Valuable MBA Application Insight from Current MBA's at HBS / GSB/ Wharton

All -

Some of you might be knee-deep in the MBA application process (currently Round 2), and others might be considering applying next year. I was in your shoes about a year ago and know how convoluted the process can be - it's about as "black box" as it gets.

Before I get any further - a bit about myself. I'm currently a first-year student (RC) at HBS. I've been a WSO reader and poster for over 10+ years now, and the community single-handedly got me through investment banking recruiting as an undergrad, and private equity recruiting pre-MBA.

A couple of HBS / GSB / Wharton friends and I wanted to help give back to the WSO community, and help those thinking about applying or currently applying the chance to talk to current students at these top-tier MBA programs that have recently navigated the admissions process.

All of us are currently enrolled at one of these programs - and depending on your preference and which school you are applying to, we will match you to a current student that has a very similar profile to yours. Topics we can touch on includes, but certainly are not limited to:

** What kind of "story" or narrative worked at each of the schools?
** GMAT high enough?
** How do I differentiate myself against 100,XXX candidates that look exactly like me?
** How does post-MBA recruiting work at top-schools?
** What type of students are each school looking for - really? (hint - what's posted on the website often does not match up to the candidates -actually- admitted)
** What are the weak-spots on your application?
** What kind of questions are -currently- being asked during interviews at each of these schools?
** Rejected? (don't worry - a number of us were the first time around) - how to prepare for re-applying
** Waitlisted? (a few of us were as well) How do you get off? (the answer is NOT - do nothing, despite whatever the schools say)
** Ask us ANY question you can think of - no need to be coy or polite

Post questions below - happy to answer. If interested in a conversation with a current student, send me a PM. Good luck!

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Comments (57)

Best Response
Feb 21, 2018 - 11:00am

Hey all – thanks for doing this. I'd like to get thoughts on two things: 1. Leadership/ECs 2. Investment/Asset management recruiting at top mutual funds/long-only firms.

Leadership/ECs

  • What leadership/EC roles did you guys hold? How did you find it?
  • I know it's hard to quantify but how important do you think it was in the overall application process for you and your peers?

In 1-2yrs I will be targeting M7 schools, specifically Columbia. I'm above their GPA/GMAT averages (3.75/760), however I am an Asian (non-international) male in finance. I currently do volunteer teaching but have been advised to look for either junior board/leadership volunteer roles. Do you think it's worth it given my profile? Any advice on where to find such opportunities?

IM Recruitment

  • I understand this is one of the toughest industries to break into, even with a top MBA. I'd appreciate anything you have to share about recruitment/application process. What candidates usually end up securing these positions?

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:01pm

Thanks for doing this! Are there any students in your class that were traders pre-MBA? I'm working as a derivatives trader at a quant firm in Chicago and am wondering if that'll be an obstacle when I apply.

Also, I took the GRE and scored a 334 - 170/170 quant (97%) and 164/170 verbal (94%). Do you think I should take the GMAT if I think I can score similarly (would have to redo the preparation) or is the GRE enough?

Array
  • 1
Feb 25, 2018 - 11:02pm

How To Show Confidence In Your MBA Application (Originally Posted: 12/24/2010)

When you begin working on your business school application, your attitude will play a pivotal role. Your attitude will show throughout your MBA essays and will set the view from which the admissions team sees you when you apply to competitive business schools. When MBA program candidates begin writing their essays, they understand how difficult it can be to portray confidence, and at the same time not appear to be arrogant. One of the important questions applicants ask is: how confident should I try to be on the business school application? It may be enjoyable talking about your achievements and including statements that show your confidence and abilities. If you were to speak to someone in person, you would be able to decipher the confidence that the individual has. With your MBA application essays, you will only have one opportunity to portray your message, and those parts will be read by people with different character types and levels of patience for boasting. The question then is, how can we discuss our career and leadership achievements without sounding like we are showing off? Here is some advice:

• Recognize the team: Race car drivers do this very well; they constantly use the word "we". "We were driving great today. When we started off, our car was running well." You don't want to make this sound too obvious, but positioning your achievements as team achievements is very effective. In the end your success as a business leader will be more dependent on your abilities to work in a team than in your ability to do everything by yourself.

• Maintain a balance with your essays: You will most likely have more options to discuss your great achievements if you are honest about your weaknesses and failures in other essays. If you just highlighted how the number of hours you spent made your company successful, then you shouldn't in another essay declare your weakness to be that you work too hard.

• Discuss your mentors: If you are talking about your success as a leader, this would be a good time to acknowledge individuals in your academic or career settings from whom you learned some of these abilities. This is just as effective for hard skills as it is for soft skills.

This shows you are good at recognizing strong points in others and know how to learn from them.

For more robust guidance on your MBA application essays, check out the Stacy Blackman Consulting Essay Guide Series – school specific guides with essay tips, sample essays, information on what your target schools value and more.

