HBS admissions tips
HERE IS THE AUDIO FROM VINCE'S PRESENTATION
(English follows Japanese)
Vince Ricci: 東京で最も経験豊富で成功しているMBA入学コンサルタントがどうやったらHBSへ入学できるかについて、見識を共有します。MBAスクール合格者のプロファイルの類似点と相違点について討議し、また申込みプロセスについての知識を共有。どのように入学に向けてクライアントをサポートしたのか、その見識を提供します。
HOW TO GET INTO HBS
A LEADING MBA ADMISSIONS CONSULTANT SHARES HIS EXPERTISE
Vince Ricci, one of Tokyo’s most experienced and successful MBA admissions consultants, shares some of his insights into what it takes to get into HBS. He will discusses common themes among the admitted candidate profiles, shares his knowledge of the application process, and provides some insights into how he has helped clients obtain admission to HBS.
- PURPOSE: To help applicants decide if HBS is a good fit and to provide expert advice into the admissions process
- DATE: Saturday, March 26, 2011
VINCE SPEAKS ABOUT THE HBS ADMISSIONS PROCESS
FROM HIS PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL PERSPECTIVE
I’d like to introduce Vince Ricci. Vince and I started working together in 2002. Vince is someone who I think is really like, if somebody comes to me and they can’t work with me, I would want to send them to Vince. For me it’s just like basically my clients use him for interview practice and he’s helped many of my clients get in the school. We have separate businesses but we collaborate and we think it works because we really both believe I think that it’s a one-to-one process. one of the things with Vince is the amount of care and attention that he gives to his clients is very one-to-one and it’s really intense and it’s great. Without further ado, Vince Ricci.
Thank you Adam. How are you all feeling today? Doing okay? I want to thank you. We are really glad we could do this event. As you know, we were supposed to be here a week ago and it’s been an amazing couple of weeks. Amazing is not the right word. Just happy to be alive, happy to be here, happy you guys could come, and thanks for giving up your free time on a weekend to hear us talk on and on about these particular two schools. Thank you guys for coming.
Part 1: Introduction – Who is Vince?
Who am I? As Adam said, I am an admissions coach, also known as an admissions counselor. Adam and I have worked together, and we both started our admissions counseling careers at the same place and around the same time. I have been in Japan since 2002.
Why am I talking about Harvard? I did not go to Harvard. I went to that other school. But like Adam, I have a track record of helping Japanese clients specially get into Harvard over the years and some have gone to Stanford as well. In terms of Harvard, I am probably the only guy you will know or meet, perhaps, I’m ready to be proven wrong, but I am the only guy I know who has been admitted twice to Harvard University and not gone. My wife thinks I am the biggest idiot in the world. For my own personal reasons when I was 18 and when I was 29, I said, no, thank you to that particular university. I know how to get in myself and I know how to help my clients get in.
Having said that, it is not easy. A lot of this process is based on hard work. You are here in March, which is good for you because it’s still a bit early, right. The application is due October 1st for round 1 and January-something for round 2. You have got time.
The admissions process is absolutely like running a marathon. It is absolutely a crushing experience to run 50 kilometers to cross the finish line and get admitted. It’s early in the game. You have got to pace yourself. Today, you are here hopefully getting some good information and getting a clear perspective on what exactly you need to be doing for the next 6 to 9 months to cross the finish line and be admitted.
I work in Japan, but not exclusively with Japanese clients. I do not have a popular blog. I am not well-known outside Japan, I do not think. I pretty much work with Japanese clients because I am here. I have an office which is near the University of Tokyo, not on the campus, but in an apartment building nearby the campus. I meet clients near The University of Tokyo because it happens to be located close to my home. I do not live near The University of Tokyo, but I commute there because it is convenient for where my family lives in Tokyo.
I also do a little bit of teaching at the University of Tokyo but only five times a year. It is not my full-time job, but I do it because I enjoy teaching. I teach technical writing to engineers, mostly masters and some Ph.D. level students. I do the same thing I do with my clients. I help those students over at The University of Tokyo write better and express themselves better. It’s the same core skill set that I use in counseling MBA applicants.
In terms of Harvard, you can see in the handout that since 2002, I have helped 13 Japanese get admitted.
RESULTS FOR CLIENTS VINCE HELPED
Since 2002, Vince helped a total of 13 Japanese get admitted to HBS (not including interview clients)
Since going independent in 2007, Vince helped 6 (not including interview clients)
Total admits per year
· 2013: 1
· 2012: 4
· 2011: 1
· 2009: 2
· 2008: 3
· 2005: 2
There have been others who were interview clients, some came to me just for interview, but I am not counting those.
Since I went independent in 2007, I have helped 6. Last year there were 5, including 1 for interview, but 4 just for the full-time – my full-time clients who I worked on for essays and interviews and recommendations and everything else. There were 4 of those and 5 including 1 woman who came to be just for interview training. You can see the numbers here. There’s been years I have had 0. There’s been years I have had as many as 4. I do not know why that is, I just keep doing what I do, and it seems to be working out okay. Every year there is 1 or 2 or more, most of you that can get into Harvard.
I want to give you a lot of information today, but I wish to emphasize that I do not have any affiliation with Harvard University; I do not speak for them. They do not probably know I exist and that’s fine. I am an admissions advisor. I am not an admissions gatekeeper. I do not have any pull with them. I never share client information or give names to the admissions office. I have nothing to do with him. Rather, it simply a fact that I am helping you guys go through the application process. Maybe it is obvious but I just thought make that clarification. We got one email from a guy who asked, “Will there be admissions staff there?” No, it’s just us. that way we can be more honest. I think it’s better.
Today, I am going to cover six core topics. Here is the list:
· Part 1: Introduction – Who is Vince?
· Part 2: The Data – Who gets admitted?
· Part 3: Admissions criteria – What do they want?
· Part 4: Breaking stereotypes
· Part 5: The Application Process – Vince’s Methods
· Part 6: Milestones – When do I start each task?
The first thing I want to do is go into the data. As Adam said, Harvard is pretty transparent with the data and the top of this page 3 comes right from the Harvard website. I did not make this up. Of course, the Japan is not on the Harvard website. I have been collecting it from my former students, who have been very helpful and generous in getting data to me.
PART 2: THE DATA– WHO GETS ADMITTED?
HBS Class of 2012 Preliminary Profile
(found online http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog-all.html; accessed 2011/03)
By the way, the class of 2013 profile is not available yet because round 2 admissions results are now and they may be even be submitted – it’s in round 3 we hope. As you can see, 2012 is the most recent that we have and these are the numbers.
