truly want to understand the "why". I guess you are totally capable of doing the required networking, have an interesting idea and have the skills to build an interesting startup.

Other way to see this question is, how will the MBA help you to have better chances at being a successful entrepreneur?

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Best Response
Apr 27, 2016

How far can you punt a football?

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Apr 27, 2016
dmw86:

How far can you punt a football?

-1. HBS only accepts quarterbacks, not kickers.

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Apr 27, 2016

nothing to ask, just congratulations bro!

Apr 27, 2016

How many years in banking? Were you promoted before you applied?

Apr 27, 2016
hot1590:

How many years in banking? Were you promoted before you applied?

Curious about this as well, and congrats!

Apr 27, 2016

What other schools were you considering? What are your plans post-MBA?

Apr 27, 2016
Baby Monkey:

What other schools were you considering? What are your plans post-MBA?

Already answered this in my response to "dcrowoar"

Apr 27, 2016

Hi,

Congrats.

I take it you did your banking stint at a fairly reputable firm (most likely BB such as JPM/MS/GS or Citi/BAC etc)?

What is your advice for people trying to apply in future years? I am planning to apply in 2017 but not sure what additional things I should be doing other than "trying to take on more responsibilities at work" or "get a good gmat score" (planning to start studying in June).

What is your thoughts on extracurricular involvement? What and how should one get involved to get noticed by admission com?

Thanks

Apr 27, 2016
halfstep:

Hi,

Congrats.

I take it you did your banking stint at a fairly reputable firm (most likely BB such as JPM/MS/GS or Citi/BAC etc)?

What is your advice for people trying to apply in future years? I am planning to apply in 2017 but not sure what additional things I should be doing other than "trying to take on more responsibilities at work" or "get a good gmat score" (planning to start studying in June).

What is your thoughts on extracurricular involvement? What and how should one get involved to get noticed by admission com?

Thanks

Get that GMAT out of the way as soon as possible. Don't stretch the prep time out long like I did.

For extracurriculars, it might sound cliche but you should really do things that you are genuinely passionate about. It can be something academic (someone I met on the day of my interview co-authored a research paper with a professor outside of his work responsibilities) or it can be something non-academic (I met someone who was involved in an a capella group during college and he continued that as a working professional). Thinking about what and how you should get involved in something to get "noticed by the admission com" may not necessarily be the best way of thinking about it... Also, I do not know about other schools, but HBS actually cares about what activities you were involved in outside the classroom as an undergrad, so make sure you are prepare to speak intelligently about that (if you get to the interview stage).

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Apr 27, 2016

Given that you went to Harvard for undergrad, were you also considering GSB? Assuming you would have gotten in, why would you have decided to stick with HBS?

Apr 27, 2016
Teller:

Given that you went to Harvard for undergrad, were you also considering GSB? Assuming you would have gotten in, why would you have decided to stick with HBS?

"Yes" for the first part of your question.

On the second part, HBS was simply the best fit for me in terms of the curriculum, alumni network, geographic location, etc.

Apr 29, 2016

Saying it was the "best fit" at HBS when asked about GSB is how you tactfully say, "I didn't get in...."

Apr 27, 2016

What is the HBS position on "legacy" admits, in particular as it applies to Harvard College or HLS?
Congrats, absolument

Array

Apr 27, 2016
zxcib:

What is the HBS position on "legacy" admits, in particular as it applies to Harvard College or HLS?Congrats, absolument

I think HBS does provide some form of preferential treatment for "legacy" admits on a case-by-case basis.

Apr 27, 2016

swag level?

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Apr 27, 2016

hunnit

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Apr 27, 2016

Also offering congrats! Why did you decide to go now instead of waiting another year or two? Clearly you got in, so it was a good move but I'm just curious as to the timing of your decision.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

Apr 27, 2016

What was your undergrad major?

Apr 27, 2016
skydiver:

What was your undergrad major?

Economics (I also updated my original post to reflect this)

Apr 28, 2016

They all know that this is a fake post but just playing along.

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Apr 28, 2016

Well, you came from a prestigious University to begin with.

Apr 28, 2016

Congrats on HBS! Boston/Cambridge is fantastic as I'm sure you know from UG (although it isn't my cup of tea). How many years of experience in banking will you have upon matriculation? Also, do you think you might have any meaningful insight as to how they view non finance/econ major types applying?

Apr 28, 2016
NESCAC:

Congrats on HBS! Boston/Cambridge is fantastic as I'm sure you know from UG (although it isn't my cup of tea). How many years of experience in banking will you have upon matriculation? Also, do you think you might have any meaningful insight as to how they view non finance/econ major types applying?

Just a little over 3 & 1/2 years. I spent my first year at a top strategic advisory firm (what this community likes to call "elite boutique") and then I lateraled to one of the major banks ("bulge bracket").

