Perfect scores won’t help you get into this B school

Harvard Business School
Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

It's not even November and Harvard has already denied students acceptance to its MBA program.

While it comes as no surprise that about 89 out of every 100 applicants are turned down for admission to Harvard Business School, the true shock is that many of the first round "dings" made by HBS happen to impressive candidates.

According to the business education website, Poets & Quants, around 60 out of those 89 candidates refused admission are highly qualified students who have stellar GMAT scores and extracurricular activities.

The site revealed the profiles of candidates who were rejected before the notoriously competitive, first round of admission interviews. Three out of the applicants who submitted their profiles have "nosebleed-territory" GMAT scores of 780, which would put them in the 99th percentile of test takers in the world. They also boast near-perfect GPAs with extensive accomplishments and professional experience. One of the candidates rejected without an interview listed that he is a Stanford University graduate who manages a strategy team for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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"This case surprises me because not only are the statistics for this person very high, but he is also a rare case of a candidate in the aerospace industry," said Sanford Kreisberg, founder of and an admissions consultant who specializes in Harvard MBA applications. "Aerospace is a recognized, if not beloved, industry at Harvard Business School."

In this instance, Kreisberg speculated that there are several reasons the student was eliminated from the first round of interviews such as a poor written application or an admissions board mistake. Still, Kreisberg explained that with an admissions rate of about 11 percent, Harvard rejects a lot of candidates with high test scores because HBS is looking to build a class of students with a diverse background and varied experience.

"One can squeeze out many reasons, but there will always be head scratchers," said Kreisberg. "This process is really hard."

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