YOU CAN FIND VINCE’S COMMENTS between THE ORIGINAL HBS DATA
Total MBA Enrollment 910
· Applications 9,524
· Admitted 11%
Harvard, so there is 910 in the enrolled and there were 9524 applications at an 11% admit rate, roughly double Stanford’s admit rate of 6.5%.
· Women 36%
· International 34%
· US Ethnic Minorities 23%
The HBS entering Class of 2012 is composed of 36% women. That means it is 64% male, right? It’s 23% US ethnic minorities and 34% international. I am guessing that if you got an honest answer out of the Harvard admissions committee, would they like to see those three numbers increase, they’d probably say yes. They would love to have 50% women. US MBA programs are the only graduate school, professional schools that aren’t balance. Medical schools became roughly 50-50 more than 10 years ago. Law schools, 3-year JD programs have been roughly balanced men and women for a long time.
MBA is the last holdout and I do not think admissions officers are happy about this necessarily. They want to see 50-50. It’s not equitable to have – there are only 36% women. That’s my personal observation.
International, I would assume they would probably like to have more like 40%. When I look at this number, I would guess that they’d like to have more international students. But at the same time they need really highly qualified people. There is always a give and take.
Countries represented 73
Undergraduate institutions represented 243
GMAT Score Range 510-790; Middle 50% GMAT Score Range 710-750; Average GMAT 724
You can see the average GMAT scores here. You can see the number of countries represented, the number of universities represented. I’m not going to read all that data because it’s all right there. I’ll comment about GMAT scores in a little while though when I talk about the Japan side.
· North America 70% (United States 66%)
· Asia/South Pacific 13%
· Europe 12%
· Central/South America 3%
· Africa 1%
· Oceania 1%
In terms of citizenship, so you can see this is a real difference with London Business School or INSEAD. A lot of my clients want to go to Europe because you are not dealing with 70% English people at London Business School. At Harvard you are dealing with 70% North Americans and of those 66% US. We are talking – the other 4% are from Canada and Mexico basically. That’s a lot of Americans. if that’s what you want great. if you really want a really global MBA, a truly global MBA, you may not want to go to Harvard. I am just saying that, it’s just a fact. Look at the data and you’ll see the European schools are really beating the American schools in this regard, and that’s again a reason why I think the American schools are clever and they need to adapt, I think you are going to see this 34% international rate going up.
You are already seeing more international cases at these business schools, cases focused on Japan, cases focused on India or other countries. They are trying to internationalize their program because they have to. that’s a bit about citizenship. Asia 13%. Japan, which you can see the numbers down below, is roughly 1%. The other 12% that are coming from Asia/South Pacific are every other country in this region. Europe is 12%, just a little bit behind Asia. Central and South America 3%. Africa 1%. Oceania 1%.
· Humanities/Social Sciences 43%
· Engineering/Natural Sciences/Technical Disciplines 33%
· Business 23%
· Other 1%
Undergraduate majors: when I first start working with a new client, I often hear applicants say that they want an MBA because they did major in business, or they have never studied business. This number shows you that doesn’t matter. Not studying business in college is not a great reason to get an MBA. If you want to study general management to become a manager, sure. But just because you studied law or whatever else you studied does mean that must get an MBA. Business is not medicine. I do not want a doctor operating on me who has never studied medicine. But I’ll certainly do business with someone who doesn’t have an MBA. As you can see, HBS students come from a relatively wide range of undergraduate majors. A lot of engineering, natural sciences, and technical. The number one undergraduate major is humanities and social sciences, which is a broad field that can include many subjects.
- Consulting 22%
- Venture Capital/Private Equity 18% NOTE - According to Vince’s clients (current students) for class of 2013, % of PE is decreasing and social enterprise (Non-Profit) is increasing
- Financial Services 14% (Includes Investment Banking and Investment Management)
- Manufacturing 9%
- Non-Profit 7%
- Consumer Products 7%
- Healthcare/Biotech 6%
- High Tech/Communications 6%
- Military 5%
- Other Services 5%
I reorganized the MBA industry section after hearing some useful feedback from my former students who are currently at Harvard. One of them suggested that I rank MBA industry in the order frequency, not alphabetically, as HBS does on its website.
You can see the top three pre-MBA industries are 22% consulting, 18% VC and PE, and 14% financial services. His comment was that it sometimes feels like two-thirds of HBS students come from those top three industries - consulting, VC/PE and financial services. He said it feels like just about everybody you meet is from McKinsey. It was kind of a joke, but you will certainly meet McKinsey people at HBS, and Stanford, and all of the top MBA programs.
A different client told me that this VC/PE number, 18%, is going down. He has no data yet, but he expects that when the 2013 admit data is published, you will see a drop in the percentage of students from venture capital and private equity, and an increase in the percentage of students who are engaged in social ventures, doing stuff in the non-profit or social sector. I do not think VC/PE is going to shrink to 2%, but he thinks it’s going to go down a bit. That makes sense if you look at the economy in the last 2 years. Private equity is a really tough space to be in the last few years with all kinds of problems that you are aware of as business people. Social enterprise, which HBScalls non-profit, however, represents a great opportunity in a bad economy. There is a lot of opportunity there. I thought his comment was interesting, and I wanted to pass it on to you.
You can see items 4 through 10 in the list above, there are a variety of various other manufacturing, non-profit, consumer, health/biotech, high-tech, military and other. But the weight is really in the top 3 industries: consulting, VC/PE and financial services.
PLEASE SEE, AND THINK, FOR YOURSELF
Again, this is Harvard’s public data, with my analysis. I encourage you all to go online and see this data for yourself. It’s on the Harvard admissions blog. As you may know, many admissions officers, including HBS, maintain their own blogs. That’s where I found this HBS data.
You can see a little shortened URL here ▸http://bit.ly/AdComBlog. Those are my bookmarks. Whenever I see a good admissions blog run by the admissions office, I bookmark it. There are now around 15 adcom blogs listed there, including Harvard. Those are good sources of information. They give you updates. For example, they might write, “We sent out a bunch of interview invitations today.” It’s like the way they message you and send you additional information. It can get confusing though, because it adds another channel of information other than the school’s main admissions website.
THE BEST APPLICANTS SHARE DATA WITH EACH OTHER
The other thing I want to point out about the information is that with information being freely distributed at this point with internet channels being free essentially and accessible, I think one of the biggest challenges for applicants is to sort through all that information, and that’s I think why Adam’s blog is really great because he is actually reading everything and taking the time to write an extensive free resource. I read Adam’s blog all the time. I am trying to improve my own website but I have got a long way to go. But there’s tons of information. The other great thing about this process is that Japan being Japan, where teamwork is really emphasized, all of you had to go through “yobiko” or “juken” process to get admitted to university, almost all of you.
