How an HBS Re-Applicant Made Sure That She Got In This Year

Putting in the time and effort to apply to top tier schools only to be rejected across the board is extremely disappointing. For many people, this defeat leads them to give up on business school completely. However, with hard work and a good strategy, in many cases it’s worth it to reapply. To illustrate how it works (and provide some inspiration!), in this post we’re providing a case study on a client who came to us this past year after she had been rejected from several top schools the year before.

From our initial conversations with Callie, we could tell that she was a compelling candidate with a decent shot at the top tier programs:  her test scores were below the average but in range, her GPA was in-line with the average for the top tier schools, and she had both interesting goals and strong work experience. Of course, like most applicants, she did have some hurdles to overcome:  her quant score on the GMAT was significantly under the threshold you’d want to see, and she was quite a bit older than the average candidate for most top programs (especially HBS). However, what really struck us as a selling point for her was her personal story as well as the articulate and inspiring way that she explained her goals and the story behind them. A good story can overcome almost anything else, so we recommended that she go ahead and reapply to HBS among other top programs.

After reviewing Callie’s previous applications, Callie’s VP consultant, Katherine, guided her through the process of approaching the applications differently this year; and through Callie’s hard work and a new application strategy, she was accepted to not only HBS but also several other top programs including Haas and MIT.

So, how did she do it:

  • Mitigated GMAT Quant Score: We always recommend that applicants directly address ANY potential weakness in his/her application. In her previous application, Callie had left it up to the adcom reader to try and determine whether her quant score was a real indicator of her ability. Not wanting to leave much room for assumption, Katherine recommended that Callie take an online course and note her scores in her application as a better indication of her quantitative skills than her GMAT score.
  • Linked Personal Story, Passions and Goals:  In her previous essays, Callie had rightly recognized that her personal story was compelling, but the way that she laid it out led one to view it as overly negative and lacking any link to the rest of her story or goals. Katherine helped Callie determine how to link her personal story and passions to what drove her interest in her long term goals and then communicate her story in a more effective way (eg. for a skimming audience who won’t take the time to read and re-read themes that aren’t clear).  And ultimately, after many iterations and reworks, her overall story became more clear and easy to follow (and be inspired by!) This strategy was critical not only for writing strong essays but also for mitigating the age factor:  given where she was in her career, she needed to be more clear about her desired path forward so the adcom could see clearly that an MBA made sense for her.
  • Gained a Promotion: Callie worked hard and was offered a promotion between the time she applied last year and this year, which she accepted. This promotion included an overseas assignment and significant increases in responsibility (ie. more leadership stories!)
  • Took On Meaningful Community Leadership:  Callie seized an opportunity to share her passion for diversity and inclusion with her local community and took on a significant and impressive extracurricular leadership role. This experience served to augment her application and further reinforced what motivated her.

Her scores didn’t change; neither did her industry or goals. However, the way that she positioned herself changed dramatically as Callie was able to connect the dots for the adcom so that they could see her full story and get a feel for the type of person that she is (motivated, passionate and out to change the world!) In addition, the promotion and extracurricular leadership opportunities were vital – in the year between her application decisions and starting the process again, she made great use of her time and was able to gain great leadership experience, which is the backbone of any great application.

We’re very excited for Callie and hope that her story inspires others who are wondering if reapplying is truly worth all of the effort!

As always, we’re happy to chat if you have questions about how you could use a similar strategy:  www.vantagepointmba.com.

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