“I was the first in my class to be promoted at McKinsey. I have a 710 GMAT score and completed Level 1 of the CFA exam, but I had a B- in calculus during my freshman year. Will that grade ruin my chances for admission?”
“My company has been under a hiring and promotion freeze for the past three years, but during that time, I have earned pay increases and survived successive rounds of layoffs. Will the admissions committee accept someone who has not been promoted?”
“I have been promoted, but my company changed names. Will the admissions committee think I am going somewhere at a sketchy company?”
Although these questions may seem somewhat silly—the individuals’ strengths are obvious and their “weaknesses” comparatively innocuous—we get asked about scenarios like these every day. In short, we can assure you that your candidacy, even at vaunted schools like Harvard and Stanford, is not rendered tenuous by such trivial “shortcomings.” The admissions officers do not consider you guilty until proven innocent, and they are not looking for little reasons to exclude you from contention.
Many candidates have mythologized the “perfect” applicant and fear that any small area of concern means that they do not measure up to this myth—and thus that their candidacy is insufficient. Rather than fixating on small details that in truth are inconsequential, you should think about the big picture with respect to your overall competitiveness.
You can take us at our word on this. Or, if you prefer, heed the words of J.J. Cutler, former deputy vice dean of MBA admissions, financial aid, and career management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who explained to mbaMission that “everyone has something, or more than one thing, in their application that they need to overcome.” But he added, “We read with an eye toward wanting to find all the good things about an applicant. We look for their strengths. We look for things that make them stand out, that make them unique. We look for their accomplishments. We look for positive parts of the application.”