The whole aspect of sharing information is not strange to you. It’s your nature. so use that. Events like today; hopefully, you guys will have some time at the end for networking, actually meeting each other. I think the great advantage of the Japanese applicant is this ability to network with other, get together, share information. I know there are lots of channels for that and I think that’s fantastic. Use each other as a resource in addition to people like Adam and me.
HBS JAPAN DATA
What I think you are probably more interested in today is the Japan data. That’s down below.
5 Japanese in Class of 2013 (only includes R1, others pending)
· 3 consulting
· 1 trading
· 1 financial service
In the class of 2013, there are five admitted so far those are all around one people. One of them was mine. The other three were – there were three from consulting, one from trading, one from financial service. Interestingly, among those five, as I have heard, two were outside Japan at the time that they applied. There were really only three Japan-based applicants, meaning Japanese citizens who were in Japan at the time that they applied.
13 Japanese in Class of 2012 - Age range 25-33
· 6 consulting
· 3 financial services
· 1 trading
· 1 auto
· 1 PE
· 1 military
There are 13 in the first year; 13 in the class of 2012 and we have the age ranges there. I do not have the age ranges for the round 1 admits. We’ll get that later. The 13 in the class of 2012, youngest is 25, oldest is 33. I’ll talk about age a bit later, but I want to point this out. I haven’t crunched this and figured out the average age. I’ll do that later. But the point is it’s not a bunch of 26-year olds. There are people at a wider range of ages. I’ll talk about this a bit later too but the Japan cohort, as Adam said, is different than the US cohort in terms of this age issue. In short, please do not worry about age for Harvard.
Six consulting, three financial services, one trading company, one automotive manufacturing, private equity person, and a military person. I’m curious about this military person. I do not know if that means “jietai” or what. I assume so. That one was a surprise. But again, my clients are checking all this data for me and I went just through that number in there, in that thing and I said okay. I’m going to go to Harvard in May. I’m going to find about – so I’m going to meet most of these people. We are having a dinner on May 7th on campus. I will talk about campus visits later.
10 Japanese in Class of 2011 - Age range 26-35
· 2 financial service
· 2 PE
· 2 electronics (1 system engineer)
· 2 auto (1 engineer)
· 1 pharma (researcher)
· 1 trading
Ten Japanese in the class of 2011. I went to an event last year and I can’t go back. They do not invite me back anymore. This is something called Entrepreneur Week. There is this guy from Stanford named Todd Porter who is also doing – he is doing a TEDxTokyo. He is the organizer and he is a Stanford grad. I went to this thing. He invited me. it’s called Entrepreneur Week and I am not invited back basically because I offended the speaker. The speaker was onstage. I won’t mention his name. A great guy, famous guy, an economist, very well respected here in Japan, a foreign guy that lived here really long time, speaks much better Japanese than me. I had no business heckling him. But he gave out wrong information. He’s standing there on the stage. He’s actually the moderator. He wasn’t the speaker but he spoke more than the real speakers. He couldn’t stop himself and he threw out a bad statistic.
His information was dead wrong. He said there is one Japanese in the entering class of Harvard Business School. This is more than a year ago. in this class of 2011, he is like rattling off all these reasons why Japan is just dying, which offended me to begin with. second, he throws out this wrong data which later I found that was from the newspaper. A Japanese newspaper had published that. they are getting confused how many undergrads versus how many MBAs. But he said the word MBA. He said there is only one in the entering Harvard MBA class. Then, during the QandA, I told him that he was wrong, and that just goes to show, check your data before a public speech.
Here’s the data. There were 10, a lot more than 1. The age range is 26 to 35, 2 financial service, 2 private equity, 2 electronics, including 1 system engineer, 2 from auto sector, 1 from pharma, and 1 trading guy. Always one trading guy it seems, which is good unlike Stanford, right. there was a time when Stanford took trading people. It changed when Marie left and Derrick came. Derrick became the new Admissions Director, new regime, new dean, a new curriculum. I sometimes wonder what they are thinking. How do you not include trading companies as being important in the Japanese economy? I mean, just look at the numbers. I am not an economist, but they have a pretty good influence.
HBS WANTS MORE JAPANESE, BUT...
Harvard has an office in Marunouchi. It’s a small office. Sato-san is running it. He says, and I think it’s correct, that the admissions office would like to admit more Japanese. The reason is very simple. In their TOM program, which is Technology, Operation, and Management, Japanese are very valuable. Japanese are also critical in BGIE, which stands for Business, Government, International Economy.
This 109 thing with TOEFL is real. I have never known a Harvard admit without 109. It is kind of a rule, although they claim it’s a guideline. I simply do not know anyone who broke the standard, got admitted with 108 or 107. As you know, that’s a pretty high bar. It’s kind of a mixed message. We want more Japanese but – this thing about the TOEFL. The adcoms are not being snobby.
If you visit Harvard, which I encourage you to do, and you sit in on a class, the speed of the discourse of the conversation is very overwhelming. It’s fast. I sat in on classes a long time ago visiting my neighbor. My next-door neighbor went there. This is not a good metaphor in Japan because I do not think you eat a lot of popcorn. But you have been around a popcorn popper at the movie theater. You know that moment when the corn starts popping, where it’s just there is like quiet, quiet, quiet murmur and then all of a sudden everything starts going. HBS is like that all the time. The popcorn is always popping at Harvard.
It’s noisy. It’s fast. You do not want to miss a beat. What happens for a lot of my clients when they get there at first is they are planning in their head, they are thinking about a comment, they get the courage up to make it, and then the topic changes and they do not get called on, and then like five comments later, what you have spent 5 minutes thinking about trying to say is no longer relevant. It’s very fast. That’s why the TOEFL is critical for them. Again, it’s not just that they have this snobby attitude. It’s the nature of the academic experience. HBS requires a very high listening skill, and a fairly quick connection between your brain and your mouth.
PART 3: HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA– WHAT DO THEY WANT?
Now, let’s go back to page 2. What I did here was I took the real data of Harvard’s official admissions criteria, and there are only three, and I added my own commentary. again, there’s a disclaimer, this is my commentary on their criteria. This whole chart down here is not theirs. This is mine. Their only criteria are stated here above. I do not want to cause confusion or controversy. I’m just trying to explain what these criteria mean.
