He’s a self-described handsome and personable 29-year-old who works as a senior project manager for a consulting firm. With an undergraduate degree in sociology and philosophy, this poet wants to go to business school to help him start his own consultancy “at the nexus of the government and the private sector.”
She a quant and a poet, a Big 4 auditor who has played the violin for 17 years, having twice performed at Lincoln Center. But this 26-year-old Ukrainian woman is worried that her low 3.1 undergraduate grade point average and low quant score on a 730 GMAT will keep her out of a top-ranked business school.
A graduate of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power School, he’s spent five years as a Naval Officer. He’s now looking to get an MBA to help him transition into venture capital and entrepreneurship. His dream school: Stanford.
What these would-be MBA candidates 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 on Poets & Quants, 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.)
Ms. Big Four Ukraine
- 730 GMAT (V97, Q76)
- 3.1 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in business and MIS from a top 20 B-school
- Work experience includes four years at a Big 4 accounting firm, starting off in the IT Advisory practice focused on Consumer Products and Media & Entertainment industries; obtained Certified Information Systems Auditor certification
- Extracurricular involvement in firm’s women’s network; actively involved with Cosmetic Executive Women and active in New York’s tech/start-up scene
- Violinist for 17 years, having played in numerous orchestras and performed at Lincoln Center twice; amateur photographer and avid traveler
- Main concern: Low undergrad GPA due to my pre-med classes, low quant score on GMAT
- 26-year-old Caucasian female, originally from the Ukraine
Odds of Success:
Wharton: 30% to 35%
Columbia: 30% to 40% (if Early Decision)
INSEAD: 50% to 60%
London: 50% to 60%
Sandy’s Analysis: Well, violin-playing Ukrainians and amateur photobugs score high with me, and you have a good deal to like even for adcoms, whose tastes often have different hot spots. I think your concern over your ‘low’ Quant score on the GMAT (76 percent Q with total score of 730) is misplaced. That is fine for most schools, and the fact you were working in (and majored in) finance and MIS should tamp down any actual fears about your abilities to do quant-type stuff.
The rest of the GMAT is a beauty contest, and your 730 is quite a good-looking score. The GPA issue is a more valid concern, schools will cut you some slack with the pre-med story, but what is GPA with first, pre-med year out of the mix? That could be an important issue. Your work experience, consulting at a Big-4, is solid for schools you are interested in, and you have both firm and general extracurrics, which make you seem like an active and attractive addition to most B-school classes.
You don’t state goals, but I assuming something to do with Consumer Products, Entertainment and Media (CPEM? TED’s Balkan cousin?). So that is a good fit in an expanding and exciting area. The fact you can leverage actual tech skills (“Certified Information Systems Auditor” certification)) into sectors like Consumer Products and Entertainment, is another employability plus. Those areas often attract ‘soft’ applicants who then discover, “ whoa dude, there is numbers here and not just taking pictures of models in the latest shade of blush.” Your quant background (even beside GMAT score) will be a plus.
All that said, I think Wharton may gag over the 3.1 and Big Four. Although as we have noted, Wharton’s “80 percent GPA window” is wider on the low side than many imagine. Some rave recommendations would help. Columbia does not like swallowing a 3.1 either, but if you applied Early Decision there, and stressed how being in New York City could help you hussle in your CPEM career aspirations, and made it clear how employable you would be, well, it is an acceptable reach. Really lobby them by going to forums, taking the tour, etc. Yale is a wild card since they are trying to re-imagine themselves, partly with solid stats. I think you stand a good chance at INSEAD and LBS.
- 700 GMAT (Q42, V44)
- 3.4 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in sociology and philosophy from non-Chapel Hill UNC campus
- 3.8 GPA in graduate school
- Two years of graduate study in sociology from a middling program (left before earning MS)
- Work experience as project manager at a research institute for the trucking industry; four years as a senior project manager for a travel behavior data collection consultancy
- Extracurricular includes lots of small things, but nothing demonstrating leadership
- Goal: To start consultancy “at the nexus of government and private sector with a focus on shaping industry regulatory rule-making’
- “Handsome, personable 29-year old white guy from modest means (first-gen college)”
- Would love your perspective on:
- 1. The impact of the abandoned earlier graduate study (essentially, the program was ridiculously poorly run and I realized too late that I didn’t want to be an academic).
- 2. How far does GMAT go as you move down the rankings? At what differential between a program’s mean GMAT and a candidate’s high score does the prospect of raising the mean compel a program to overlook everything else?