Founded in 2001, Stacy Blackman Consulting has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world. The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy. Stacy Blackman clients have a significantly increased probability of admission to top schools and are frequent recipients of merit scholarships. The company is regularly featured in publications such as BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. Visit the Stacy Blackman blog for daily news updates and admissions tips, and check out the company's e-publications for more in depth school-by-school guidance.

www.StacyBlackman.com
  • 2
Feb 25, 2018 - 11:08pm

Need Advice - Applying for an MBA? (Originally Posted: 10/17/2010)

Hi Stacy,

I am a 34 year old professional. I have not been working in the same field that I have done my undergrad studies in. Also, I am not a US citizen, and will be applying as an oustsider for MBA next fall. I have the following two very important questions before I start my gmat preparation.

  1. I have been married for 11 years and have a kid of 10 years. I have been working for the last 5 years. Does that affect my admission prospects in any way?

  2. During a visit to the US a couple of years back, I ran up a hospital bill of $3300 of which I paid half the amount immediately through my travel insurance. However, I was informed of the latter half when I came back to my home country and did not have the wherewithal to pay that amount. Will this interfere with my admission or Visa process for MBA? Can I contact the hospital of my own volition and offer to pay? Will this work against me and attract any criminal charges?

These answers are crucial before I decide to take up my MBA mission!

Please help.

Thanks.

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:12pm

Applying to MBA - Appreciate any insights (Originally Posted: 09/21/2011)

I know that most of the people who are in banking apply for MBA programs while they're senior analysts, but is it also the case sometimes that someone as a true associate applies for the programs?

Would appreciate any insights on this.

Thanks.

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Feb 25, 2018 - 11:15pm

Helpful resource on applying to business school from current HBS students (Originally Posted: 10/29/2013)

To all those considering applying to business school...

The Harbus, the student newspaper of HBS, publishes an annual guide to the application process and the interview. In addition to brand new content featuring tips on the application from current students, the guide contains a list of approximately 100 real MBA interview questions, accompanied by detailed analysis of how to answer them. It's the only guide out there that is written by actual current MBA students, so it is straight from people who have actually successfully made it through the application/interview process. The guide is constantly updated and while it is written by HBS students, but is very applicable to all business schools.

To learn more, visit the Harbus website and click on the "Admissions Guide" link in the upper right corner.

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:30pm

B-school application advice...help me pick a school (Originally Posted: 11/23/2015)

Hi guys

I am planning on applying to b-school this year....my primary post-mba goal is strategy/operations at a tech firm (google, apple, microsoft, linkedin etc.) and if that doesn't work out then my second choice will be MBB consulting. I am already applying to the west coast schools (anderson, haas) and one east coast school (sloan) that are good in both tech and consulting. I was thinking of applying to one more east coast school which is within my reach....the schools I have it narrowed down to are Tuck, Yale, Stern

I have the basic stats (GMAT (740), gpa (3.8 at a public ivy - U Mich/UVA/UI-UC), work experience (4 years at IBM/Cognizant/ Accenture type company) etc.) for all these.

For each school, I have some pros and cons written down

Tuck:
Pros
- small program
- Excellent in MBB recruiting
- Great career services center
- Highest ranking/prestige

Cons
- Bad location (middle of nowhere) + in a small town, so hard to fly to CA or go to NYC for interviews etc.
- Low recognition outside US
- Weak in Tech

Yale:
Pros
- Lots of momentum (new building, great dean)
- Ivy league brand / global recognition
- More scholarship opportunities

Cons
- Not sure how well known in Tech
- Weak in MBB recruiting

Stern:
Pros
- Location (center of everything)
- Strong focus in tech + plus all major tech companies have a presence in NYC, so easier to network and do interviews
- Have friends in city, so will have a better social life

Cons
- Weak in MBB / more finance focused school
- most expensive out of the lot
- Lower ranking / prestige
- Surprisingly lowest acceptance rate (18%) compared to other two at (22-23%)
- The multimedia essay is a bit tricky

Any advice would be appreciated which to select among these 3 schools would be greatly appreciated as my recommenders are quite busy and I can't have them write more than 4 letters of recommendations.....Thanks

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:41pm

Goals Statements in Applying for Top B-Schools (Originally Posted: 07/18/2015)

Was wondering about stating goals on b-school applications. Are there goals more favorably looked upon by adcoms? Do the people going from PE --> Top MBA --> HF actually put HFs as their goal or do they put something else because HFs aren't a "hot" goal for adcoms?

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:46pm

As someone who got into 2 out of 3 top MBA programs H/S/W, I'd say that goals need to be reasonable within an extent but sufficiently ambicious that you would need an MBA (and THAT MBA from the school your targetting) to make it work.

I wouldn't think PE-> MBA -> HF is too crazy but you need to 1) make sure the HF you're targetting is at par with the PE you worked at before, 2) Be sure to explain how the school will help you in that purpose - and what makes it different from other schools, 3) You're already changing industries -sort of- so try not to change too much about other things like location or industry expertise since you need to make them comfortable that you are employable and your goals are realistic

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:47pm

ambitious

“Elections are a futures market for stolen property”
Feb 25, 2018 - 11:48pm

2 Ways To Make Your B-School Applications Easier (Originally Posted: 06/14/2012)

I recently read an NPR article that talks about how colleges fight for top students by offering merit-scholarships to students that would otherwise attend other institutions. This "discount" is then made up for by the students that end up paying full price. This makes sense, and in the end, a school is really just a business that makes decisions that maximize its brand value. There is really no point in offering someone money for something that they would have done anyways. Similarly, knowing who to offer money and how much to offer to get them to choose your school over another is definitely a practice that takes place.