What does Harvard want? According to them, they want to see a habit of leadership; they want to see a capacity for intellectual growth; and they want to see engaged community citizenship. I want to help explain what I think these phrases mean, and again this is just my opinion.
HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA #1 OF 3:
A HABIT OF LEADERSHIP
A habit of leadership implies that leadership experience and leadership potential are ongoing parts of your life. I think Harvard is pretty good at reading into someone’s activities to see if they have leadership potential. You do not need to be the leader of a large organization yet, that’s why you want an MBA. It’s not about your title. It’s about your leadership potential. How do you show these things? The best way to show leadership experience is in a resume. They are also looking to see your career progress. They want to see that you are moving up in some way. Again, they know in Japan, titles are pretty flat. They are not looking to see that you are Executive Vice President at age 27. Titles in Japanese organizations are non-existent until a certain age, maybe in your 40s. You do not have a title yet; they simply want to see that you have increased your responsibility.
Community activities and personal accomplishments do not mean cleaning up the beach in Chiba every Saturday. Community is as you define it. You do not need to go and like start donating $10 a week or a month to world vision or something. You can if you want, but that’s not the way to show it. There are other ways. I think Harvard is sophisticated and they realize that the Japanese company, or the foreign company in Japan, is itself a community and then all of the things you are doing in your company to take care about the people, officially and unofficially, is a sense of community activity. Company sports activities or company gatherings or study groups, 7 in the morning on Fridays, you get people together to talk about something. Those aren’t organizations in the community but they are community organizations and community activities. The point is you are not being paid for those things. Stuff that you do that you are not paid for is what they want to see. Your incentive to do it is for your own growth or for your own sense of giving back to people. Personal accomplishment is the same thing. It’s very subjective.
In terms of leadership potential, I think that’s where goals come in. They want to see a goal that is both believable and ambitious. If your goal is simply to go back and do exactly what you are doing now, that’s too realistic. It’s a waste of a Harvard MBA. If your goal, however, is to do something radically different from what you are doing now, and there is not a clear sense of how you are going to get there, that’s too ambitious. It’s a balancing act with goals.
Someone could prove me wrong, but I think that someone’s short-term goal is going to fit into one of these six categories.
1. Vertical move
2. Change career
3. Join or launch start-up (entrepreneur)
4. Go into consulting
5. Go into finance
6. Go into industry
It’s either a vertical move which is same industry, moving up, having managerial responsibility, a career change from banking to consulting or just something to something else; a start-up activity, either your own start-up or joining a start-up, entrepreneurial type of activity; going into consulting or going into finance or going into industry. I think pretty much that covers any goal you could tell me. But again, I would love to hear you challenge that and come up with a goal that doesn’t fit any of these categories. The kicker is career changer. I mean that pretty much covers almost everything, unless it’s a vertical move. Anyway, those are just your short-term goals and I’ll talk about Harvard goals later. That’s not the essence of the question but that’s a good start. That’s where the believability comes into play. Then, some applicants show their ambition in their long-term goal.
HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA #2 OF 3:
CAPACITY FOR INTELLECTUAL GROWTH
Capacity for intellectual growth is criteria 2, what does that mean? I think that first of all, it means that they want to see that you have the ability to do the work and, more importantly, enjoy the work. Five days a week at Harvard, sometimes in the second year if you are clever you could have Fridays off. But pretty much it’s a 5-day week activity; it’s very rigorous; things go very quickly. They want to see your grades. I see a wider range in the GPAs. I do not have hard data. But I do not see anyone with 2.6 getting in. But I do see someone with like around 3.0, like my client who just got in.
Captain of a sports team, they understand you couldn’t work and have like a 3.5, but we are not talking 2.6 either. Like 3.0 and above, I think, is decent. Again that’s only one data point though. But do not worry if you have a 3.0. Do worry if you have a 2.6. Still apply but it’s going to be a hard road. They also look at the rigor of what you studied. Rigor means like engineering, lot of math, versus something sort of like I studied like history. I did not do a lot of math in college. That’s what they mean by rigor like a lot of crunching of numbers. I certainly worked hard in college but I wasn’t doing problem sets. TOEFL which we talked about, GMAT which we know about, and then the other thing is like masters degrees or sometimes PhDs or CPA or CFA or CMA certificate. That’s how they see the intellectual growth part.
Again, it matters because Harvard is a fast moving curriculum and it’s very rigors and it’s very uniform. You can’t opt into things and opt out of things. In the first year, it’s pretty well set. They need to see that you are ready to, like, keep pace with that. enjoying it is really critical because it’s not just if you do not – the way to get through MBA – I talk to my clients after they get admitted. I have a bunch of videos. I’m moving them into my new website, but mostly right now they are in YouTube, and when I talk to my students who are in their first year or like in the middle of MBA, they say there is like two kinds of Japanese students. There is a guy who is always in the library and then there is the one who balances library work and club activities. this is what I mean by enjoy the work.
You are going to work hard at Harvard but they do not want you to just be stuck in the library crunching cases all the time. You got to do your homework, but they want you out and about and mingling and being social and active. That’s what it means to enjoy the work. They want to see that ability in the numbers. The numbers are real, as Adam said. You can’t hide from the numbers. There are exceptions to every rule almost. There are people that do get in with a 630. But it’s the exception to the rule, it’s not the rule. you need, obviously as you know, you need high numbers - as high as you can get.
HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA #3 OF 3:
The last thing is engaged community citizenship. Now, what does that mean? I think it means interpersonal skills. I think it means diversity. I think it means fit. fit is a vague concept which I’ll talk a little bit about. Interpersonal skills is shown in the interview. It’s shown in your essays and recommendations and in the application data.
Diversity/international experience doesn’t mean you have to have lived outside Japan. Quite a few people admitted to Harvard have not done so. But diversity, I think, is they really want to see that you are open to the idea to be international, that you are trying to be as international as you can while you are still in Japan. there is ways to show that and there is various ways to show an open-mindedness even though you are based here. Diversity/international experience recommender can also talk about that. A recommender could tell a story about a time when you did something that showed your ability to reach out and make connections across cultural barriers.
WHAT IS FIT?
Fit is probably the most heavily used and least understood concept in admissions because it’s quite vague. It’s emotional. It’s logic plus emotion. Fit basically means that you will be stimulated by the university, its atmosphere, the learning culture the whole student life, and similarly you’ll be well positioned to contribute back. That’s what fit means. It’s basically a two-way exchange where you are giving and getting from the school at the highest possible level that’s fit.
