Denied at Stanford

I am not surprised at all getting denied at Stanford. I did have time to apply so I wanted to just give it a shot. Here are the key reasons I believe I got denied:

  1. I did not work at a name-brand private equity firm with former Stanford alumni. Let’s think about the numbers: ~400 students x 10% from buy-side = ~40 students. Narrow it down to Asian-american males maybe 10 total students. Of those 10, most if not all always come from a name-brand private equity firm.
  2. What matters most to you essay? My story was about grit but had nothing to do with changing the world and others around me. I do recommend for those applying in a year from now to really dig deep and either become a founder of a non-profit or take a year to work internationally. Each week at GSB they have a story-telling session, and each person is unique in nature with these experiences.
  3. GMAT – 730. For an Asian-American male, I know this is not high enough at all. I think just based on my GMAT I did not want to apply.
  4. Stanford GSB was not my dream school. There are a group of candidates who can target just HBS / GSB, and I was not in that boat. For those that did target only those two schools, I know they went all out with campus visits and speaking with alumni. I never visited the campus.

Those same reasons above I believe I may have gotten rejected at HBS. However, I tailored my essay towards my background in investment management. Yet, not many come from IM background at HBS. My GPA/GMAT also were not up-to-par for both schools.

I would be much more heart-broken if I only targeted those two schools, which I was realistic with my background and expectations. Everything has played out as I expected, and that is why I applied to six schools in the first round. One thing I did not like about the Stanford GSB information session was that no one wanted to talk to us about their what matters most essay. It seemed like the majority that got in fabricated their essay or exaggerated it. There was only one person out of like 20 who told us about her passion for international development. The competition is fierce, but if I had to do it all over again, I would write my essay about equality and justice. Seriously. Focus on stereotypes and etc. I would check out Sandy the HBS Guru advice on poetsandquants, as he lays out how to write those “powerful” essays for GSB. Again, not everyone needs these type of essays. But if you look at this whole process as a call option, you have to take the risk and just gamble with the most powerful essay that you could stand up in a crowd and give a speech and everyone rises for an encore. And that is what happens at GSB each week when a student gives their story.


My story and why MBA?

It’s November 24, 2014, and I decided to take up blogging to describe my MBA application experience. The primary driver of starting this blog is to help other members of, since I have used gmatclub pretty religiously during application season and preparing for the GMAT. You can find my name on gmatclub as JohnThunder.

Personal Background

I am an Asian-american male and part of the “over-represented minority.” I attended an ivy league for undergrad with an average GPA and worked in investment banking for a few years and currently at an investment management firm. I play basketball in my free-time and am involved with Chinatown community service. I also create stock pitches in my free time (yes this is nerdy) and analyze NBA game film (again pretty nerdy).

Why Business School?

Everyone wants to be their own boss and not want to work for the MAN. At my current firm, its structure is less of a meritocracy and more of an experience-based promotion model. When I was in investment banking, I was a maniac and got rewarded for it. At my current firm, it seems like it’s less about your work but more about how you look, what time you show up, how you present yourself with senior management, and etc. These “soft skills” I am really not the best at, and I barely have time to get through all my work and do not want to waste time schmoozing. Anyways, first goal of mine is to learn more about myself and receive real feedback to improve my leadership and management skills. Second, I want to do a startup. Third, I want to find a professor to be my mentor in the long-term.

So I knew about these goals a year before I applied to bschool. I think its important to start way ahead of time. I took Manhattan GMAT course, which costs ~$1,200, and thought it was a waste of money. Their offices suck, and the computer lab is from the 1990s. I did not see much score improvement from Manhattan, but when I started to do old GMAT problems from, I saw an incredible increase in mainly verbal. I was specifically targeting 700+ questions which I would get wrong today. I probably could have scored higher the second time but in my first try I got a 730 in the winter 2013. Feel free to contact me for tips. I was a quant major so I didn’t work on the math section much and just focused on verbal.

Business Schools:

I applied to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Booth, and Kellogg. Yes, it’s pretty much all the top schools.

I was rejected at Harvard, and I have not heard back from Stanford. I assume Stanford is a DING!!!!! even though I spent the most amount of time on that application.

I interviewed at Wharton, Sloan, Booth, and Kellogg. I will describe the interview and how I applied in further detail in follow-up posts.

Please feel free to ask me any questions, and I will answer them all.