Do I have any chance of getting into HBS being 180° away from the typical applicant? Am I too different?

I’m the polar opposite of the typical HBS applicant. My undergrad GPA wasn’t great and my degree is from the Harvard of contemporary music – Berklee. I’m 39, a woman and have vast entertainment industry experience working on records & films that people have actually heard of. I know HBS wants diversity throughout the student body, but do I have any chance of getting in being 180° away from the typical applicant? What admission strategy would you recommend for someone like me? I’ve never worked in a corporate environment. Am I too different?

The Harvard MBA says:

Dear Jen,

You’re not too different.  In fact, those differences may actually help you win admission to HBS.

As I’ve noted before,  business schools aren’t actually looking for “typical” candidates and the quest for “diversity” has ruthless economic logic underlying it:

Business schools are in the business of building the best possible portfolio of students (or as I like to refer to them, “future alumni donors).  Like any investor, they prefer a diversified portfolio, and will allocate some portion of their investment (acceptance letters) to “alternate asset classes.”

Even better, while your business experience is unusual, it is still business experience, which makes it highly relevant to class discussions.  That means that you’re a low-risk alternate asset class–something that would probably be very attractive to an admissions officer.

As for your age, as I’ve noted in a recent answer,  while the average age of students entering an MBA program is somewhere around 27, it’s not unusual to see students in their 30s or even 40s.  If you’re open to new experiences (which it certainly sounds like you are), you’ll do fine.


  1. Wha?
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    — and it certainly sounds like you are —

  2. Krishna
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I am Krishna Prasad from India-Bangalore and I have secured 44% in Bachelor of science and 65% in Master of Science. I would like to know if I perform well in GMAT with a high score and all the required criteria will I get admissions in your university.I am confused in calculating GPA and hence I have declared by result in percentage.Thank you

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