If you are in the wrong place – the reason I did not go to Harvard twice was undergrad, I knew I was going to study history. I knew I wanted to teach after college. I knew I was going to teach history, so I decided to study history. I visited a history professor at Harvard and I visited a history professor at Stanford and Yale and other places I was considering. The Harvard guy, I am sitting in his office at age 18, I do not remember his name, some professor in the history department. I remember it very well, that was a very dark room, full of books. It was like a very classic image of Harvard. It was like dark room. I do not think there was even a light in there, but maybe there was a candle. Big books on the walls, a dusty musty atmosphere, this sort of older guy, and he asks me, “Where else did you get in?” I said here and here and here and at Stanford. he said, “Well, that’s a great university but, you know,” he clears his throat, “It’ll take them 50 years to catch up with us because, pause, we are Harvard.”
I thought to myself, “Decision made, I am not going here.” I wanted to be part of a university that was growing and changing, not one that was already as proud of itself as Harvard University deserves to be. It’s the most famous brand in education. There is a cookie named after it. Why? I do not know. It’s a famous brand. It’s the Mercedes-Benz of the education world. Oxford wouldn’t like me saying that or Cambridge or any of these proud old universities in the world, but it’s pretty much in the past 50 years, 100 years anyway since.
Bottom line for me - I did not think I was going to fit with Harvard’s undergraduate program, so I did not go. That’s what fit means, right. you have got to sense that and they have got to sense it too. Where do you show fit? You show it in the interview absolutely, and you show it in the goals essay. We’ll talk about that in a little bit.
I had two things in here that my client forced me to take off and I agree with him. I am glad he did so. I had included under fit, campus visit and networking. his point was a good point. The school doesn’t care about that. The school doesn’t care that you have visited. You may want to visit. You may want to network. But they do not evaluate that as part of the fit criteria. his point was a good point. I do not think, statistically, visiting has a direct impact. It could have a direct impact on your motivation and on your information level, but I do not think the school gives you like 10 bonus points for visiting because that wouldn’t be fair economically. It’s hard to get there for many people. From Japan, it’s not hard but for some people it’s quite difficult for a variety of reasons, cost and time. It wouldn’t be fair for them to expect you to visit. that’s Harvard’s admissions criteria and my comments about Harvard’s admissions criteria.
PART 4: BREAKING STEREOTYPES
I want to break down myths and common misconceptions about Harvard that I believe are out there in the community.
Avoid These Dangerous Misconceptions
Misconception / Exaggeration #1: I must apply when I am 25 years old
Fact: New HBS Dean wants to broaden the age range of admitted students. Those accepted from Japan tend to be older because of work experience and fewer 2+2 applicants.
Misconception / Exaggeration #2: I need to have already lived in a foreign country
Fact: Multiple “domestic” Japanese applicants are admitted each year (about half of Class of 2012 are “domestic”)
Misconception / Exaggeration #3: I am not the kind of leader HBS wants
Fact: HBS looks for signs of leadership potential, not only demonstrated leadership achievement
Misconception / Exaggeration #4: HBS students are hyper-competitive. Everybody wants to shoot one another down to be ahead of the game.
Fact: HBS requires 1st year classmates to work together for an entire year, which creates strong bonds.
Now, I wanted to do something but I did not know what else to call this so I’m just going to call it breaking stereotypes. There are four stereotypes. I had three and another different client of mine added the fourth one. I was glad he did that because I am not a Harvard business school student, so these were just my perceptions of the misinformation, and he added a fourth one which we’ll talk about. These are things that basically I think the Japanese applicant community and the global applicant community perceives are true about Harvard and are not necessarily true.
The first one is that you must be 25 years old. Like there is a clock ticking and when you pass 30, you may not apply. That is statistically incorrect, as I have shown you, and it’s also I have heard, again unsubstantiated information from my clients who are current students, that the new dean Nitin Nohria has said, and my clients have heard him say but he hasn’t written down yet, that he is not a fan of this move towards younger people, that he actually wants it to be a little bit like it used to be where your classmate may be 5 years older than you or 5 years younger than you and has done a wider range of life experiences. if it was my money and I was quitting my job and spending all that money to go to an MBA, that’s what I would want quite frankly. I would want to learn from it. When I chose graduate school, when I did not go to Harvard, I stayed in New York, I was living in New York, I went to NYU. My greatest teacher was a guy who is 5 years older than me, a Fulbrighter, a guy from Japan. It’s the reason I am in Japan actually. He brought me over here for my first job.
I learned 10 times more from a mentor, a 5 years older person, than I did from any of the professors there. I think graduate school is absolutely a time and a place to find a mentor for yourself. A mentor can be a professor, but often it can be a former student. if everyone is 26 years old, it makes it pretty hard. The dean is moving away from this and the Japan data shows that among – there were very few 2+2 people from Japan. I haven’t heard of any. There must be someone. But I haven’t met any. VINCE NOTE - SINCE THIS EVENT, I HAVE HEARD OF AT LEAST ONE HBS 1+1 ADMIT FROM JAPAN.
As for the overall age range, those people as you saw on the other page, there were outliers who are 30 plus, 35 even, 33. Because they recognize Japan as being strong in certain areas, they want people who have that strong experience in the program. so that’s good news. That’s good news for you guys as applicants. If you are 25, it’s fine. It’s not a bad news to be 25. But it’s certainly great news if you are 30 plus. Absolutely do not think about your age when you apply, I would say. My point is here, they will take you if they want you, right, bottom line. Age is not the factor.
The other misconception is that you must be a returnee, that you have to be “kikokushijo” or they won’t take you. Now, because TOEFL is so critical, it so happens that many returnees have better TOEFL scores, therefore many returnees get admitted. But returnee status itself is not a requirement. Absolutely not. you can see here. My client wrote this. Multiple domestic applicants are admitted every year and about half of the class of 2012 are “domestic,” meaning mostly Japanese people who have the vast majority of their life, professional and personal, experience being in this country of Japan. Therefore, it is absolutely not true that you can’t go to Harvard and Harvard cannot be your first significant experience outside Japan. I have clients living in Cambridge now who are enjoying their first time living outside Japan for any significant amount of time. It happens every single year. You please do not think that that is the case. You still need 109 however. That’s why you got to go see Donald Miller, or whoever can help you get that score.
