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Successful HBS Reapp (and multiple GMAT Attempts!)

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GMAT 1: 750 Q48 V44
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Successful HBS Reapp (and multiple GMAT Attempts!) [#permalink]

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New post 09 Jan 2018, 13:50
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After getting so much out of these forums during my GMAT prep process and the application process, I wanted to share my experience in the hope that others might find bits and pieces useful and encouraging.

A little background
I come from a very “traditional” background and bschool was always on my radar, though I didn’t always know what I wanted to do with it. I knew I had the raw materials in terms of solid GPA, top undergrad, well-known employers, etc. But I went through a 5-month process during which I took the GMAT multiple times to achieve my desired score. I then applied last year, was rejected without interview at H/S, and re-applied this year. I was ultimately accepted to HBS and a few other schools, and am very happy things worked out this way (yes, I really do believe there was an important lesson in all of this and am glad that it took me an extra year).

GMAT process
My struggle with the GMAT was mostly on quant, and I think the GMAT may have been the most demoralizing part of the whole process for me (more so than getting rejected the first time I applied!) The first time I took the GMAT, I scored above 700, but decided to retake because my quant and verbal were very, very lopsided, and I bombed my IR (completely messed up the timing). Had I achieved a more balanced score, I would have left that score alone. I focused exclusively on quant and IR, and retook the test, only to mess up the timing generally and emerge with a LOWER score. It was really, really frustrating to put so much time in and come out with a lower score.

The turning point for me with the GMAT was being really honest with myself when I didn’t understand why I’d made a mistake. With the stress of working full-time and studying several hours each night, it was easy to gloss over little mistakes or tell myself “I got it, I’ll nail the concept the next time,” but I was often just fooling myself to feel like I was making progress. Before my final GMAT attempt, I became obsessive about not moving on until I 100% understood my mistake and could re-approach the problem correctly, and that honest mindset was frankly the key to hitting my target score in the end.

Application process

The first time I applied, I made some key mistakes:
• I was so focused on GMAT score that I didn’t start writing my essays until too late in the process.
• The essays were fine and might have worked in other circumstances, but were over-complicated, and didn’t allow my authentic voice to come through.
• I managed my recommenders and got good recommendations, but they weren’t over-the-moon.
• I didn’t do a good enough job of threading the needle through my entire “narrative” and might have left a question mark here or there, and that was enough to give admissions pause

The second time I applied, these were the game changers

• I wrote essays that weren’t particularly exciting, but very authentic. I was able to talk about how personal and professional events in the previous year since the first time I applied shaped the way I viewed my work, industry, and my long-term goals. Most importantly, I KEPT IT SIMPLE. My materials last time were too convoluted, and keeping things simple, true to myself, and convoluted definitely allowed me to tell my story better.
• One recommender from the previous year rewrote my rec and really put it much more vividly why I was not only great (this is not enough), but truly better than the rest of the field in this person’s opinion. I then got a completely different recommender that I hadn’t asked for a rec the previous year to provide a fresh perspective. This person wasn’t initially top of mind for me before I hadn’t been in touch with him in a while, but really came through for me. How your recommender handles deadlines, their interest in engaging with you about your application and motivations, etc. says a lot, and I would definitely say that if you feel like you're being met by radio silence, flakiness, or a general lack of interest, don't be afraid to be super proactive about managing that or even switch recommenders.
• I got a promotion at work that not only demonstrated a rise in seniority, but also a significantly expanded scope of responsibilities. I also did a better job of highlighting the significance of this promotion and how I stood out relative to my peers (this context was not well executed the first time)
• I did a better job of explaining my work transitions
• All of this was in large part possible because I worked with a fantastic consultant, Alice Van Harten of Menlo Coaching. You can read my review of her services here: ... l#p1987160

They say that everything happens for a reason, something I thought I totally believed in until I was rejected without interview the first time I applied and proceeded to question what the “reason” was exactly. Obviously, MBA admissions is super competitive, but it was very demoralizing to put in so much work and be turned down so early in the process.

I’m now grateful for this prolonged application period because:

• I was able to make a greater impact at work and have a truly formative year in my job that I believe will fundamentally shape the way I think and act as a leader in the future, and would not have had this experience otherwise
• I was able to reflect much more deeply on my motivations for getting an MBA and really 150% believe that it was the right choice for me
• I had the opportunity to discover my own resilience. This was one of my first true “failures” (and let’s be real, it pales in comparison to real adversities that people face) and it was both humbling and very educational
• I discovered the importance of regular gratitude for those who support and encourage you, and that much more of our success is attributable to others and sheer luck than the hard work and personal capabilities that typical individualistic success narratives would have us believe

So for GMATClub-ers who might not receive the best news this admissions cycle – there is hope. It’s important to be realistic about your candidacy and your chances of success as a re-applicant (and I definitely got multiple "second opinions" here), but if you are realistic, determined, and open-minded about taking a new approach, re-applying might be a good option for you. Don’t lose hope! And remember, everything happens for a reason :)
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Re: Successful HBS Reapp (and multiple GMAT Attempts!) [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jan 2018, 23:55
Congratulations on HBS admit and thanks very much for taking time to share your application experience with others. Your re-application process was well planned - analysing earlier applications, identifying weaknesses, and addressing them in proper way. I am sure the strategies you applied - making essays simple yet authentic, changing one of your earlier recommenders, highlighting the recent promotion - would greatly help other re-applicants in making effective strategy for their applications. Another takeaway from your story is to take GMAT exam in time so that you get sufficient time to work on application essays, which are also equally important.

One thing I was looking in your debrief was your post MBA plans and what impact you see HBS making on your post MBA aspirations. Would greatly appreciate if you could elaborate on this.

Thanks again and wishing you wonderful MBA journey at HBS!

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Re: Successful HBS Reapp (and multiple GMAT Attempts!)   [#permalink] 11 Jan 2018, 23:55
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