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Application Horror Stories

RC students share the most shocking stories from their application process.


If you are reading this, it is likely that your application process went incredibly well and you have achieved your goal of studying at HBS. And for that, I want to take a moment to say: Congratulations and welcome! Nevertheless, I believe most HBS students and alumni would agree with me that applying to Harvard can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they will face in their entire lives. From completing the lengthy application, to getting the best idea for the vague essay prompt, to dealing with the interview, it can be an extremely scary process. However, if you think that your experience was complicated and exhausting, think again. The following four RCs have emerged from the worst of it – despite facing significant horrors, they managed to pull through and get into their dream school. These troopers should be celebrated for managing to get here, to the point that we should probably name something after them. Nevertheless, I will keep their identities anonymous through fake names, until the day comes when they decide to step up and claim their right to fame and fortune. I present to you the four RC heroes that (even without a cape) deserve our admiration.


Jane had prepared for months to take the GMAT. However, as the Round 2 deadline approached, she realized she did not have enough days to take the exam and send the application on time. As a result, the only time to take the exam was Christmas Eve - yes, you read that right, Christmas! But nothing would stop her from applying to Harvard Business School with her desired score. On December 24, 2022 the time had come. Jane woke up, prepared her workspace for the remote exam, and got ready to give it her best. After completing the exam and obtaining a number that was kind of close to her desired score, she had to rush to her parents house to make it for Christmas dinner. After finalizing her session, she was hesitant on her score and decided not to accept it for the time being. Nevertheless, as she was heading out for dinner, she realized she did not have time to take the exam again, and thus should have kept her original score. Little did she know, one of the craziest blizzards stood between her and the baked ham. Worst of all, Jane had only 10 minutes on the clock before her score was canceled. Rushing through the snow, with the fear of the car getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and the panic of losing something she had worked so hard for, Jane began to lose hope. But she persevered, and just like Leonardo Di Caprio in The Revenant, she pushed through to obtain her revenge on the GMAT. After what resembled a battle with a bear, Character A arrived on time, kept her scores and reclaimed her right to glory.


Alex knew he was coming to HBS as soon as he graduated from college. Being a 2+2 gives you that blissful feeling that you do not need to stress about the MBA for a few years (or ever). But for Alex, the stress was self-induced during his 2+2 application period. As a college senior, hesitant on what his next pivot in life should be, Alex had decided to postpone that decision as long as he could. Nevertheless, a sudden epiphany struck him and he realized the answer was business school: so he decided to apply two weeks before the deadline.This meant a mad rush to obtain a decent GMAT score, a hectic pressure to obtain letter writers, and a few long nights to fill out the application form. Clearly, Alex loves adrenaline, and as a result, one of his friends was proofreading the introduction to his essay whilst he continued to write the last few paragraphs 20 minutes before the deadline. Again, you read that right: 20 minutes! But in the end, as pointed out by John C. Maxwell, “teamwork makes the dreamwork.” If it was not for Alex’s family, friends and letter writers, he would have not have achieved his goal.


John was feeling confident about applying to HBS by the deadline of 12:00. He had his application filled out, his essays proofread, and recommendation letters uploaded. All that was left to do was hit “submit”. Fresh as a cucumber, he set out towards the office with a sense that today could really be the start of something new. John had checked the application deadline every single day on the HBS website, and he was confident that at 12:00 his life would change. After a long day at work, he got ready to head back home at 6:00pm. That was until he realized the 12:00 deadline meant 12:00pm. Whilst being laughed out by his mother telling him “how dumb he was”, John freaked out on his commute trying to get home as soon as possible. Would this mean the dream was over? Upon arrival, John finally submitted his application 6 hours past the deadline, and minutes later, got an email confirming that his application had been successfully processed.


Sammy decided to apply for Round 2 in the midst of other big changes in her life: she was soon to be married to the most amazing partner on the beautiful beaches of Thailand. This meant that she would have to submit her application a whole month before the deadline to avoid working while on her honeymoon (and facing the wrath of her fiancé). Sammy was confident that she would be ready to hit the submit button on time. But of course, the perfect storm hit and all of the variables she had considered changed dramatically within a few days. First, the wedding planning in Thailand was far more difficult than she ever expected, especially considering she did not speak the language and she had only been to that country once. Second, work suddenly went crazy as this was the busiest season in her industry. Third, Sammy got promoted to a new role in her company and was in the middle of onboarding amongst the mayhem. Finally, on top of all of that, she ran a small business on the side and she had “secured new distribution with a retailer” which meant long hours of phone calls, negotiations, and planning. Sammy underestimated the length of the application, especially when it came to all of the boxes that need to be filled out with activities, work experience, and hobbies. However, Sammy is not the type to ever give up, and so she decided to employ her entrepreneurial skills and penchant for multitasking as much as she could. Sammy worked throughout the entire flight on her way to the wedding, including layovers, bathroom breaks, lunch time, you name it. Just two days before the wedding, her relatives served as quasi-bodyguards to prevent wedding planners and nosy guests from interrupting her creative process. She hit send just hours before her wedding. Sammy put on her dress and walked to a beach in Phuket to get married, looking forward to a new future and with hopes that her dreams would become true (spoiler alert: they did).


***

These four brave RCs should be celebrated for providing not only laughter from their epic stories but also, the following takeaways that can be applied more broadly to the two years at HBS (and perhaps life after that). First, never give up hope – even when something feels impossible, you have the strength to do it. Second, surround yourself with family and friends that support your vision and cheer you on throughout the most difficult times. Third, never underestimate the power of multitasking and achieving different goals in parallel. And last but not least, HBS deadlines may be more flexible than we thought… we will leave that to next year’s RCs to test for us.


Regina Gomez (MBA ’25) was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. She graduated from Tecnológico de Monterrey with a degree in Economics. Prior to HBS she worked at Mastercard and an early-stage fintech as a Global Strategy and Operations Manager specializing in the payments industry.


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