The misconception and exaggeration number 3 is this whole concept of Harvard-type leader versus non-Harvard-type leader that you must be – it’s great to be the varsity captain of a sport, it’s great to be the president of an organization now or in the past, but again they look for leadership potential. It’s the comment Adam made and I absolutely believe it’s true is that Harvard being Harvard and therefore being, I’d say, a little bit confident, to use nice a word, believes it can shape you. They are looking for clay that is not yet molded and certainly not yet baked in the oven. They believe the power of their 2-year MBA program will shape you into the leader that you are destined to be. In their wisdom, perhaps, are willing to take someone who has the potential to become a great leader but who has – was Mikitani-san obviously a leader when he applied? I did not help him. I do not know what he wrote in his essays. But could you guess that he would become who he is now. Hopefully, but was he who he is now at that time? Absolutely not. That’s leadership potential and their admissions officers, good ones and smart ones, are trained to look for that potential.
I skipped something I was going to say back in my introduction and that’s this whole idea of dual admits and why the Japanese go to Harvard over Stanford usually, with exceptions. There are Japanese that go to Stanford over Harvard, and I personally think that’s a great choice. I am a Stanford guy. But why do most Japanese go to Harvard over Stanford? I think it’s the grandma factor. It’s what will make your grandmother proud kind of factor. Stanford, is that in Connecticut? Oh, where is that? First of all, what is that? No one can spell it. Do they have an N or an F or a D? How do you spell this school? Where is this? their mascot is a tree for crying out loud. The Stanford mascot is a tree.
No, my point is it’s like what would make your grandmother happy but that’s a silly comment. What I really mean, though, is like Mikitani-san. There are many, many more famous Harvard MBA alumni running Japanese companies than they are Stanford, and I hope that would change. I went to a Stanford event a few weeks ago. The Alumni Association put something on. The MC, the organizer, was Toyama-san. I think he is the closest thing Stanford has to that level of famous things. We were there. We heard him talk. He is a great guy. He is a hero of mine. I think the things he is doing for Japan are fantastic. But there aren’t like four or five of him yet, we hope there will be. We hope the young Stanford grads will become, will grow into those positions of leadership. Stanford, certainly hopes so too.
But Harvard simply has more numbers. You are talking 900 versus 400 and Stanford used to be 300 something. They are taking a few more students. They have a new building. Nine hundred times 100 years is a lot more than 300-something times a little less than 100 years, and that’s global, by the way. The power of that alumni network is pretty convincing and hard to argue with. But there are people and more power to them who choose Stanford over Harvard for their own personal reasons that could relate to their goals or the location issue or the kind of network they want to have, a variety of factors. that’s my personal view of why that tends to happen among Japanese.
The next misconception, and this was the one my former student added, and this was his personal kind of point that he wants to prove, is that HBS students are not hyper-competitive, meaning that it’s not true that there was this image of everybody waiting with a knife to stab you and take your space in the cohort. You are in a cohort of 80 or 90 students for a year, it’s like a family. If you do stab that person, the group will punish you. That was his comment. He said the group looks out for itself. It’s just like a family. Imagine you had 6 or 7 brothers or sisters growing up. There may be a bully in that group, but the other members will team up and support each other to protect each other. There’s absolutely a kind of organic human family feeling at Harvard. this was my client’s point that he wanted me to make sure I emphasize. Partly, probably, because he gets tired of people treating him that way like oh, Harvard, I think that he kind of moves away. “Good for you, great.” My client’s point is that HBS is not like that.
Part 5: The Application Process – Vince’s Methods and Case Studies
How Vince's admitted clients overcame challenges and produced results.
NOTE - THESE ARE FICTITIOUS COMBINATIONS OF VARIOUS REAL PEOPLE
When I thought about doing this presentation, I asked myself, “What types of informaton would be most useful for applicants?” If felt that what would be really useful is to have a sense of the process of applying and what challenges, what roadblocks clients hit while running this admissions marathon. By the way, I have never run a marathon. If I did, I am sure about one thing - like all runners, I would likely hit a wall. Imagine that you are running 50 kilometers. At some point, you would probably hit a wall of sheer physical exhaustion. In the application process, the same thing happens. At some point, most applicants encounter some aspect of the application process that just seems to be too high to get over.
I want to point out in four different examples, the walls that my clients have hit, and how I helped them climb over those walls.
The first guy I am calling Mr. A.
- Needed an ambitious but realistic goal, plus regular face-to-face feedback
- HBS goals essay question: “What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?” What is your ideal post-MBA position and why? This should be a clear and detailed plan to be launched after graduation. Beyond getting a job, how do you want to change the world?
- Point one – think big (CEO vs. CFO)
- Point two – why is the HBS goals essay optional? The Harvard goals essay became optional around the same time that Harvard implemented the 2+2 program
- Point three – limited word count (write a longer version of your goals essay first)
- Point four – tell HBS why you want to attend their program (even though they do not ask). Just be sure to keep your answer concise and related to your goals
Mr. A came to me and Mr. A did great. Mr. A got in everywhere but Mr. A when he came to me, did not really have a goal. He’s a hardworking, smart, sincere guy who quite honestly has a lot of career options open to him. He did not really have like this really convincing personal mission of changing the world in some particular way, and maybe not coincidentally wasn’t even interviewed by Stanford, did not really have a kind of core mission in his life, just sort of had a great career so far and all kinds of potential in front of him, but he really did not know what he wanted to do or how to explain it. He was in the process of figuring it out.
Through a series of questioning, lots of questioning from me, and also I introduced him to some of my former students who were at Harvard at that time, he kind of figured out a story. But his initial story, his first draft that he wrote to me was that he wanted to be a CFO. He is in financial services. The highest he would have really ever want to be is like a CFO. I thought well, it’s a decent goal, why not, but my former client was like absolutely not. This is CEO country. You got to think big. You have got to want to be the head of a large organization or of your own small but powerful organization. You have got to be sort of hungry and greedy for power but for a good purpose, not just to make as much money as you possibly can but actually do something for society.
My client and I got him to shift his goal a bit. again was that the reason he – if he had written CFO, would he have been admitted? Yeah, probably he would have been admitted anyway.
We do not know but the point was with the goal. We had to push him to sort of think big about the goal and try to have a big impact. Then he decided to be talking about running his own company or moving from an iBank to private equity, but even that wasn’t enough. like, what industry does he think needs the most help? Just a constant process of questioning, me questioning him a lot, him talking to various people in his network, and coming back to me with answers, and me, sometimes rejecting them or at least challenging them. That’s my job.
That’s what Adam and I do. We ask tough questions. But he was up for the game and I kept asking him odd questions and he kept going back and thinking and thinking and thinking and most importantly talking. This is where then again the network comes in play.
