I read a great guest post on I Will Teach You To Be Rich from Jay Cross, a guy who PAID to apply for a dream job of his. It was a brilliant move, on his side and the recruiter’s. The recruiter, by putting a small barrier, was skimming the applicants and making sure he would only get the most motivated ones. The author, by paying the fee, already knew that most of his competition had been taken care of for him, so instead of giving up too, he kept going, knowing his odds to get the job had increased. It was a job for a top online marketer, which would have gotten thousands of applicants. Guess how many applied with the fee? Eighteen.
What does that have to do with Harvard? Well if you must know, a few years ago, I was toying with the idea of going back to school for a MBA. I was bored to death at my job, but I knew I could only justify taking time off work for two reasons: early retirement or pursuing further education, to get a better paying job, and reaching early retirement sooner.
I went to business school to get a master in business already, but in France the networking isn’t half as powerful, and it was right after a three year degree, I was 21 and had no professional experience. A US MBA would have been a fun experience and I was convinced I could find a way to pay for it like I got a company to pay for my two years of business school in France.
I started looking into it, more as a way to day dream away from a crappy job than as a real life plan. After an hour or so of research, I came back with the following.
– You need to pass a GMAT exam and ace it to get into a decent school. There are exams 3-4 times a year and the cost is $250.
– Then you have to write a killer essay to make the school want you.
– Two important people have to vouch for you and write recommendations.
– You need to fork out $250 per school (varies, Stanford is at $275, Harvard $250, etc.)
I don’t remember the rest but there were a few more requirements like deadlines and paying for your degrees to be translated. The thing I liked was most schools had need-blind admissions, meaning you get in independently of your ability to pay for school, and then they sit with you to find a way to cover your tuition.
Then I looked at the rate of admission. When I passed the exam to get into my French business school, there were about 5,000 of us applying to a pool of schools, and the school I really wanted accepted 30-so students. I had less than a 1% chance to get in. And Harvard Business School, the best, most sought after school in the entire world, ranked #1 by the Financial Times and other respected institutions… has a 10% admission rate for last year. WHAT?
While my school has an easy entry exam pooled with a dozen more schools where any teenager can sit and give it a go for a small fee, Harvard has such a lengthy process its applicants fall like flies before they even apply.
10% of those who do apply get in. That is probably 0.0001% of those who, like me back then, had a quick dream about applying.
The GMAT score of the students rank from 550 to 750. That means someone with a 550 GMAT (650 is good, but the median was 730 so 550 is an F minus for Harvard) thought he or she had an actual shot at getting in, and beat the odds.
Why such a high admission rate, compared to my average European business school? Because Harvard has put a myriad of small barriers to skim the applicants, like the guy with a fee to apply for a job.
There is the cost, $500+ between test fees and application fee, I’d say as far as $1,000 if your test center is far away and you bought books to prepare. But if you aren’t prepared to pay $500 to get in, are you prepared for a $60K yearly tuition? I imagine most students give up anyway, even with good GMAT scores, just to save $250. They apply to 2-3 schools and play it safe, targeting schools where they have a good chance of getting in.
Not that 550 GMAT student. He/she did not give up based on an academic score. He/she went on, wrote an essay, found two mentors to write a perfect recommendation letter, paid $250 to apply for a school who would screen through over 9.000 applications and select less than 100 students, and thought all the way “I can be one of them”.
That is how you get into Harvard. Or achieve anything you want in life.
You celebrate the barriers, because it only means that once you get over them, your chances of success are higher. Your competition, unfit for a small obstacle, gave up and left way for you.
Snatch the opportunity instead of sitting there dreaming.