Should Everyone Apply to Harvard?

A few years ago, I was sitting in a room discussing MBA applications with some consulting peers.  At the time, I had not yet decided to go to business school, but most of the others already had and were in the process of applying.  One comment struck me with intrigue:

“Everyone should apply to Harvard.”

The reasoning?

The Harvard brand is the best in the world.  Despite what any ranking or article may tell you, a Harvard MBA will do more for your career than any other school can.  It might be hard to get into, but everyone has a shot.  They have a class size of nearly 1,000 and people have even scored in the 500s and gotten into Harvard.

I didn’t necessarily agree with all of his comments, but I definitely understood his point.  And it got me thinking about my application process.  Now, I’m well into the 80th percentile in GMAT scores and GPA for Harvard (and thus, most other schools as well).  But I’ve noticed on forums and blogs that a number of well-qualified applicants ignore Harvard completely in their application attempts.  Some people have said they simply don’t want to go there and have to use the case method for their classes.  Others feel it’s just too hard to get into and would rather invest their time and effort in a school where the odds are better.

After I got my GMAT score, I started seriously picturing myself at the school.  My fellow MBA applicants told me that I was “dumb” if I didn’t at least try.  But despite being more “qualified” than the average applicant, it’s still difficult to gauge the competition in the MBA admissions process.  We’ll never really know how hard it is to get into a particular school until they start releasing their applicant data along with the admitted class data.

In my opinion, if you have the time and the funds, and you’re well within or above their middle 80th percentile, an application to the “proverbial top business school in the world” is definitely worth it.  At most it’s a $250 application fee.  And if you get in, it may change your perspective on where and how far you think your career can go.

1 thought on “Should Everyone Apply to Harvard?”

  1. I always found the trade-off logic between the odds of getting in vs application fees and effort interesting. A few people I knew landed on either side, some deciding it was worth a ‘try’ and others deciding to focus on more ‘likely’ outcomes. I personally concluded that because:
    1) the odds increase if I focus my application efforts
    2) I save money by limiting my application fees

    I should only apply to where I truly wanted to go to school. In the end, I only submitted one application which had a favorable outcome.

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