What a Harvard MBA Rejection Letter Looks Like and What to Expect If You Receive an Invitation

Thousands of applicants for the first round of the Harvard Business School MBA program received this notice yesterday

The email is simple and straightforward, with a subject header that simply reads: “HBS Decision Available Online”.

I am sorry that we cannot offer you a place in the MBA class of 2024.

Each year, we receive about ten applications for each place in the class. While we’re happy that so many talented people want to be students here, the numbers make decisions very difficult. As we form a class of students with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives, we must turn down many qualified applicants.

Thank you very much for your interest in Harvard Business School. We wish you success and happiness in your progress.


Chad Lost

General Manager, MBA Admissions and Financial Aid

“Why does it hurt so much? “

Yesterday was stocktaking day for many HBS first round contenders who received this succinct letter from Losee. By any reasonable estimate, thousands of applicants have received this letter, with no idea why they failed to qualify. An exasperated white man who brought a 770 GMAT to his candidacy said, “No idea, it could be a million different things. To quote Dwight Schrute: “Not everything is a lesson Ryan, sometimes you fail.”

Whatever the reason or lesson from The Office TV series, just knowing the answer is ‘no’ hardly takes away the disappointment or the pain. As another angry contestant asked on Reddit, “Why does it hurt so bad?” ”

Another candidate said it differently. “Honestly, I don’t care,” he wrote. “I knew 99.99% that I would not participate, I only applied to get my shot. I know that I will be successful regardless of HBS and that is really their downfall. The rest of our apps will be fine!


Along with these rejections, of course, invitations came for an interview with Harvard admissions staff. With a 770 GMAT and a 4.0 GPA, an Indian who works as a director at a unicorn startup shared his good news of an invitation as well as a thoughtful point of view on social media.

“If there’s one piece of advice I can give you: overwork everyone. I spent months studying for the GMAT and wasn’t going to stop until I got a 750+ (770 was attempt 2). I spent 10 hours / day for 2 months on applications for 5 schools because the story had to be clear and consistent. Now, before I even received the invitation, I began to prepare my room for the call. I have a DSLR camera, lights, a clean background.

“In my mind, the application process is as much about what you want as it is about what you have accomplished. The application process is a signal to the school: if he is so invested now, imagine what he will do once he enters! Just as an MBA is a signal for a future employer: if he takes on $ 200,000 in debt to impress me, imagine what he will do once hired!


In the meantime, for those invited to interview, the preparation work begins now. Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, points out that once again there will be no in-person interview sessions due to the lingering impact of the pandemic. “The format is all video, so make sure anything that might be offensive on your wall is out of camera range,” he says. “Clean your house and put on pants.” But the facts of life from HBS interviews have not changed. The purpose of the HBS interview is to miss people, not to find superstars.

“They want to see if you:

1. Can speak English well enough for a class of case method
2. Are otherwise obnoxious, boring, unwilling to sit next to each other, physically repulsive, smart pants, or just not their type – a wide range of behaviors and presentation styles that they will never fully articulate, because many are illegal, unfair, prejudiced, random and deeply subjective.
“In a sense, they want you to dramatically spoil the interview, so they ring you with a free conscience.”


How not to blow up your HBS interview
The Inside Skinny on Harvard Business School Admission Interviews

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