Maria Wich-Vila
Hi! New around here? Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Maria Wich-Vila, and I’m an HBS graduate and a proud member of AIGAC (who has helped people get into MBA programs for over a decade).
I considered opening a high-end boutique admissions consulting firm. But high prices would prevent me from helping people from all walks of life. So instead, I “scaled myself” by creating ApplicantLab. ApplicantLab is a software tool that provides the SAME advice at a much more affordable price. ApplicantLab is the only admissions product officially endorsed by Harvard Business School’s student newspaper, The Harbus.
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There is a LOT OF HAND-WRINGING on a zillion MBA message boards from candidates anxious to know:

What are my chances of acceptance to the MBA program of my choice? My GPA is pretty low, so I’m super-nervous…“.

Frequently, messages like this are often accompanied by similar messages along the lines of:

I can’t believe I didn’t get accepted! I have a 780 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA …what went wrong?

The answer to both of these questions might be found in a concept I call the “AdComs’ Hierarchy of Needs“.

Certain things (like academics) are a hurdle to be cleared. Just like in track and field, it doesn’t matter if you clear the hurdle by 1 mm or by a mile; it just matters that you clear it. Once you do that, then you need to move your way up the hierarchy of needs to gain admission.

The higher up the hierarchy you go, the more work it takes to “prove” it, and thus the bulk of your application should focus on the top of the “pyramid.”

I made a video explaining the Hierarchy of Needs here:

To summarize the video:

– MBA Admissions Committees will have a first-glance, gut-check reaction to your profile, based upon certain major elements of your background (e.g. industry, GPA, etc.). If your background comes with any negative stereotypes (e.g. engineers are anti-social; people with low GPAs are stupid), then you need to work to counter those weaknesses in your profile (the entire strengths & weaknesses module of ApplicantLab does exactly that)

– Schools are not simply looking at academics: basic academics get your foot in the door, but a 790 GMAT from someone with a boring work profile will never, ever get in over someone with a 690 who has moved mountains.

– Once you prove that you can handle the academics — well, that’s just the first step. THEN you need to prove:

– Basic “EQ” / people skills

– Post-MBA employability

– “Leadership potential” (an often-used term that we describe in detail in the ApplicantLab — we help you find your best leadership stories)


The more competitive the program you’re applying to, the higher the burden of proof is at the top of the pyramid.

And — once you prove the “basics” lower down in the pyramid (eg. “Yes, I can handle the coursework”), then the other 3 factors will come more into play.

Academics simply make you “qualified” to attend;

EQ / Employability / Leadership is what separates acceptances from rejections.


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I hope you found this concept useful. I often find that MBA message-board posts focus too much on basic statistics like G.P.A. or GMAT — and while yes, there is a certain minimum threshold of a minimum GMAT score that will probably result in instant rejection, GPA is subject to much more thoughtful consideration, and as such, just the raw number doesn’t mean much in terms of predicting acceptance.

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