- 3. How much does current employment influence adcoms? I feel there is about a 50% likelihood my firm will have gone bankrupt before the time adcoms are reviewing my app. What would look best on the resume? Finding another job in current field or something unusual (Americorps, teaching English in China, etc.) for the year before enrollment?
Odds of Success:
UCLA: 30% to 35%
Cornell: 40% to 50%
Texas: 40% to 50%
Carnegie: 30% to 40%
Emory: 30% to 45%
USC: 40% to 50%
Sandy’s Analysis: Dude, you are a solid (my view), handsome (your claim) guy with a tight story about how your career and major in sociology (both at the B.A. and “A.B.D” grad levels) feeds into your post-grad work as researcher, think-tanker, and consultant for the past six years and how that, plus an MBA could lead to some gig in a transportation-focused consultancy.
We got a 3.4 from satellite UNC campus, a 3.8 grad GPA and a 700 GMAT. You say “reach” schools are UCLA (3.5/710), Cornell (3.3/697), UT- Austin (3.339/681), Carnegie-Mellon (3.35/690), Emory (3.40/680), and USC ((3.32/690). But as you can clearly see, on stats alone you are in-line for those places, and I think the maturity of your story and its connectedness would be a plus. Six years of work experience (on top of two years of grad school) makes you pushing 30 by my calculations, which may be a small negative.
But I would say your only “reach” school is UCLA, which is the highest rated of your selections (by U.S. News’ ranking) and the only school where you marginally fall below the average on both GPA and GMAT. I think with solid execution and good recommendations, you have a chance at all of those places. And a very good chance at the ‘let’s hope schools you list –Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rice, ASU, Texas A&M, and UC-Davis. I agree that you should get into Boston College, Boston University, Rochester, Irvine, and UT-Dallas, if you can convince them you want to come.
Be sure to be specific about how hirable you are and note your contacts in the field. The fact that you are not a job switcher and not a dreamer should make you attractive to them. Basically, you are getting your ticket punched to move up the status pole, which is the “secret sauce” and hidden motto at most of those places.
Someone want to do the Seal with the Latin subtext? What is “Up The Greasy Pole” in Latin, anyone?
As to your specific questions:
1. The impact of the abandoned earlier graduate study . . .
That means zilch. Join the club. Lot’s of folks do that for many reasons. The real important thing is that you got the 3.8 GPA in grad school, which shows them you can 1) Sit still. 2) Eat s**t. Those are the two most important traits (to an adcom) of a successful student in any program, B-school being no different.
2. Does a GMAT premium set in as you go down the rankings? Does the prospect of raising the mean compel a program to overlook everything else?
A new GMAT for you that is 20 to 25 points above a school average, in your case, would allow you to get into most of your reach schools. If you got that 720, it’s nice and again, in your case, solidifies the case that you are a solid dude, and that is more important to schools per se in making a decision about you than you raising their average GMAT score by some .1 or .2 percent. In your case, the difference between a GMAT of 700 and 720 would not be so big a deal. But it would be nice, because they are not going to have any doubts about your basic smarts or student aptitude and attitudes (see above about the 3.8 grad school record).
3. You asked: “How much does current employment influence adcom? I feel there is about a 50% likelihood my firm will have gone bankrupt before the time adcoms are reviewing my app . . .but what would look best on the resume? Finding another job in current field or something unusual (Americorps, teaching English in China, etc.) for the year prior to enrollment?”
Hmmmm, being unemployed is often bad luck and schools do not like unlucky students because they have a fear that they will be unlucky in the future. Given the fact that one of your biggest assets is a ‘tight’ story, I would suggest getting a job in your current field, even if it is part-time or nominal. I would NOT join Americorps, etc. We all like those organizations, but that is just off-message for a guy with your history.
- 730 GMAT
- GPA: 2.80
- Undergraduate degree from an un-ranked U.S. university
- Work experience includes three years in purchasing and accounting for a major J&J-type health care company
- Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer board member for a non-profit for the elderly and a local art center; volunteer during college at animal shelter
- Fluent in three languages
- Non-U.S. citizen currently working in the U.S. under an H1-b1 visa
Odds of Success:
Sandy’s Analysis: I think the 2.8 GPA at a no-name U, plus what appears to be a hum-drum job in the purchasing and accounting department of even a J&J-type health care company, is going to be pretty hard to overcome at your target schools. I am not seeing this as H/S/W at all. There is not one magic bullet pushing you in, despite your many extras with the elderly, the arts, and animals. Those are all well-meaning involvements, but they won’t open the doors to any of the Big Three schools.