This got me to thinking about b-schools (something that I have been doing a lot lately). Schools are competing with each other for top talent just like students are competing with each other for spots at the top programs. In reality, potential students waiting around for acceptances/denials are not all that different from admissions committees waiting around to see who will accept/deny their admissions offers. Although the advantage is definitely in the schools' favor because there are way more applicants than there are top MBA programs, this led me to two seemingly important realizations:

1. You can not discount the importance of "fit" in the applications process.

If after reading your application, the admissions committee is not convinced that you would accept an admissions offer, you probably will not get in (unless you are a "top choice admit" in which case you might get in anyways). If you are on the bubble, you might be lucky enough to get waitlisted at which point it would probably be in your best interest to do some convincing.

I think that the best way to address this issue is in the essays and by visiting the school. Many schools give you a chance to address why them in a specific question, or in the "optional" additional information essay. I also think it is a good idea to visit the school because I doubt that many people would waste the time and money visiting a school that they do not intend to go to – I am also willing to bet that admissions committees are cognizant of this fact.

2. It will probably make your applications process much less stressful if you realize that schools want good students just as bad as students want to get in to the best programs.

Schools are businesses that are fighting over students that will add value to their brands. Increasing their statistics (GMAT, GPA, percent employed after graduation) and increasing diversity with respect to ethnicities, countries represented, and backgrounds, are all things that schools can brag about, and if you bring a combination of these attributes to the table, they can and will want you.

Just some thoughts as I put off starting on my applications and ponder ways to convince myself that this whole process will be easier than I have built it up to be in my mind. Tune in next week for the latest on my path to conquering the MBA admissions game.

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:49pm

Amazing points, and so true.

I do admissions consulting on the side and I did that Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School last summer. The program coordinators are admission directors to HBS, so I got pretty good exposure to them. They said point blank that people overrate the GMAT because it's the only objective way for people to measure themselves, when admission officers themselves only use it to reject people, not accept them.

Admissions are also relative to the types of applicants as well. Finance people compete against each other; non-profit people compete against each other.

Admittingly, HBS is known to care less about the GMAT than say...Wharton or NYU. However, the thoughts on this thread are true for every college.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

If you come in with the similar IB>PE>MBA>PE story or IB>MBA>PE>Microfinance story, you're a commodity. But if you really define your story, then you can show your uniqueness.

And in order to define your story, you have to do what you're intrinsically passionate about and pursue it. It makes your essays easier because...well, hey...you're not bullshitting anymore. You're doing real talk.

And if IB>MBA>PE is your actual intrinsic passion, you won't have a hard time conveying it in your essays. Just let it rip.

You're not a commodity. You're the gem that admission officers want. Treat your application and yourself that way. Demonstrate it.

When the OP said "fit" another way to think of it is "differentiation."

Feb 25, 2018 - 11:50pm
Xepa:
Amazing points, and so true.

I do admissions consulting on the side and I did that Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School last summer. The program coordinators are admission directors to HBS, so I got pretty good exposure to them. They said point blank that people overrate the GMAT because it's the only objective way for people to measure themselves, when admission officers themselves only use it to reject people, not accept them.

Admissions are also relative to the types of applicants as well. Finance people compete against each other; non-profit people compete against each other.

Admittingly, HBS is known to care less about the GMAT than say...Wharton or NYU. However, the thoughts on this thread are true for every college.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

If you come in with the similar IB>PE>MBA>PE story or IB>MBA>PE>Microfinance story, you're a commodity. But if you really define your story, then you can show your uniqueness.

And in order to define your story, you have to do what you're intrinsically passionate about and pursue it. It makes your essays easier because...well, hey...you're not bullshitting anymore. You're doing real talk.

And if IB>MBA>PE is your actual intrinsic passion, you won't have a hard time conveying it in your essays. Just let it rip.

You're not a commodity. You're the gem that admission officers want. Treat your application and yourself that way. Demonstrate it.

When the OP said "fit" another way to think of it is "differentiation."

This is very much true. HBS cares less about the gmat than programs like wharton/sloan/booth/columbia.

I've made this point before; you're indeed competing against people within your demographic and industry background. So for finance, how do you distinguish yourself? I think at the M7, you MUST have either a brand name company on your resume and/or did something outside of finance that makes you stand out and something you're genuinely passionate about. Adcom officers are MASTERS at detecting bullshit on your essays. They read thousands of essays every year, and they are good at figuring out whose story is genuine. My general rule of thumb is this: do NOT enage in an activity that you otherwise would not have done if you weren't applying to b-schools. It will be a waste of your time, and if you write about it in the essays, the lack of passion will clearly show.

Nov 6, 2018 - 12:47am

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