You have got to have people you trust if you are applying secretly. But he had people in his company who knew he was applying his recommenders and people in his network and people from his undergrad who were already in MBA. He just kept talking to people. He was getting a lot of good feedback from people he trusted. ultimately he made his own decision about what goal essay he wanted to write, and I simply helped him get it focused and clear, and I was sort providing a kind of benchmark, as Adam said to kind of see where the quality was. I absolutely subscribe to Adam’s method, if I believe it, if I care about it, and if it really sells me, then I think it’s done. that’s one example of how somebody struggled and then how they overcame the struggle.
The next one is Ms. B.
- Needed clear milestones and timelines for each stage of the application process
- Struggled to balance her story portfolio, especially the question, “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?”
- Domestic applicant, outlier in terms of spoken English skills
- Ms. B’s secret - hard work. Perhaps Vince’s hardest working ever.
- Also, needed help selecting and presenting her best information in the application data forms.
Ms. B was someone who was extremely well organized, probably the hardest working applicant I have ever helped. Just in terms of sheer – I am really not sure when she ever slept if ever. I could send an email in almost 24 hours a day and almost always get an immediate reply. I think there were two of her. She had problems with TOEFL, totally domestic. She had, in the end though, a 30, 30, 30, 23. Everything but speaking was perfect, like wow that’s great. But 23 is a bit low for the speaking score, so we knew the interview was going to be a struggle. I certainly helped her a lot with the interview training.
The other thing in terms of the essays that she struggled with was balancing her story set. Could she have the right mix of stories? originally, I think, because she had a narrow view of the process, she only wanted to write about work things. this is where this idea of community citizenship comes in, where I bookmark and I study these criteria that these schools have. I take these seriously because I think they have these for a reason. When you see this thing of community citizenship, what it made me think of was, and I have had several clients who had a similar story, being involved in a certain organization for like 15 or 20 years at various levels, as a young kid, as an older kid, like as a mentor, as a high school student volunteering, helping the young kids, as a college student, and now as like a OB or OG supporter, a fundraiser or helper in some way.
That’s a great story. Now, not everybody has a story like that. In our lives, we move around a lot, very few people have been in one place for 20 years. I have never been in one place for 20 years. But some people have. If you have that kind of story, it’s a great story to use. She had a story like that. You can’t make this up. But I pulled it out over and it turned into a great story that she used for every school and she got into a bunch of them, and it was a good topic at her interviews as well. It’s a great story because it shows this idea of engaged community citizenship quite well. she told me I wouldn’t have said this, but she said if she hadn’t worked with me, she probably would not have pulled that story out and used it as an essay. It would have been in her application data, but it probably would not have been a primary essay that she wrote. that was nice to hear and that’s where this process of questioning can be useful.
Third, we find Mr. C.
- Struggled with the mistake essay, especially “what you learned” (self-awareness)
- Also needed help with the recommendation process (who to ask? how to manage recommenders?); HINT – the most important question on HBS recommendation is, “Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response.” Pick recommenders who can best answer that question.
Mr. C struggled with the failure essay, the mistake essay, which I’m not going to dig into very much at this moment, but the mistake essay which is only two required essays of Harvard, that’s the second one. The first one, which I just skipped actually, is the classic, it’s the same as Stanford’s what matters most to you and why, the classic Harvard essay is your three most significant accomplishments, and why you view them as such. You have to balance. It’s like show me your chest. You have to balance the three stories you are going to choose.
The mistake essay of Harvard, which I’m basically going to skip at this point, I am going to put up a post about it, Adam’s post is great about writing a failure or a mistake essay. My point, though, is for Mr. C, he really had a hard time figuring out what he learned from the experience. It’s fine to have a mistake or have made a failure, but what you learned from it is really the gold, it’s really the essence, it’s the reason they ask the question. They are not trying to make you suffer to admit your weaknesses and tell them about your mistakes, they want to see your recovery. It’s all about recovery. If you can’t recover if you can’t learn. The whole mistake question is required by Harvard, I think, because the teamwork aspect of Harvard is actually really important. if your ego is so big that you can’t admit a mistake or learn from it, they do not want you there because 990 or 900 is big but 80 is quite small. It’s like you are in that cohort for a year. It’s like a year of IMD; you are with 80 people all the time. In that group you have to have people who are willing to admit their wrong and learn from their mistakes. It’s pretty simple.
The other thing Mr. C needed was, and I’m going to talk a bit about this, is the whole recommendation process. It was very, very challenging for Mr. C. Who to ask? How to work with those people? How to get good work out of his recommender that added value to his overall application process? Recommendation process is tough. Adam and I have a lot of experience at helping people to get through this process. that was how I helped Mr. C. again, he told me that. I asked my clients how I added value and that’s what he said.
Ms. D, the final person, had a goal.
- Had a strong life goal and mission when we met
- High TOEFL, not-so-high GMAT (sometimes OK for HBS)
- Struggled with interviews – HBS interviewers prepare questions based on your application (not “blind”)
- Interview Seminars and Mock Training with Vince (balance), plus additional mock training sessions with Adam (self-marketing), and Steve (logic).
- For reference, Vince’s HBS interview tips are here: http://bit.ly/HBS_interview
When I met her, knew exactly what she wanted to do and why and it was great. It worked really, really well and it had a clear and powerful logic and I believed it and cared about it and it said exactly what I wanted to hear and what the admissions wanted to hear about her goal. That wasn’t her problem. She had a GMAT problem but it did not matter because she had a really high TOEFL. I think Harvard and Stanford are willing to take you if you have like one really high number. They want to see ‘a’ high number. Harvard, I think, more than Stanford. A super high TOEFL at Harvard, they are willing to overlook a not so high GMAT. I had another client this year who had that same situation, not a particularly high GMAT but they had no doubt about the TOEFL.
What this woman really needed more than anything else was interview training. She had and has, I do not know anymore, maybe now has, after 2 years of Harvard, no poker face. You know what I mean by poker face? If she is happy she looks happy, if she is nervous she looks nervous. That’s where the interview training came in and she worked with me a lot, she work with Adam, she worked with a friend of me and Adam’s, a colleague of ours, the guy named Steve who is a professor. He is like Mr. Logic. With a smile on his face, he will destroy the logic of what you just said, big old smile. She is great.
This person worked with all three of us a lot on the interview and failed some interviews did not pass a few, and finally the only one that mattered homerun with Harvard, got in. The interview was really tough for her. Again, not English problem, she speaks with no accent whatsoever. Harvard, in the interview, tries to make you defensive. They read your whole essay ahead of time because the case method makes you defensive. Everything you say will be challenged by others. They read your essay, they prepare questions, and I think they are not evil, but I think they are trying to figure out what’s going to knock you off your confidence point.
