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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

November 15, 2015

Top of the Ecosystem: Why Top 10 MBA Applicants Should Apply to HBS

Every year I have clients who get rejected from HBS and get admitted to other top MBA programs.  This year has been no different.  One of those who was rejected in R1 and offered an interview at another Top 10 business school asked me if it had been a waste of time to apply to HBS.  I responded:

“I think it was worth a shot for you to apply to HBS. The content you generated out of it helped you with your other essays for other schools. It was always a high risk/high return application. Not getting an invite does not mean it was not worth applying. The nature of this process for any applicant is that it involves rejection. Even those admitted to HBS and Stanford have often been rejected at one or more schools. ”
I wish I had added to my response that HBS is at the top of the US Business School Ecosystem because it consistently has the most applicants, is the biggest program in terms of headcount, has the biggest brand name (Regardless of ranking 1, 7, or whatever by the shifting standards of journalists elected by no one whose statistical survey expertise is at best doubtful), is the most important publisher of case studies, etc.  It does not matter if Stanford is harder to get into, more applicants apply to HBS and more applicants who are admitted to HBS go there than any of the other top MBA programs.  It  is the market leader and is at the top of its ecosystem.
Applicants should assume that those who apply to other top US MBA programs have already or will apply to HBS.  Regardless of what HBS’ essay topic is, more applicants will be writing on it than for any other school.  And since, in recent years,  HBS has given a broad topic that can go in an almost infinite number of directions, taking a broad perspective on the self is what will get reflected in many applicants’ essays.
Therefore my primary attitude about application to HBS is this. If you want to want to go there and have time to make an application, apply.  Even if you think your chances are poor, if you view them as at all viable try it. I know getting rejected is no fun, but if you don’t give it a shot you will never know.
Surely some will say that “MBA Admissions Consultant analyzed my profile or someone just like me and said HBS was not possible.”  One of the reasons I have long rejected doing applicant profile analysis on the fly is that it an act of extreme malpractice because it is based on a false assumption:  A mere smattering of facts as the basis for a prognosis.  Such analysis would have meant that my client admitted to HBS last year with a GMAT below 650 and just a so-so GPA from a not so impressive school should not have gotten in.  Almost every year I have clients like that admitted to HBS and other top programs. What mattered were not the numbers or some basic facts but the whole person.  Now it is the case that the particular client I mentioned had a very powerful story and experiences, but to get to those would require a relatively high level of knowledge about the applicant. That is why my intake form is a pain to fill out because I ask for a lot of inform ation. That is why I conduct initial consultations before working with clients on a comprehensive basis.  And even then, when asked to make a prognosis about results, I am humble enough to know that I don’t own a crystal ball. It is understandable that applicants want to know the outcome prior to application, but the reality is that until the race is run, no one knows the outcome.

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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