He has worked for American Express in Argentina for more than five years, winning numerous awards for his superior performance. But this 26-year-old male now wants to get an MBA to try his hand at management consulting at BCG, Bain or McKinsey.
After a five-year stint at a major New York City art museum, she’s hoping to get an MBA to transition to a job as the director of a college art museum in New England. Her dream school: Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.
She has worked as a financial analyst for two Fortune 500 companies over the past five years. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average from UC-Berkeley, this 27-year-old woman is hoping to use a top-ranked MBA to move into a product management or business development role in the biotech field.
What these MBA applicants share in common is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?
Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, is back again to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.
As usual, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting into a top-ranked business school. If you include your own stats and characteristics in the comments, we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature. (Please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience. Make sure you let us know your current job.)
Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:
- 740 GMAT
- 3.0 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in English literature from a “virtually unheard of” liberal arts college in New York City
- 3.5 GPA Master’s
- Graduate degree in art history from same school
- Work experience includes five years at a major New York City art museum in an administrative and research role
- Extracurricular activities include founding literary club, president of Sigma Tau Delta (International English Honor Society), and also some LGTB work, though no heavy-lifting,
- Goal: To be director, deputy director or development officer of a college art museum in New England
- “My dream school is Tuck (grew up in Hanover, was beneficiary of initiatives like Tuck-sponsored project WISE as a child and am eager to give back to my community, have personal and professional attachment to the college’s art museum)”
Odds of Success:
Dartmouth: 30% to 40%
Harvard: 15% to 20%
Sandy’s Analysis: MBA programs get more applications from the art world, or should I say, the Art World, than many people think. That includes music, painting, theater–and the rich cousin of this family, cinema. Your story is pretty typical, and so are stories of performers who want to cross over into arts management, or have already taken steps to do that.
The fact that you have five years of experience in a blue chip New York City museum, in what could arguably be called a mix of curatorial and administrative functions is a real anchor for your application, and a 740 GMAT is a Rembrandt-level score for this cohort. It will go a long way in having adcoms ignore your drip- painting undergraduate transcript.
There is a serviceable summary of arts administration options and issues (and links),whether within MBA programs, or as self-standing MA programs (Columbia is famous for this) in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arts_administration, so that is a good place to start, if you want to survey the waterfront of your options.
Tuck is certainly a maybe, and you seem to be their type and know the terrain. What I would not suggest is your current stated goals: “Director, Deputy Director or Development Officer of a college art museum in New England,” which sounds like you are eager to stop talking the subway to work in New York and buy a Land Rover for employment portage instead, including crossing the small stream near your jewel-box rural manse. Dartmouth Abbey anyone!!!!
Also, Director of Development is basically a silver-cup job (high class begging) and for that you would do better with a combination of charm school and a deep network of high-net worth friends than with an MBA degree. Although, sure, going to an MBA program is a good way to meet many of those. I would rather say that you are interested in being the leader of a museum (and not necessarily a college one either) because that job requires a combination of strategy, human resources, finance, development, and real estate issues in addition to your impeccable taste and robust knowledge of art history.
Hope this has been helpful. Fun factoid, and not sure if this true, but it could be. Someone once told me that the total value of Harvard University’s museum holdings (millions of objects if you define its museum holdings widely, including science museums) is larger than its endowment, which was last reported at $32 billion. Harvard has a lot of art wasting in basements and they used to have a program (and still might) of lending out art for decorating faculty offices and even houses. Of course, even if true, the art objects are not liquid, and would have to be sold (and much of it has been donated with restrictions against that) but just an interesting conversation piece, nonetheless.
Getting back to you, I think your chances at Tuck are solid if you can charm them and come up with a more robust, and less gentrified, goal statement.
- 730 GMAT
- 3.5 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in business and psychology from UC Berkeley
- Work experience includes five years as a financial analyst split between two Fortune 500 companies
- Extracurricular involvement on the Executive Committee in my sorority and a year as a volunteer with a non-profit post college, but nothing right now
- Goal: To transition from finance at a tech company to product management or business development at a biotech company. Currently working toward a biotech certificate through an extension program to boost my biotech exposure. Believe the MBA will help to facilitate a double transition (industry & function).