My client who just got in round 1 did not have a very high GMAT, they asked him about it. Why couldn’t you get a – why you have a 31 verbal, what’s wrong with you? They did not say it like that quite so mean, but they definitely know what’s your weakness is and they are trying to make you nervous to see how you react to those challenges because in the case study method, everybody won’t applaud every time you open your mouth. Things you say will be challenged, but you can’t take it personally. The interview is definitely designed to test who handle that kind of questioning. again, that’s why you need a poker face, you need to hide your anxiety and have confidence in your answer.
Finally, here is a round one timeline of milestones. I hope this might help you stay on track. I made this because people asked me to provide a concrete image for when applicants should be passing certain milestones.
Please note, this is just a guideline. You’d like to be done with your GMAT by July. How many of you will be done with your GMAT in July? Very few of you, but you would all like to be with GMATbefore August if you are going to apply in October. We’d like you to be ready to write essays soon, but many of you will not be ready to write essays soon.
WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?
Round 1 versus round 2? We get this question all the time. In my personal, not necessarily professional view, round 1 is often better simply because the adcoms are fresh. They are human beings just like all of us and when they read a pile of essays in round 1, their attitude is great, a pile of essays, they are fresh. Round 2 January, they are like, great, a pile of essays, it’s my job to read them. Round 3, they are like, more essays.
Some readers might be more critical in round one, and more generous in round two. That is true. In my personal opinion, for top schools, I think you should try to apply when adcoms are fresh. Still, you NEVER want to apply before your application is as good as it is likely to become. Do not apply when you are not ready. If you have to 520 GMAT in August, guess what, you are not applying in round 1. Simple, end of story.
If you want to apply in round 1, you should try to have your GMAT done in the summertime because it takes 3 months to make a great Harvard application. The application does not only consist of 1800 words of essays. Thinking about the recommendation letters, the application data forms, and the interview, the whole process is very comprehensive.
Next, I want to discuss campus visits. Someone asked me the other day. He said I heard a lot of rumors, you have to visit the school, do I have to visit the school? You do not have to visit the school. But you have to network because, again, you have to know why you want to go to a certain school.
The other thing about Harvard is they do not ask why you want to go to Harvard for the same reason that the history of professor told me when I was 18 that it’ll take any other college 50 years to catch up with them. By the way, just as an aside comment, when I graduated in 1992, Stanford’s History Department was ranked #1 by US News and World Report. Stanford beat every history department, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. But that’s my personal story. Forget that.
Anyway, you do not have to visit. They do not keep a log of who visits and who doesn’t, but for your own personal networking, you might want to visit, and if you want to visit do not go in the summer. It’s a bunch of buildings in the summer. There is no life in the summer. You’ll see the campus, so what, there is YouTube for that, you could see the campus on every video. If you want to go, go soon, go in May. In my personal view Japan’s Golden Week (late April, early May) might be the best time to visit campus. I have two reasons for giving this advice. First, it is springtime. Everybody is in a good mood, half of them are about to graduate, half of them are finishing their first year, so they feel relief. Second, and most importantly, the clubs are really fully operational and they have a lot of momentum.
If you visit, you will definitely meet the Japanese, but do not stop there. You have to meet the Japanese because if you do not, you might be considered rude. I think you have to meet the Japanese students, and you want to do so. But please keep going; try to meet the president of the club that you want to join, or lead.
You want to ask the club president, “What are you guys doing now? How could I add value to what you are doing now? This is who I am. This is what I do. What are you doing and what do you want to be doing and how could I help?”
You have got to get that answer because that’s gold, that’s the essence of a contribution. you won’t as well get that over email because think about it, the club president of the private equity club has his email in a public place. How many emails does he get a day? That is the great value of visiting. If you visit, do not just confine yourself to the Japanese who will take great care of you, but you do not want to stop there. You want to ask them to introduce you to their friends outside the core Japanese community.
The last thing I’ll say about campus visits is Tuck. Tuck is probably the only school where if you really want to go to Tuck you actually probably really should visit. My clients this year, the one who got in November round, was the only one of my clients who visited this year. She visited in October, did not interview on campus, did not have a goal yet, wasn’t ready to interview, but visited, and had a great visit, and met a bunch of people. Then applied in November round and got in with a great scholarship. My client who applied in earlier than her in October, who did not visit, the best I could do in round 1 before she came along was a waitlist and some denials. I think in Tuck’s case, because it’s hard to get to, if Tuck is anywhere in your top list, visit and visit soon because you do not want to go in November, December, January, or February, you’ll get stuck there. There’ll be a blizzard and you’ll miss a week of work. You’ll have to walk back to Boston…
My final message is that you should apply to Harvard because the process will make you grow as a person. Even if you do not have a 109, apply to Harvard because Harvard needs to hear Japan. Sato-san and the other folks who work for Harvard here in Japan and Harvard admissions itself, I think, wants to hear Japan’s message and hear Japan’s voice. There was a time, decades ago, when there were 20 or 30 Japanese in every graduating class. I do not think Harvard is particularly happy that there are only 10. Even if you do not have a 109, I think the process of applying is a good experience. The essays do not take as long as Stanford. There is no what matters most to you and why. I think you should just challenge the school simply.
I am working with a guy now who is applying third round. He almost has 109. He’s taken the TOEFL, like, every weekend. But you should apply because this whole process should be about having no regrets. That’s always what I say. You are only going to apply to MBA once in your life, hopefully, once. you are only going to get an MBA for sure once, at least one in America, for some crazy reason you might get a second MBA in Japan at some point. But you are only going to get an American MBA once and if you are going to apply to Harvard, apply. Just apply and see what happens because they want more applicants. Again, without a 109, your chances are a minimal but not impossible. But my point is to apply and my real point is not about Harvard or any school, my real point is about – time to get emotional, it’s about Japan. Sorry.
This country needs a lot of help right now. This country needs a lot of help and the fact that you guys want to go overseas, quit your job, pay crazy money, take a huge risk for Harvard or any other MBA is exactly what you should be doing. I am afraid what’s going to happen in the next few years as fewer and fewer Japanese are going to want to leave because of this earthquake and Tsunami and disaster that this country has experienced. I think that’s the opposite of what you should be doing. I think you have to get out and see the world and you have to get skills because there is a lot of rebuilding that’s going to need to be done here, and I think going outside of your country is a great way to get the skills you need.
Please work hard.
Please apply to Harvard.
Please apply to a few schools other than Harvard so you can actually, a year from now, be in a very happy place of preparing to leave and have a great experience.
In closing, I wish you luck and success.