Yes you can.
But it becomes statistically less and less likely every year. One thing is certain: there are a lot of folks out there who have cracked the code on the formidable GMAT exam and scores continue to rise to stratospheric levels, pushing the average up of course. Most schools publish the percentages of each level of the GMAT who gain admission every year, but these three schools, often considered the “holy grail” of b-schools, are exceptions.
They keep this information close to the vest and will only say that the GMAT is “very important” in the admissions process and state their median GMAT score each year (for each school it was in the low 700’s for class of 2015). Based upon the published stats from other top schools, I believe it’s safe to say that not very many applicants with a 650 are getting in to these top three schools. In fact, at other leading (top 10-ish) schools who do publish their percentages, fewer than 12% of the applicants have GMATs under 650 and fewer than 9% of admitted applicants have below that mark.
This puts you in a tight spot indeed if you are trying to get in with a 650. Not only are there very few applicants who are admitted with that score, there are far more applicants who achieved that score than those who achieved higher. Simply put, you are a small fish in a very big pond, and the odds of catching a baited hook are low.
A more telling statistic is their score range, which they do indeed publish and as of last year was 530-780 for Harvard, 550-760 for Stanford and 630-790 For Wharton. So technically, you can get in these schools with only a score in the 500’s on the GMAT! Don’t you feel relieved? What the number doesn’t tell you is that the person who had the 530 also developed a cure for cancer, or built a post-atmospheric earth orbiting vehicle out of spare parts from their garage, or some other incredible feat. Most schools publish an 80% range which gives a better idea at least of the probable range for most students.
The point, I guess is, the devil is in the details. Can someone get into Stanford, Harvard or Wharton with a 650? Yes indeed someone can. Can YOU get in with your 650? It all depends on the story behind the score. Focus on what you have achieved that is extraordinary and what you offer that is unique and different than the average Stanford applicant (keeping in mind the “average” applicant to these super elite schools is pretty impressive), and at least you will have the best shot with that 650 that you can possibly have. At the end of the day, these schools, with their large student bodies, are able to take the occasional flyer on the right person, regardless of GMAT score. Perhaps that right person is you? Best of luck.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.