He thinks of himself as a charismatic and empathetic leader who has been working for two years at a mid-market private equity shop after a two-year stint at one of the Big Three consulting firms. But this 27-year-old is worried that his work experience makes him fall s into the oversubscribed bucket of MBA applicants.
He graduated from the Juilliard School of Music at the age of 17 and toured the world as a concert cellist. But after suffering nerve damage in his left hand in an auto accident, his musical career ended abruptly. Now in marketing for Parker Hannifin, this 26-year-old wants an MBA to help him start his own business.
He’s a consultant with Deloitte with internships at three resume-enhancing companies: Amazon, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble. But this 24-year-old African American is concerned that most of his projects at work have focused on systems integration, which is hardly perceived as sexy.
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.)
Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:
Mr. PE Consultant
- 710 GMAT
- 3.7 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in business
- Work experience includes two years at one of the Big Three consulting firms and the past two years at a middle market private equity shop
- Extracurricular involvement includes a two-year stint on a Mormon church-service mission, have also led multiple young professional mentorship initiatives as a global steering committee member for global alumni organization and have professional development initiatives as member of student government
- “In a nutshell, I’m a charismatic and empathetic leader with a passion for mentorship”
- Goal: “To raise my own growth equity fund and provide entrepreneurs with the capital and advice they need to change the world with their ideas”
- 27-year-old white male, married with three children
Odds of Success:
Stanford: 20% to 30%
Harvard: 30% to 40%
Sandy’s Analysis: Well, if you read this column regularly, you’ve heard this from me before: Guys like you get in and get dinged at HBS and Stanford depending on, in your case, most importantly, what the school thinks of your private equity shop and what its record is at those schools. If someone can juice your app with a phone call if you don’t get interviewed right away or if someone is a FOD (Friend of Derrick), your chances improve considerably.
Other generic issues are your GPA, which is fine in general but could be on the lower side for LDS (Latter-day Saints/Mormon) applicants, who often range from 3.9 to 4.0 in my experience. Only partly joshing, but you are in a tight cohort of PE white guys and a sub-group of McKinsey/Bain/BCG PE white guys, and then a further sub-set of all that and LDS PE white guys, as you seem to be aware.
Similarly, a 710 GMAT is totally fine but guys like you often present scores like that. You could gain some tiny halo effect if your Mission was in some exotic and non-English speaking area of the world. And to complete this nay-say on what is, in general, a strong profile, your non-Mission extras are going to be devalued a bit as too much ‘inside baseball” by which I mean too much done as a service to firm and to school, and focused on business. There’s not enough impacting communities outside your neighborhood/comfort zone, viz. working with HIV-positive sex workers in Mexico.
You say, “In a nutshell, I’m a charismatic and empathetic leader with a passion for mentorship.” I actually believe you but those qualities are hard to capture in an application, especially the new anorexic current HBS app. That is why having recommenders and champions at Harvard and Stanford are so important. You might get in through the front door, especially at HBS where that door is wider. But a lot may turn on dumb luck, your current firm’s ‘brand’ at those schools, and intangibles.
As to your goals, you want to “raise my own growth equity fund and provide entrepreneurs with the capital and the strategic advice they need to change the world with their ideas.” Dat’s nice and it would be nicer still if you can point to projects at your current PE firm where you got a taste of that–one way to get that into your HBS application, beyond the 400 words they give you. That is good jive for Stanford, too, not that they care much, but it beats saying you want to explore social media as a way of marketing cigarettes to Asian youths both in the USA and in developing countries.
You might notice that Stanford recently sent out a press release touting the school’s emphasis on turning out entrepreneurs, with this excerpt: “Graduates describe the ideal business culture as one that is flat, non-hierarchical, encourages risk-taking and has a strong culture of mentorship.” To the extent you can align yourself with that ethos as a reason why you “really, really” want to go to Stanford, it might get you some good karma. All that said, find some FOD and work that angle real, real hard.
Guys like you get into Wharton all the time, it is just a matter of serviceable execution, convincing them you really want to come.
