8 dings in 2019 to 4 admits + $250k scholarships in 2020

College Debt

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Jun 16, 2019
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As R2 draws to a close and many well-deserving applicants get disappointing news this admissions cycle, I wanted to emphasize that all is not lost and share my two cents about successfully reapplying in EA/R1 next year.



**Background:**

You can check [this post](https://www.reddit.com/r/MBA/comments/b6s0vr/coursework_to_overcome_low_gpa/) that I made last year.

Tl;dr version: Received 8 dings in R2 despite good professional achievements and 750 GMAT.



**Outcomes in 2020:**

Applied to 7 schools across R1 and R2.

1. Dinged by 2 (M-7 and T-15),
2. WL by 1 (T-20)
3. WL Admit by 1 (T-10) - no scholarship
4. Admitted to 3 (2 T-20s and 1 T-25) - $250k scholarship



**Changes made sequenced by degree of importance (IMO):**

1. **Revise ST and LT goals**: I applied last year with unrealistic goals (VC -- with no pre-MBA background in VC/PE). As an international applicant, it was critical that my goals be super-relevant to my pre-MBA work experience. The job market for internationals is very unfavorable -- roughly 1 out of 5 companies sponsor internationals; schools don't want out-of-work internationals graduating from their programs. I re-aligned my goals (PM in Big Tech) to tie into my pre-MBA work experience (tech start-ups). This made me a less of a liability and gave B-Schools a clear picture of what my career trajectory would look like.
2. **Glowing Letter of Recommendation:** This is atypical; however, as a tech-founder, one of my letters of recommendation came from my ex-co-founder. This doesn't seem super credible. Business schools strongly suggest that recommendations be written by direct supervisors. Since I had only had one direct supervisor till 18/19, my second recommendation had to come from a peer. In 19/20, I took up a new role in a well known, fast growing start-up and sought a recommendation from the CEO (with whom I work directly). I'm sure this added a tonne of credibility.
3. **Promotions and Achievements:** I was promoted *twice in four months* and received an award for being in the Top 1% of the performers in the company. In all, I was able to influence $20MM revenue in about 8 months. Given the context (a well known, growing tech start-up), the number is fairly impressive. This rapid professional rise probably allayed fears that my earlier start-up successes were repeatable and not a fluke.
4. **Application Strategy:** Instead of applying to a random selection of schools in R2 like in 18/19, I applied to 5 schools in R1. The results of that round told me that T-15/20 was more likely to happen instead of M7/T-10. So, I dropped my plans of applying to Haas in R2, and applied to 2 T-20 schools instead. I was admitted with scholarship to both. :)
5. **HBX CORe:** I Graduated with Honors. The program is super-intense, especially if you have a demanding job, so this shows the ad-com that I can manage the rigors of business school. Also - I had an average GPA that I suspect this course help off-set a little bit.
6. **Networking:** I attended every school event that I could and reached out to and connected with 70+ MBA Candidates on LinkedIn. I really got to know the school's values and what it looks for in its admitted students. This helped me better plan my essays and interviews. Further, in my informational interviews, I noticed a pattern of acceptances. For instance, people who received admits from School A were also likely to receive admits from School B and School C. Having been admitted to School A in R1, I applied to Schools B and C in R2; I was admitted to both and received $170K in fellowships!
7. **Rework Optional Essay:** The Optional Essay I wrote in 18/19 (to give context to my grades and choice of recommenders) was stand-offish and could be interpreted as *"making excuses"*. I re-worked this essay, took responsibility for the grades, and demonstrated why it wouldn't repeat. It seems to have worked.

PS. I did **NOT** retake the GMAT. This is what most applicants would have done, given the disappointing outcomes in 18/19. However, if there's anything to be learned from my story, it's that there's much you can change/fix rather than aiming for a 99.9th percentile score. Even with a 770/780, I do feel the outcomes would have been the same as in 18/19 had I not reworked the aforementioned parts of my application.



Hope this helped! Happy to help you consider a re-application strategy - feel free to PM!
 

DOOM Eternal

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Jun 22, 2019
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Yup - over-represented demographic (gender, nationality, education) + unconventional work experience for that demographic. I actually had better luck in R2 over R1/EA. I have a hunch schools WL me in R1/EA to see what other (traditional) applications they received, but I could be wrong.
 

DOOM Eternal

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Jun 22, 2019
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Tech entrepreneurship. Have 1 successful exit and working as a Director at a start-up now, so past experiences do tie in quite well!
 

Wolfenstein

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Jun 22, 2019
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Hey - kudos on this thinking so far ahead! CORe's curriculum is delivered through an online platform through pre-recorded lectures delivered by HBS professors. The platform has case studies, quizzes, experiments, group projects, etc. to promote comprehensive learning. Further, you can interact with 350+ people in your cohort and learn from them through the platform. You would need to complete \~20 hours worth of curriculum each week and take two tests on the concepts studied. You are given extra points for actively engaging with and sharing knowledge with cohort members. After 10 weeks, you are required to write a final exam in a GMAT-like facility; this exam is definitely not a cakewalk, but if you remember what you've learned in the preceding 10 weeks, you should be fine. Overall, it's an intense experience for the 10 weeks, given that most people do this course in addition to their jobs. Out of the 350+ people in my cohort, 30% didn't even finish the 10 weeks - so were ineligible for the final exam. Of the people who took the final exam, 7% Graduated with Honors and 3% Graduated with High Honors - so, if you're in those groups, it does reflect quite well on you!

As for the networking - yes, I typically write cold messages. But it's more than just a "Hey, please help". I find people are more likely to reply when I point out our commonalities first. So, I'll look at someone from my country/school/industry/job function, etc. and say a line or two about our similar backgrounds. Then I'll say why it's pertinent for me to connect with ***them***, over hundreds of others. I've had a 90%+ response rate so it works!
 

Best Student

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Jun 22, 2019
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I had a 640 and was admitted to (and am currently attending) a T20. After I had started attendance and got to talk frankly with the admissions department, they said they obviously do accept people with low GMATs, but they are those that have stellar applications and look like someone who would land an awesome job. My anecdotal advice is this: you get one red flag on your application. You can overcome a bad GMAT, bad GPA, work experience, interview, goals... but often not a combination of either.

At the end of the day, average GMAT is a factor because it affects rankings. The best you can hope for is that the school just enrolled a 750+ applicant, saw your application, and are ok with it averaging out with their goal GMAT.

Definitely try your best to get that score up though. I was working insane hours (military, was in the field a lot), which made studying at work/in my tent absolutely torturous. If I could do it again, I would have used up all my leave and studied full time.