- 27-year-old white female
Odds of Success:
Northwestern MMM: 40+%
Harvard: 20% to 25%
Sandy’s Analysis: A 3.5 at Berkeley and a 730 GMAT with two OK-ish sounding finance jobs in Fortune 500 companies is a solid profile for Kellogg, Booth and Stern—even without all your biotech certificates and plans to be a product manager in biotech. So I think your chances at those places are in-line, and all you need to do is get your story clear, and reasons for MBA in line, and sound like you really want to go.
Wharton takes and rejects stories like that. It is just more selective. Ditto HBS and Stanford, but a lot at all schools will depend on what companies you worked for and how hard they back you, and if they are interesting. I once worked with a profile similar to this, but the applicant (female) worked for a leading defense contractor, and that twist — dealing with such an alien culture,both the dudes in the company and the clients — was enough to get her into HBS, along with a strong record at a tier two school and solid 700+ GMAT, and strong but not knock-out extras.
I’m not seeing Stanford here, just not enough clout anywhere that would interest them. Saying you want to work for biotech is a plus, but not a door opener. And schools are often suspicious of career switchers. So don’t count on that to tilt the scale too much, and if played badly, e.g. you sound burned out at current job and dreamy about biotech being the White Knight that is going to rescue you, it could backfire. I’m no expert on Biotech companies, but they may demand more than a certificate for a product manager gig, especially as an initial hire. This is dicey—you might do better just saying, as you suggest, that you want an MBA to go into business development for a growing tech company, with a possibility of Biotech being one ‘space’ which interests you. Business development is more close to your finance background, product manager in Biotech sounds like you really have to know a bit of science, and even if that is not true, many adcoms may think it is true, and distrust your motives and realism. If that certificate program is thorough, and well known, I might change my mind.
Mr. Family Business
- 730 GMAT
- 3.75 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from an “average state school”
- Work experience includes time at NASA after school, though I currently sit second in command at my family’s privately owned, $50 million (sales) business
- Goal: “Eventually I’ll be taking over this organization and I want to go to business school to help support that transition. I am local to Massachusetts so I’d prefer HBS or Sloan.”
- “Have a couple of friends who are recent graduates from both programs who are willing to write alumni recommendations.”
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 20% to 35+%
MIT: 40% to 50+%
Sandy’s Analysis: Running a family business is a double-edged sword for adcoms. HBS sees itself as creating a transforming experience (they don’t keep data on this, which makes their belief in this aspiration even more tenacious) and they can quietly gag on the idea of having some guy who is near-running a family business go back there. All that said, there is some unspoken number about the size of a family business which turns it from a liability to an asset in the eyes of the HBS adcom. MIT is less picky about seeing family businesses as ‘non-transformational’ experiences but that lurks in the background there as well.
I don’t know what that number is. My guess is, though, it is more than $50 million a year in sales. Another issue is how ‘hip’ the business is from adcom’s point of view. If you are running some alt-energy business or cutting-edge medical device company or educational technology company which could be expanded into some BIG DEAL under your stewardship, and not only expanded but also transformed into an enterprise that is more meaningful and impactful while also becoming a hiring magnet to boot (of handicapped, minority, and immigrant labor at excellent wages) –well, that is a dreamscape that sometimes works at HBS. So my advice is, whatever your business is in reality, try to make your plans for it align with that vision.
MIT might go for the 730, 3.75 and NASA triple play (plus background in chemical engineering). The added attraction for any school is that they don’t have to find you a job. HBS might go for some of that, but it may take more–make it real clear why you need an MBA in the first place, and really think hard about creating a snow globe of a picture of what you are going to do with Dad’s company.
As to your point of having recent grads write recommendations, that does not cut a whole lot of mustard at either school unless the grads are friendly with adcom officials or are recent donor grads, and not $100 to the class fund. What you need are recs from customers, bankers or investors who can confirm your potential to create the wonderful picture you paint about the transformed business.
