SBC Scoop: When Numbers Aren’t Enough

Rahul signed up with Stacy Blackman Consulting for a two-hour feedback session on his unsuccessful application from the prior year. With a 760 GMAT and a near perfect GPA from an Ivy League school, Rahul was surprised that he failed to receive even a single interview invitation from his applications to HBS, Stanford, Columbia, and Chicago. With better-than-average numbers, I had a feeling that Rahul needed to focus on the qualitative factors to make his case for admission.

When I read through Rahul’s application to Stanford it was clear that there was room to improve his essays and his recommendations. Rahul’s career goals were a logical extension of his current job in consulting ”“ he planned to return to the firm and advance to partner, ultimately specializing in the technology side of the firm and focusing on developing that side of the business. However, he never explained WHY technology was a passion for him, or WHY he was so devoted to his firm that he wanted to make his career there. Though in conversation Rahul was passionate about his path, it came across as a default answer in his essay.

“What Matters Most” is a tough essay topic for every candidate. In Rahul’s case he focused on his family and particularly his relationship with his grandparents who had immigrated to the United States from India and embraced a new culture and way of life. Again, Rahul’s admiration for his family and forebears was captivating in speech, but did not translate in writing.

As for Rahul’s recommenders, they praised his work, but did not advance his cause. None of them addressed Rahul’s career goals in any depth, and they did not highlight his exceptional work as compared with his peers. Overall it seemed as if Rahul was a strong contributor to his firm, but he didn’t come across as the next generation of leader and superstar there. When we discussed this issue, Rahul explained he had not shared his career goals or any of his other essay topics with his recommenders. As a result, I guessed his recommenders were not as invested in his success and may have lacked direction in writing the letters.

Rahul was receptive to my feedback and continued to work with us to reapply to HBS and Stanford, while adding Wharton, Michigan and Kellogg as new schools on his list. Rahul devoted himself to essay writing, and the results reflected his infectious enthusiasm for his work and his personal life. He also set up lunch meetings with his recommenders to go over his strategy and plans for re-application. With his recommenders in the loop on his overall goals they supported him with enthusiastic letters, and even helped him take on new projects related to technology at the firm in the year before he went to school.

Rahul was ultimately admitted to Wharton and the Kellogg MMM program.

We have so many client stories and each one is different. Even applicants who appear to have similar bios are unique when we peel back the layers. View more client case studies here.

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

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