Yes, little snowflake, everyone in the world is unique… yet Harvard and Stanford only accept those who show themselves as exceptional. With many rounds of essay revision, and even more cycles of introspection and reflection, this BSer ended up in the enviable position of multiple admits.
We’ll let them tell the story:
I applied to the GSB in the fall of 2014 (R1) and was waitlisted and then released when R2 decisions were announced. I re-applied in the fall of 2015 (R2) and was accepted into the Class of 2018.
So what changed?
To be honest, not much. I had decent GPA/GMAT scores so I didn’t retake. I worked at the same company, and I committed to the same volunteer and activities that I had been passionate about outside of work. [Well…. this we actually take issue with. While it’s true that THE OUTSIDE had not changed, this applicant took a totally different approach with the essays and what they shared; the inside that was revealed in the application the second time around was much, much different. -ES]
But then again, a lot did change. I was promoted for doing good work and led a critical project at work; I was elected to serve a much bigger volunteer role, and I made remarkable progress in the hobbies I pursued (btw, my hobby relates to my long term career goal).[All good improvements for a reapplicant, but we are highly skeptical that these are the factors that contributed to a different decision this year. -ES]
This second time round, the real difference was that I had one more year under my belt, and I was lucky that many things I enjoyed doing offered me experiences that I previously wasn’t able to contemplate on, and stories that I previously wasn’t able to share. These moments were invaluable gateways for me to venture into the past to draw out the answer to the “what matters most” essay, and they were equally important as I looked forward to crystalize what I intended to do post-GSB (i.e. career goals). [The second time around, you took a different approach to the essays. You were much more authentic this time. -ES]
I did not apply for R1 for I was tied down by work commitment. Also, I had other commitments outside of work that required my attention and time. I didn’t want to do things so I could add them to my resume. I wanted to do things that resonated with my beliefs and aspirations. When I was fully immersed in those experiences, I discovered more about myself and saw a path to the future and why an MBA was needed at this time of my life. But again, I’m not saying that everyone should wait to apply for R2. R2 made the most sense for me, and that was what I did. To say this in another way, I didn’t reinvent myself within this extra year – keep doing good work and follow through on my commitments, and good things came my way. Of course, I did a lot more self-reflection on many things as a result.
I came to ES for a GSB application sanity check, and was blown away by the feedback I received. It was a multi-page write up (single-line) with pros and cons specifically outlined. The comments were very direct. I loved it. ES is not for everyone, and it is important to exercise judgement on what we do with those feedback. I didn’t agree with everything ES wrote about my application assessment. However, they offered much great advice on resume, essay, positioning, recommender strategy, etc., and I took them to heart as I refined my application. In hindsight, would I be able to get accepted to GSB without ES’ help? Probably not. But was ES the reason why I got in? Probably not either. [Totally agree with this assessment. -ES]
The GSB application is one that requires significant reflection – not just on our story, our career goal, but also on OTHER people’s feedback. No one knows us better than ourselves, so be grateful of the advice we receive, but be very mindful on how we utilize those feedback.
Finally, I was in an extremely lucky position when both GSB and HBS offered me a spot in their class. [FWIW, we did do a full Essay Decimator cycle with this BSer on their HBS essay and also the resume. -ES] And here is my very short explanation on my decision to enroll at the GSB…
To ME (others might not agree with my assessment, but this is how I view the two programs):
HBS offers unparalleled resources and network to accelerate an “external -> internal” transformation;
GSB offers remarkable diversity and flexibility to induce an “internal -> external” transcendence.
I am a touchy-feely person and I chose the GSB to intentionally embark on a more spiritual journey for the next two years. But really, no one could go wrong with attending either schools. At the end of the day, our life is measured by what we leave behind, not what degree we once hold.
And good luck to you! Definitely inspiring to see that yes, people do make it into these schools as reapplicants. Thank you for sharing your story with us and for offering those insights along the way. Not surprised at all to know that you ended up choosing Stanford, given what you shared with us while helping you with your strategy. Exciting stuff – maybe you’ll touch base with us again at some point in the future to let us know how it goes! You’re going to love it. (Obviously, right guys? :-D)