- 700 GMAT (will be retaking)
- 3.25 GPA (have taken two courses since and gotten As)
- Undergraduate degree in biology and economics from Brown University
- Work experience includes five years in health care strategy consulting, three at a boutique firm and two at a major management consulting firm. Have a track record of excellent performance reviews, team leadership and client satisfaction
- Heavily involved in extracurricular activity at school, including multiple mentoring positions, leadership jobs and volunteer programs
Odds of Success:
Wharton: 20% to 30%
Northwestern: 25% to 40%
Chicago: 25% to 40%
Duke: 35% to 50%
Columbia: 40% (early decision)
Sandy’s Analysis: Well, except for your low-ish GPA and 700 GMAT, you are a solid guy with an Ivy education and what appears to be two solid jobs. I assume the boutique job is the current one? Taking those two extra courses is helpful, and if you are dead set on Wharton, you might take two more. Also, while I don’t usually advise retaking a 700 GMAT, in your case, I do, if you have your heart set on Philly. They get a lot of guys just like you (Ivy, solid jobs, solid extras) and the raw numbers often make deciding real easy, even if they should not.
Solid execution as to why you want an MBA and why now will also help (five years of consulting experience is on the high side), along with some focused but dream-filtered goal statement. Even with your present stats, guys like you get in and dinged from Kellogg and Booth, and mostly get in to Duke (if you convince them they are not sloppy fifths). Not sure I see the NYU fit. Jack up the GMAT and try Columbia early decision.
Mr. Credit Card
- 750 GMAT
- No GPA but graduated in the top 8% of my class
- Undergraduate degree in economy from the best university in Argentina
- Work Experience includes over five years at American Express starting “as a junior doing elemental things” and now lead three teams—in operations, customer retention, and customer acquisition
- Have won several prizes at Amex, including the Will to Win Award, the Customer Service Award, and the Outstanding Achievements Award (regional prize). Also, I was nominated by Latam region to the Worldwide Customer Service Award two times, and to the Chairman Award of Innovation once.
- Extracurricular involvement as the leader of a basketball team which has won the local tournament twice and the national tournament once. Also taught guitar lessons for three years after studying the instrument for six years.
- Goal: To land a management consulting job at BCG, Bain or McKinsey
- 26-year-old Argentine male
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 15% to 20%
Stanford: 10% to 15%
Wharton: 30% to 40+%
Columbia: 30% to 50+%
Northwestern: 30% to 50+%
Dartmouth: 30% to 40+%
NYU: 40% to 50+%
Sandy’s Analysis: As to Harvard and Stanford, a lot will depend on what they think of your job at Amex. There is a term in admissions, ‘credit card database jockey’ and it describes techie guys who scour a credit card company’s database looking for ways to increase fees, late charges, eliminate really poor deadbeats (who cannot pay and may declare bankruptcy or just disappear) and increase only so-so poor near-deadbeats who can pay the late fees (that is sweet spot, the favorite customer of all for credit card companies).
Sounds like you do a bit of that and maybe something more. You don’t seem to be the disc jockey but the station manager and that could be a key difference.
And as I have noted several times, a B-rated job in the U.S. is often an A job in Eastern Europe of Latin America, viz. working for a Big Four accounting firm (OK but not great in New York, hard job to get in Moscow, and credited as such by B schools). So that part of the international currency exchange for B school jobs may help you. Your extras (basketball team and personal hobbies) are fine with me, but they are not the ‘do-gooder, social-impact-beyond-yourself’ gigs that turn-on HBS and Stanford.
I’m having a hard time getting a feel for the company awards you list, but if those are truly extraordinary and rare, and you have leaders in the company who strongly back your application, that could turn the tide. Otherwise, I am not seeing this as HBS or Stanford, although that is just a vibe I am getting from the whole story. Feel free to write back and tell me I am wrong.
A 750 GMAT is rare in Latin America, and I’m taking you at your word that you are in the top 8% of your class in the best university in the country. HBS takes five to six kids a year from Argentina, and they often have stats like yours, or U.S. schooling, and jobs in Blue Chip consulting firms and banks. Amex is sorta one step below that, but depending on what you do, and how it is perceived, you could be closer to real blue chip or farther away. Once again, the key question: Has anyone who did your job at Amex in the past five years applied to business school and what were the outcomes?
Once we get past HBS and Stanford, your situation is much better. Wharton and Columbia will go for your solid stats (high GPA and GMAT) and may have a more benign view of credit card company maestros. They also are not as enamored with do-gooder jive as HBS and Stanford. Tuck is in range for you as well, based on stats, and your general likeability, if indeed you come off that way if you visit. Kellogg will go for the stats as well as the Argentina connection.
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