Mr. Systems Integration
- 710 GMAT (Should I retake?)
- 3.6 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Work experience includes two years with Deloitte Consulting as a systems integration consultant after college internships with Amazon, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble
- Extracurricular activities include being co-founder of a non-profit in Baltimore to create policy debate programs for public inner-city high schools; also started an alumni branch for the organization and continue to judge tournaments; volunteer at local soup kitchens; policy debater in high school and college.
- Short-Term Goal: To shift from technology to management and strategy consulting
- Long-Term Goal: To shift to industry general management role in the tech sector
- Concerns: “Most of my projects at work have focused on systems integration which isn’t perceived as a sexy field. GMAT score is lower than the median at some of my target schools.”
- 24-year-old, African-American male
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 40% to 50%
Stanford: 30% to 35%
Sandy’s Analysis: What we got here is a AA-M-STEM (African-American Male STEM) with a 710/3.6 which is a very strong profile indeed, including your internships at blue chip firms and what sounds like some solid if boring years at Deloitte (no one cares how boring it is, and some kids at M/B/B and Goldman will be happy to match you hour for hour, spreadsheet box for spreadsheet box in the World Series of boring gigs). Plus you have some super-duper community service extras, including actually working in a soup kitchen.
The trick in making systems integration sexy is to go lite on the tech stuff and just focus on solving problems by working with different groups (techies, clients, non-techies in your firm, and any other group that comes to mind), and if you are rolling your eyes and saying that 99% of your work is you spitting on plugs and kicking mainframes while alone in a jungle of code and hardware, well, my friend, just take that one percent which is not that, or even the .01 percent (what I am earning on many of my cash investments, not kidding) or even the two times in your work life you actually interacted with other humans, and talk about that. Many applicants with overwhelming people stories often get overwhelmed, so consider yourself lucky.
A 710 GMAT for an African-American male is rare, according to rumor and lore, if anyone has stats on that or other rumors, let me know. There are lots of AA females with 710+ GMATs but the whispered truth is that guys are hard to find. All that being said, if you think you can do better, sure, take it again, it’s a pain in the butt, but so much in life is a pain, and the payoff is rarely that high.
You say, as goals, “Shift from technology to management and strategy consulting . . . Long-term – Shift to industry general management role in tech sector. Want to be at intersection between technology and business.” Bingo.
Just make that case. It is right on the money. For HBS you could tell two stories: 1. I’m good at working with the many parts and personalities and diverse people in computer integration projects—and give examples, even if based on ‘nano’ evidence. Then say you could have done better in building out your non-profit if you thought more like a manager, concerned with getting others to help you versus operating like a passionate do-gooder and doing too much yourself. You can also flip those stories.
For Stanford, just find the key growth, failure, learning moments in your Nabe work and hit on those as to what matters most. Don’t do a victory lap, do a learning lap. We implicitly get the major good stuff. They like to see growth, setbacks, lessons and personal value creation. I’d say your chances at other schools you note, Wharton, Northwestern, Berkeley, MIT, UCLA are real solid, given the above. You just need to take a hot tub or have a few drinks or whatever you do to get real relaxed and convince yourself about how challenging and humanistic your job is.
- 700+ GMAT (expected)
- 7.8 out of 10.0 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in pharmacy from BITS-Pilani (among top 10 schools in India)
- 3.5 Graduate GPA
- Masters degree in pharmaceutical sciences from Northeastern University; worked on a thesis project under a pioneer in the field and published in four scientific journals
- Work experience includes more than four years in research and development, including more than three years at Genzyme; now have a leadership role at a relatively small company in Cambridge
- Goal: “Had intentions to pursue a PhD while doing a graduate work but realized my interest in an MBA while working in the Industry. I would like to see myself as a chief executive or chief operating officer in the pharmaceutical/biotech/cosmetics industries
- “Crowd pleaser, multi-talented as a kid (not the best, but good at almost everything)”
- 26-year-old married female, from a small town in southern India
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 20% to 35%
Stanford: 10% to 20%
Northwestern: 35% to 50%
Wharton: 30% to 45%
Dartmouth: 20% to 30%
Sandy’s Analysis: A lot will turn on your work experience and how solid those jobs were, and what the various B schools make of them. You say: “Diversified experience working for different departments within R&D. Internship at Amgen and 3+ years of experience at Genzyme. Now working for a relatively small company in Cambridge area managing the work at CROs and CMOs (leadership role within R&D) Can get excellent recommendation from my supervisors.”