HBS seems to view non-finance/econ majors very favorably. It might have just been a coincidence, but on the day I interviewed on campus nearly everyone I spoke to (other Round 2 candidates who were invited to interview) were from STEM backgrounds. Very few people were working in New York. A lot of people from the Midwest and West Coast was my impression.

Apr 28, 2016

Fake post

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Apr 28, 2016

Will you please add a write-up of your story?

Specifically, what was the story you use during recruiting / interviews and can you please outline the process?

Apr 29, 2016
realjackryan:

Will you please add a write-up of your story?

Specifically, what was the story you use during recruiting / interviews and can you please outline the process?

That might be a topic for another day... but I will see if I can get around to it.

Keep in mind that recruiting for me was a different affair compared to what most students on WSO likely experience... For example, I never had to do any cold calling as an undergraduate since all the major banks (and even asset management firms, hedge funds, etc.) visit our school. One simply submits their resume and if one gets short-listed the first round interviews will take place right on campus. In many cases, the person who is interviewing you is an alum whom you have already previously made their acquaintance (e.g. at a prior info session, networking event, career forum, etc.) and in most cases they are giving you the benefit of the doubt and they want to see you succeed (and push you into the the next round of interviews).

Apr 29, 2016

Thank you, I was primarily referring to the interview process at HBS, not for Ib.

Apr 28, 2016

congrats and thanks for doing the AMA!

question - i believe in other threads you mentioned your dad went to HBS - how much do you think this affected your chances?

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Apr 29, 2016
AndyLouis:

congrats and thanks for doing the AMA!

question - i believe in other threads you mentioned your dad went to HBS - how much do you think this affected your chances?

Thank you.

You are correct. My father went to HBS. There is a section on the application that explicitly asks the applicant whether they have a parent (or parents) who attended HBS and, if so, in what year(s) did they graduate. Therefore, the answer is probably "yes," having a parent who attended HBS can POTENTIALLY affect one's chances to some extent (Otherwise, why would they ask for this piece of information?)

However, the extent to which it helps depends entirely on how active of an alum the parent is. If your parent is the type of alum that doesn't keep their mailing address up-to-date (or even worse is someone who has a bad reputation, e.g. Jeffrey Skilling of ENRON), it probably does not help or could even hurt your chances. On the other hand, if the parent is an active alum who volunteers significant amounts of time & energy to the school and helps with various capital raising campaigns, then it is likely to help your chances.

However, to be perfectly frank, barring extreme outliers, I think it is the whole package that matters. If my raw stats (GPA and GMAT) were both significantly below the median numbers for HBS and if my work experience was ho-hum, would I have still been accepted? Maybe, yes, if my father was Seth Klarman*... But if he was just Average-Joe HBS Guy? Maybe, but doubtful.

  • Note: In 2014 Klarman donated a gift to HBS to build Klarman Hall, which is a new conference center / auditorium currently under construction)
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Apr 29, 2016

Legacies are pretty common. Based on people's parents who have attended class this year that I remember, I can count at least four in my section, excluding people with extended family / siblings who went to HBS (at least a couple in my section). None would be otherwise out of place, but being in/out is so razor's edge, and when you run that against the population applying to HBS, I think being a legacy has more than a little sway.

Apr 30, 2016

Gave you some SBs to offset the idiotic MS you got. I don't get why some WSO users get pissed off for stuff like this. Any logical person is going to use whatever edge they have such as family connections, minority, etc. Not to mention the fact that the majority of people who are able to get in these top caliber schools tend to check all of the boxes like you: GMAT, ibd, extracurriculars.

Apr 28, 2016

Thanks for doing this! I was wondering what some of the questions were that admissions asked you in the interview/s?

Apr 29, 2016

Why the MS? Are the virgin warriors of WSO pissed about someone getting into HBS?

I think- therefore I fuck

Apr 29, 2016

Coming from Harvard undergrad, considering that it's one of if not the top undergraduate schools in the world, is there a lot of pressure to continue on "staying at the top" for postgrad? For example, while the Big Ten is academically great (I go to one), is going from Harvard College to a B1G MBA considered perceived as a relative failure?

Not banking related, just curious. Elitism's interesting.

"A modest man, with much to be modest about"

Apr 30, 2016
JYF:

Coming from Harvard undergrad, considering that it's one of if not the top undergraduate schools in the world, is there a lot of pressure to continue on "staying at the top" for postgrad? For example, while the Big Ten is academically great (I go to one), is going from Harvard College to a B1G MBA considered perceived as a relative failure?

Not banking related, just curious. Elitism's interesting.

I didn't feel any pressure whatsoever to continue "staying at the top." In all honesty, the process is a bit of a crap shoot so it's counterproductive to put any unnecessary pressure on yourself.

Apr 29, 2016

What were the first few steps like when from when you decided you wanted to do your MBA?

Apr 30, 2016
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May 1, 2016
May 30, 2017