I’m also not seeing this as an admit at Sloan, Kellogg, Booth or Haas, although you could get lucky at one of those places with hyper-effective execution, the 730 GMAT as an insurance card that you actually are solid (despite low GPA and boring job). Nonetheless, if you really want to get an MBA, I would expand my list to include schools ranked 12 to 20 on most lists. You work for a big company, you got a 730, you are an active volunteer—if you can make all those add up to a “story,” which you don’t do in the above, and come up with some explanation of low grades, or develop an alternative transcript, well, you stand an OK chance at schools ranked “12 to 20” on most lists.
- 760 GMAT (48Q, 46V)
- 3.57 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in computer engineering and math from a Southern Ivy (not Duke)
- Work experience includes nine months as a coder at a tech startup, ten months in consulting at Deloitte/Accenture/PWC and two years at a tech startup in big data for financial service firms
- Extracurricular involvement as officer in a collegiate model United Nations where he won top speaker honors and engineering society; now chief technology officer of a small non-profit with a focus on reducing bullying
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 15% to 30%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Chicago: 40% to 50%
MIT: 40% to 50%
Dartmouth: 40% to 50%
Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmmm, a 3.57 at a Near Ivy (with computer science and math focus), 760 GMAT, and a career at large non-M/B/B consulting shop, followed by (? unclear from your post, FOLKS BE SURE MAKE CLEAR WHAT YOUR CURRENT JOB IS!) senior analyst at ‘big data’ financial services focused tech start-up, where let’s assume you are now? With better-than-average extras, and given top speaker awards in college, not a total nerd.
That could get you solidly in the running at HBS and Wharton since the brand names and stats line-up, and the extras are enough, and you also are working in a buzz-word (big data) area. Stanford is always a black box if you don’t have the right firm pedigrees, and you don’t, but the same pluses you have at HBS (solid stats, buzz word job) will get into the running as a Stanford “walk-on,” which does happen. I’d say you are solid at MIT, and probably solid at Tuck and Chicago, although this story does not seem a natural fit. If you convince them you want to come, they will give you a real serious look.
Mr. Hawaii Sailor
- 700+ GMAT (expected)
- 3.75 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in political science from Carnegie Mellon
- 3.62 GPA
- Second undergraduate degree in math from a big city public university
- Work experience includes five years as a Naval Officer who graduated from Nuclear Power School and spent the last three years on destroyers as a surface warfare officer
- Extracurricular involvement is volunteering with Surfrider Oahu working on beach clean-up; an avid scuba diver, working toward instructor qualifications.
- Goal: “Looking for something more dynamic than a government bureaucracy- I’m thinking about working in venture capital and entrepreneurship. Eventually I’d like to return to government to create change and foster innovation in national defense “Planning on doing a joint MBA/Masters in International Relations with Johns Hopkins SAIS or Princeton
- “Targets are Stanford, Stanford and Stanford, then Wharton, Chicago, Duke, maybe Berkeley.”
- 28-year-old Indian-American male
Odds of Success:
Wharton: 30% to 45%
Chicago: 30% to 50%
Duke: 40% to 50%
Sandy’s Analysis: Try changing your number 1 target school from “Stanford, Stanford, and Stanford” to “Stanford, Stanford, and HBS.” It helps to spread your bets, although agreed, ocean activities like SCUBA and sailing are more easy to come-by at Stanford. As noted several times, military applicants are vetted more often on GPAs and GMAT scores than anyone might guess. Schools are a bit reluctant to second-guess what is and is not a successful military career. Recommendations also help. Nuclear Power School is recognized as a place where the military sends smart kids, so that is another plus. How come you did not get deployed on a submarine, or am I just being uninformed and are some surface ships now nuclear as well??
The “Indian” in the military angle (I am assuming Asian and not Native American, or as they used to say, ‘dot not feather’) is also a good narrative to work in, and does separate you out from the military cohort in some small but meaningful way. Get a solid 710-720 GMAT and you could be in the running at Stanford and Harvard and certainly Wharton, Chicago, Duke and Berkeley.
Your goals are scattered at this point, so get more focused for purposes of the application. Your idea about wanting to foster entrepreneurship in government is a good talking point in an app., and one you come by honestly. It also dovetails with a joint international relations degree—they offer those at HBS by the way which is another reason to consider it, surfing and sailing in Boston is as good as it is in Baltimore (and superior to Princeton!).
Anyway, you got an interesting collection of high-performance college and GMATs, plus a solid military career and some “Identity Politics” pluses. That’s lots to work with if you can put it all together in some cogent form, which should not be hard but don’t go too gassy. Venture capital is not a usual post-military stated goal, although it could be a step-up goal after the usual shake-down cruise in consulting. VC gigs are hard to get for kids right out of school without IB/PE/VC experience.
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