George W. Bush, a middling C-average college student at Yale, had failed to be admitted to the University of Texas law school, and that failure embarrassed him. Page Keeton, the law school dean, wrote to one of those who had recommended Bush for admission, “I am sure your Mr. Bush has all the amiable qualities you describe and so will find a place at one of many fine institutions around the country. But not at the University of Texas.”
Bush had to confront a very basic question: What was he going to do with his life? It was an uneasy time for the young man, and the law school rejection only underscored his problems. After graduating from two of New England’s most select institutions, Phillips Academy and Yale University, Bush had served in the Texas Air National Guard, but that didn’t prove to be a good career match. He worked as a management trainee for a Houston agribusiness company. He tried his hand at several political campaigns. His summer jobs included delivering mail and messages at a law firm and providing customer service at a stock brokerage. He worked on a ranch and roughnecked on an oil rig.
Still, it seemed that Bush hadn’t found his niche, but he knew he liked entrepreneurial work, and a Yale friend suggested that he try business school. So he sent his application off to Harvard, without thinking much about it. “I had not yet settled on a path in life,” he said and thought that business school might provide it.
Admission to Harvard Business School was tough in the early 1970s, with 3300 applicants seeking seats in the 800-student class. Bush decided to give it a try, but wanting to avoid the embarrassment if it didn’t work out, he didn’t tell his parents about the application. The admissions committee was impressed by his written application, and to his surprise, he was offered entrance into the class of 1975.
Bush was older than most of his business school classmates, and by now he had a wide range of business experience—most on the front lines or the shop floor. He wrote later that the experience helped educate him “to know that [business] was not what I wanted to do with my life. I had a taste of many different jobs but none of them had ever seemed to fit.”