HBS and Stanford GSB Dual Admit Success Story

HBS and Stanford GSB Dual Admit Success Story

Key Takeaways

  • Earning the title of dual admit from HBS and Stanford GSB doesn’t take a perfect candidate profile.
  • Julie’s success illustrates the importance of a personalized approach in MBA applications. Working with a Vantage Point MBA admissions consultant helped her tailor her narrative, refine her essays, and choose recommenders wisely – all of which contributed to her outcome.
  • Developing a compelling application involved deep introspection to define Julie’s brand and future ambitions.
  • Julie’s iterative process of essay writing and rigorous mock interviews tailored to each school were critical to getting accepted.
  • Applying to top MBA programs is intense and complex but expert guidance and preparation can significantly enhance a candidate’s chances of admission.

In 2023, Harvard Business School (HBS) and Stanford GSB received a combined 14,339 applications. Amongst those, 120-150* applicants were fortunate enough to claim the coveted “dual admit” title. In other words, they were accepted to both HBS and the GSB.

If you’re applying to those two MBA programs, which more than half of Vantage Point’s clients are, you likely want to know what those 120-150 applicants did right.

How did they successfully overcome the impossibly low acceptance rates at not one but two top MBA programs?

And how can I replicate their success?

Every applicant’s story and journey are different but, in this article, I’m going to lift the veil on one successful dual admit’s process. My goal is to invite you behind the scenes so you too can be inspired to shoot for your dream MBA programs – and see how a Vantage Point MBA admissions consultant can be a vital part of your success.

Client’s Profile Overview: Meet Julie**

I first met Julie in May 2023 when she was still studying for the GMAT but knew she needed to get the ball rolling on her applications for the Round 1 deadlines. She dreamed of attending either Stanford GSB or HBS but wasn’t sure if those schools were within reach for her.

Here are the topics we discussed during our initial call:

  • Undergrad: A top public university, Applied Mathematics major
  • Undergrad GPA: 3.4
  • Work Experience: 4 years upon submitting her application; 5 years upon matriculation. 3 years of boutique consulting (specific industry focus), followed by 1+ year at a leading media & entertainment company. Her career was marked by formal promotions at each company.
  • GMAT: TBD at the time but she took it in the summer and scored a 760.
  • Extra-Curriculars: Very strong with multiple examples of leadership and impact. Her extra-curriculars also lined up closely with her post-MBA goals.
  • Why MBA? Julie was passionate about the industry she worked in but wanted an MBA to shore up her business acumen (since she did not have a business education in undergrad) and accelerate her leadership trajectory. She also cared deeply about inclusivity and her non-profit work. So, she wanted to learn best practices for applying those values in a corporate setting to help others.

I assured her that her profile was competitive – not because I wanted to make her feel good but because I truly believed it. She took a few days to think it over and I was honored when she sent me an email sharing her decision to place her trust in me.

Why She Chose to Work With Me

I always like to ask my clients what sealed the deal on their decision to work with me. And here’s what she said:

“I was not super familiar with the application/interview process and had heard from people that consultants were helpful. Within minutes of my introduction call with Melody, I knew that I had to work with her. It was very clear that she was knowledgeable, organized, and a great person…

I was also a bit nervous going into the MBA process because I did not come from an Ivy League undergrad or a traditional business major. After college, I did not pursue investment banking, finance, etc, which made me feel I was at a strong disadvantage when I decided I wanted to get an MBA. Melody completely calmed my nerves, told me why I was a great candidate, and gave me the confidence I needed for this journey.” 

Developing Julie’s Story & Post-MBA Goals

While Julie was still studying for the GMAT, I recommended that we get started on developing her narrative and defining her post-MBA goals since that process takes time and self-reflection. It can’t be rushed and it’s the foundation of any MBA application.

Vantage Point has a proprietary exercise to guide our clients’ introspection but the “aha” moments typically happen during our coaching calls. In Julie’s case, over 4-5 conversations, we landed in a great place that defined her “brand” as a fearless leader determined to profitably increase diverse and inclusive narratives in content (TV, movies, etc.)

Another aspect of her story I wanted her to tackle head-on was “why MBA”. This was particularly important since she already had a track record of success in her desired industry. And here’s the rationale she landed on:

“In addition to teaching me the standard management skills to grow a company, an MBA also will allow me to look at all perspectives to make the best decisions. Many of the leaders I Iook up to have an MBA and there is weight given to those that have the degree. Furthermore, the education trained these leaders to dream big, stay innovative, and think outside of the box. Melody asked me all of the right questions to ensure the schools I was looking at were those that fit my specific goals and dreams.”

Teeing up Julie’s Resume, Letters of Recommendation, and School Research Plan

Once Julie had enough clarity on her story, we got to work on her resume. I typically recommend tackling the resume first and then revisiting it 2-3 weeks before the deadlines to add any recent developments. Julie’s resume was pretty strong to start with but we spent some time changing the formatting, editing her bullet points to showcase leadership and impact, and prioritizing her extra-curriculars since she had more content than would fit on one page. In addition, since her GPA was below average for her target schools, we wanted to emphasize evidence of analytical skills.

Letters of recommendation were another area of concern for Julie since they felt more out of her control. She also wasn’t sure who the best individuals would be to write her recommendations. Together, we aligned on the two best recommenders (one of which was very non-traditional) and worked out a timeline that gave her comfort and gave them plenty of advance notice.

When it came to school selection and research, Julie wanted to make sure she could learn everything she possibly could about each program. After we agreed that she would add Wharton to her list of target programs, she registered for events on the schools’ websites. But when she found that school information sessions, while a helpful starting point, only scratched the surface, I shared a better game plan. Here’s how she describes it:

“Melody was amazing and created a list of student-run clubs and current students with similar experience that I could reach out to. This way, I could get a personal taste of the schools and learn/decide how the schools could allow me to achieve my goals.”

