I’m a professional athlete? What are my chances of getting into HBS?

I’m in the process of applying to HBS. I grew up in Russia, emigrated to Toronto, Canada when I was 15.

I graduated from Purdue business school with 3.6 (while being a student-athlete); had internships as a research analyst in Washington and in sales and trading in New York. And currently working part-time with a Sports Agency in Russia in the marketing department… Last year I played professional basketball in France, and signed another contract in Spain for this year. What are my chances of getting in?

While I know that I can bring something very unique to class, am I too out there with perhaps not enough experience or experience that is irrelevant (pro athlete?)  :) Let me know what you think please! Save me the 300 dollar application fee :)


The Harvard MBA says:

Not only is this the first question I’ve received from a professional athlete (a trend that I hope continues–I’ll be happy to jump you to the front of the line, Kobe Bryant!), Natalia also used some very clever tactics to reach out to me (which I will not disclose for fear of triggering a series of copycats).  It just goes to show you that you can stand out by taking a novel approach.

The good news for you, Natalia, is that you have a lot of things going for you.  You’re international, a professional athlete, someone who has worked overseas, and a woman.  In addition, you’ve already proven your ability to handle the academic side of business school by doing well at Purdue, and with your traditional business roles in research and sales & trading.

Provided you can get a decent GMAT score and get some good recommendations, I’d say your $300 will be well spent.

As a side note for everyone else, that is one of the keys to gaining admission–you need to stand out, but you also need to show that you’ll be able to handle the routine work.  If you have an amazing and unusual background, make sure you do something conventional (management consulting, I-banking) to show that you can handle the mundane.  And if you have a mundane background, for goodness sakes, do something to stand out from the crowd.  There are many more people who get an 800 on the GMAT each year than can gain admission to HBS; high test scores and GPAs are necessary but not sufficient.


  1. Tamara Paton
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I had 2 retired pro athletes in my class at Wharton: a WTA-ranked tennis player and a sprinter. Both had participated in the Olympics and other elite competitions.

    Not only did Wharton accept these individuals, they awarded them scholarships. Both students enriched my MBA experience by bringing something unique and exceptional to the class room’s collective perspective.

    I hope this applicant is successful. Just be prepared to be heavily recruited into intramural basketball leagues.

  2. admin
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Good point, Tamara. My class at HBS also had a number of athletes, including Paul Wylie, who won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Men’s Figure Skating. We also had quite a number of former D1 basketball stars (which made the one pickup game where five of us non-D1 guys beat a team with five D1 guys the highlight of my basketball career).

    Athletes are considered an integral part of the desired makeup of the student body.

  3. Ivana
    Posted January 9, 2011 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Hello! What would you consider a decent gmat score? I was/still am a professional athlete and got a gmat score of 620. It is low in comparison to their normal applicants (the darn math). My GPA at Princeton was a 3.1 but last two years were 3.6.

    Nice site btw, from a fellow Asian-American to another.

  4. admin
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink


    HBS doesn’t have an explicit GMAT requirement, but notes that 50% of its incoming class scored between 700 and 740.

    620 seems low, but if everything else makes you a blockbuster candidate, it probably won’t disqualify you.

  5. John
    Posted November 27, 2011 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Hi, I’m an African migrant in Britain and has 2.8 years experience in a major telecoms company in Ghana, a stint in private professional services firm and a couple of internships in Ghana. I finished an undergraduate in business from Ghana with a final GPA of 3.2 with two year’s GPA at or above 3.5. Sadly, no one in my year had a first. I went into student union politics in charge of some 10,000 students. I’ve since
    then moved on to gain a one year MBA
    and a PhD from the University of London. I’ve since been an Asst Professor in Finance at same university. I’m hoping to get into a b-school at 39years and am considering HBS, Wharton, MIT and Stanford. What are my chances with a GMAT of 710 and my rather above average age into any of these schools. What can I do to get me into any of these programmes. I’m actually looking for a scholarship (fellowship) that will allow me to teach for a fee waiver. Thanks and hope you can advise.

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