Overcoming the Odds

Thousands of couples apply to business school every year, with the hope of getting accepted together, and the sad reality is that very few are. We are one of the lucky few were accepted into 2 great schools, 5 minutes from each other – MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School.

We decided to apply in late November, with applications due in early January. Knowing we had just 1 month to finish our applications, and wanting to put in enough time to create a quality application, we decided to each apply to just one school to maximize our chances of getting accepted. We knew that the odds were against us. HBS’ acceptance rate was 12% and MIT Sloan’s was 15%, so the chance of us both getting in was 1.8%. To be honest, with our limited time, we didn’t think we would. But amazingly, we did. And we owe it to the framework explained in this guide.

At this point, you might be thinking we had stellar undergraduate grades, were rockstars at our jobs, or scored a 780 on our GMATs, but the truth is that our profiles (at least on paper) were obstacles that we had to overcome:

Roger’s Profile

  • Asian Male
  • Finance Background
  • Computer Science Major
  • 710 GMAT

Jennifer’s Profile

  • Asian female
  • International Relations Major
  • Mediocre grades
  • Limited career progression

On paper, there was very little that made Roger stand out, and we knew that HBS received thousands of applicants with this exact same profile. To make things worse, Roger also had to apply confidentially, so he couldn’t get a recommendation from the firm he was currently working at.

Compared to Roger, Jennifer had the opposite problem. With a very non-quantitative background, and an 80th percentile GMAT math score, Jennifer was a very unique (to put nicely) candidate for MIT Sloan, which is one of the most analytical and quantitative MBA programs in the world.

How We Did It

So how did we, against such heavy odds, get accepted into HBS and MIT Sloan? The key was talking to those who were in-the-know. We received a proprietary guide given to a friend who attended HBS from a prestigious private equity firm. Firms like his hired dedicated in-house MBA admissions experts whose sole job was to get employees into the top MBA programs year after year. When we saw the guide, it was immediately clear to us how little we knew compared to the insiders.

One year later, all 8 of the friends we had shared the guide with were accepted into one of their top 2 schools. It was then that we realized if there were ever such thing as a formula for getting into a top business school, we had it.

Beyond reading the guide, we also reached out to friends, friends of friends, and alumni who had attended one of these two MBA programs to understand how they each crafted their application to get accepted.

After talking to all of these people, we began to recognize some strong commonalities and consistent themes across successful business school applications, which were reinforced by the guide used by one of the top MBA program feeder firms.

After getting accepted into business school, we knew that we had to preserve all of the valuable information that we had gathered, so we decided to compile all of our learnings into a 65-page document that we could share with friends applying to business school. One year later, all 8 of the friends we had shared the guide with were accepted into one of their top 2 schools. It was then that we realized if there were ever such thing as a formula for getting into a top business school, we had it.

Over the last few years, we have continued to reach out to students, alumni, and admissions consultants to further build on and verify the original framework. The guide as it is today is an aggregate of the admissions insights, strategies, and techniques that we have gathered from interviewing nearly 120 alumni, over 200 fellow classmates, and the tried-and-true strategies that HBS and Stanford GSB feeder firms use. Read some of our success stories here.