Off the top of my head, you should have stayed at Genzyme, if you were thinking purely in strategic terms of B-school admissions because that is a respected brand. As to your worry that schools will consider you ‘technical,’ you need to read the advice I gave to the guy directly above you, and describe your jobs in both resume and essays in the most people/leadership way possible and try to prime your recommenders to do so as well.
You say, “Had intentions to pursue a PhD while doing Masters but realized my interest in an MBA while working in the industry.” Right, but you need to SHOW us those stories and not just tell us that is what happened. Let your four scientific publications speak for themselves on your resume, as to your technical skills.
I’m not seeing this as HBS or Stanford although I could be wrong about HBS. My feeling is based on too much silver but not enough gold in your story (BITS is OK but not IIT; gig at Genzyme, which is gold for our purposes, yet seems curiously under-reported. If that was a big deal, or even if it was not, you need to make it a big deal.)
Your current job is not going to score on the “pedigree meter” but taking a leadership role in R+D is something to stress. You need to make it crystal clear why you left Genzyme. All that said, there is too much ‘drift’ in this, from your pharma degree to research to too many companies, and nothing startling pushing you in. (Not super important but grades and projected GMATs are also on the lower side of normal for HBS and Stanford.)
Wharton is a maybe: Are you doing the Health Care Management program? If so, have your story really lined up before interviewing with Ms. Kinney. This is not reading like a Tuck story except that you seem likeable and they like likeable people. Kellogg and Duke could be possibilities. Your accomplishments and stats line up pretty well there. I’d also think about Berkeley and MIT (710+ GMAT could help at MIT where they are always looking for scientific women.)
- 740 GMAT
- 3.4 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, with a biological engineering certificate, which required extra coursework
- Work experience includes three years in a rotational program through manufacturing and R&D at a top pharma company, with two years undergraduate co-op experience at Abbott Labs
- Extracurricular activity is fairly weak; have done sporadic volunteering through career network; free time is spent playing sports or doing personal fitness; expect to be certified as a personal trainer within the next year
- Goal: To leverage my technical knowledge of biotech and pharma to work in private equity or venture capital
- “I have a much greater inclination for the business side of things and do not want to remain on the technical side for my entire career”
- 26-year-old white male
Odds of Success:
Sandy’s Analysis: You got a lot going for you in terms of HBS bio-science sweet-spots. They claim to be looking for dudes like you, and to some extent they are.
Your grades are on the low side for Harvard and Stanford, although Chemical Engineering is a serious major. Did you get better grades in your certificate program? Or is that baked into your GPA? If not, that could help and be part of an alternative transcript. You say “undergraduate co-op at Abbott Labs for 2 years . . . . Post graduation work at top-level pharma company in a 3-year bio-pharmaceutical rotational program. Rotations in R&D and manufacturing.”
Jeepers man, HBS admissions director Dee Leopold gets more excited reading that than the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. If your rec writers are supportive but inexperienced in creating grad school “advert-mendations,” you may need to help them out by reminding them of the projects you have done, and looking up ‘emotional intelligence” on Google and editing a list of workable terms they can plug into your story. You might also find a pal with HR experience to help you vet the output.