Tackling The Essays

Once we had built a solid foundation for her applications, we tackled the essays, starting with HBS. My process for essay development is very structured. I started by asking her to read our proprietary HBS essay analysis & framework and jot down her thought-starters. Then, we met over several calls to workshop her ideas and align on her key stories. From there, she developed an outline that she sent me for review. We iterated on the outline 2-3 times before I gave her the green light to write a first draft. With each draft, she sent me a clean version, I would review and mark it up, and send it back to her to make the changes. And the process repeated itself until we were both satisfied with the final version. We began Stanford’s essays a few weeks later.

Required Essay

For Julie, one thing that was initially difficult to get comfortable with was writing about a deeply personal experience from college that shaped her. The experience was actually the theme of her HBS essay but it took courage and vulnerability to talk about, let alone write about. It would have been far easier for her to write about all of her impressive professional achievements. But I firmly believe she would have had a different outcome if she’d taken that approach.

Getting there was iterative, though. We worked through 14 versions of her essays, and the final draft was unrecognizable from the first. That’s how much she fine-tuned her writing to make sure every word counted. And I was there providing feedback and recommendations on every version.

Optional Essay

Lastly, we decided that Julie should write a brief optional essay to address her undergrad GPA. While she pursued a rigorous major, we didn’t want to leave anything to question. In her optional essay, we focused on the facts / circumstances surrounding her GPA and then provided specific mitigating evidence from her more recent past.

Going Through the Final Vetting

Before our clients click “submit” on their applications, they receive additional expert input on their packages. This input comes in the form of a School Specialist Review (completed by a school expert, typically also an alum) and an Adom Trial Run (completed by a former admissions director).

Julie made sure to leave plenty of time before the deadlines (3+ weeks, in her case) to receive that feedback. She then worked with me to incorporate it. In the case of both her HBS and Stanford GSB applications, we went through 3-4 more iterations of her essays to fine tune her stories and ensure they reflected each school’s unique values.

Preparing for Interviews

The timing of interview prep is a little tricky. While HBS announces all interview invitations on one day, the GSB sends them out on a rolling basis. But Julie was proactive. Besides taking a week “breather” after she submitted her GSB application, she wanted to keep her foot on the gas.

Julie’s preparation involved several calls with me where we discussed the interview process at each school. I then gave Julie a list of sample questions she could expect for each school. She wrote down notes for each answer and I provided feedback on those answers.

A few weeks later, when her interview invitations came (GSB was first), we very quickly scheduled mock interviews together as well as with other members of my team to simulate the “blind” interview experience.

Here’s what Julie had to say about interview prep:

“Melody made sure I felt confident and prepared going into the interviews. Since the interview structures are very different school to school, it was incredibly helpful to mock interview with her and members of her team. She ultimately made me feel comfortable going into a room where they could ask me anything, which I thought was so helpful… What I realized after the interviews was that they truly just wanted to get to know me and how I thought, which felt comforting.”

Receiving Good News: She’s an HBS and Stanford GSB Dual Admit!

I was very confident in Julie’s chances at both MBA programs – although I’ve been in this business long enough to know there are always surprises. But when she called me out of the blue on each school’s decision day to share the great news – she was accepted! – I was giddy. She had truly given this process her all. Nothing gives me more joy than to see all that hard work pay off. She was over the moon excited to be an HBS and Stanford GSB dual admit!

But once reality set in, she had a tough, but certainly enviable, choice to make:

“I found the schools to both be incredible. Harvard was corporate-focused and great for management training. The students were very diverse across all the major industries and big companies. Stanford meanwhile was more focused on entrepreneurship, technology, and personalizing your experience through learning (e.g., you can take classes at the different schools).”

And of course, I was there every step of the way to guide her in making the best possible decision for her:

“Even though Melody had no obligation to help me, she still was offering to discuss if I needed to talk through my decision-making process with anyone. She truly is invested in you as a human.”

So, where is Julie going in the fall? HBS!

Feedback and Advice for Future Applicants

As you can see from the journey above, Julie and I were true partners in the application process. Although she owned her application, I was right there beside her to guide her, challenge her, and encourage her. And provide lots and lots of feedback.

But what does Julie have to say about the biggest value-add of working with a consultant?

“I could not recommend Melody enough – she is amazing! In addition to being an incredible consultant and extremely professional, she is so kind, reliable, and genuinely wants your success and happiness. She is a great person to talk to and a phenomenal human being. It was a pleasure to spend the time I got to with her, and I can’t thank her enough for her help and keeping me calm during this time.”

To Julie, I say it was an honor and a pleasure to help you become an HBS and Stanford GSB dual admit. I don’t take the trust our clients place in us lightly and I’m thrilled to share in your success.

I caught up with Julie recently and asked her a final question: What advice do you have for others who are about to begin the MBA application process? 

“To not get in your head and to work on taking care of yourself through the process. Ultimately, they will evaluate you as a whole, not based on what you might perceive as your “weaknesses”. I found myself to be my own worst enemy and saw that I thought the most clearly in the moments I believed in myself and stopped trying to compare to others. Melody was so encouraging and helped remind me of my worth.” 

As you can see, it doesn’t take a perfect profile to become an HBS and Stanford GSB dual admit. But it does take discipline, resilience, and the right strategy.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you get accepted to your dream schools (including HBS and Stanford GSB), you can schedule a call with a member of my superstar team by completing the request form linked here. We’re excited to meet you!

* Based on estimates previously published by P&Q and the fact that this year’s “Dual Admit” WhatsApp group has 98 members as of the publication of this article.

** Name changed for privacy purposes.

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