Your lack of extras might be a small shadow at HBS, but given their new “two pic” application, you can do some work jive for what you do well and talk about how you could have been a better innovator on projects where you did not go beyond the call of duty. It sounds the right bell if executed well. As to your plans of going into PE or VC, hmmmm. That may in fact happen, and in the real world, happens a lot, but on Planet Admissions a better story might be leading an innovative start-up or a happening division of an established bio-pharma company-–see the Stanford press release noted above — OK, here it is again–which seems to favor that kind of career versus finance or VC. HBS and Stanford have plenty of guys who have already been doing VC and PE as applicants and are just checking-in to grad school to get their tickets punched. A role the schools are happy to play, in an elite and limited fashion. At any rate, they don’t need more people trying to do that.
Not a big deal, but my advice about how to project your goals at Stanford is to think about being a start-up innovator or new-wave “manager/mentor” in one of those flat environments they keep harping on. HBS would prefer that as well, they seem to now consider ‘leadership’ as a suspect category. You say, “I have a much greater inclination for the business side of things and do not want to remain on the technical side for my entire career.”
Dude, hush your mouth about that. It sounds like burnout. You be loving tech and want to be a Ninja-mentor, super- innovator and a Post-Millennial Aunt Jemima in creating pancake flat environments for all that marvy voodoo to happen.
I think you got a shot at HBS, as noted, “a 3-year bio-pharmaceutical rotational program” might stop the doughty Dee in her usually forward-moving tracks, and you have a fighting chance at Stanford, especially if they like your current company. Wharton, Chicago, Kellogg, Sloan—I’d say odds at those places are 50+ percent if you execute with sincerity on how they meet your needs. That should be easy with Wharton (HCM) and Sloan. Kellogg and Chicago don’t seem like natural fits, but everybody loves bio-pharma.
Mr. Cello Prodigy
- 790 GMAT
- 4.0 GPA (Bachelor of Music degree)
- Undergraduate degree in cello from the Juilliard School of Music, graduating at the age of 17
- 3.23 GPA (B.S. in Marketing)
- Undergraduate degree in marketing from the University of Notre Dame
- Work experience includes a year in the Peace Corps in Nigeria helping to build wells and filtration systems to provide clean water to villages; currently work as a market manager in general filtration at Parker Hannifin, leading a team of three direct reports
- “Toured the world as a concert cellist, performing as a soloist and chamber musician. I was injured in an automobile accident, suffering nerve damage in my left hand, thus ending my performance career. I didn’t want to teach or compose and felt burnt out, so I decided to go back to school and live “the college experience.”
- Goal: To gain the tools that will help me start my own business, which is to explore advanced filtration technology applications for clean water solutions in Africa and South America
- Concerns include “my low GPA at Notre Dame (I did have fun though!) and my non-sexy career path (No consulting, or Wall Street)”
- 26-year-old white male
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 40% to 50+%
Stanford: 30% to 40%
Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, injured musical prodigy (my sincere sympathies but just laying this out for you), plus do-gooder ideas for African water wells! Are you in those TV ads for “Go To Meeting” where a band of diverse hipsters teleconference about their unspecified Kenya Water Project, sharing mind burps they have gotten from water balloons and lobster tanks (not making this up folks).
This also has overtones of “The English Patient,” great mythos, and the 790 GMAT is such a great add-on, like not only gifted but smart. Man, I don’t know your personal situation, but you should post an email address: lots of readers out there may want to meet you. Both Stanford and HBS go for outlier stories like this, and between you and the bio-pharma guy, Dee Leopold may not need any Pavarotti arias on her Walkman for a month.
OK, you got a 3.23 at Notre Dame (how did you pick that place, no offense to its hyper-loyal alum and fan base but it just does not synch-up with the rest of the story). That could be a problem but then there is that 790. And you got a great explanation about being young, gifted and silly and sheltered enough to worship at the bogus shrine of Joe College. Also working for a relatively no-name company is an advantage as Poets&Quants continues to embarrass Stanford (especially) and other schools about their hypocritical reliance on brand name feeder firms. You will give the ever-affable Derrick Bolton a chance to say, “Oh yeah, we took a kid from Parker Hannifin with a 3.23 from Notre Dame, and no, he was not a minority, just a regular guy who had some potential, see anyone can get in.” Bolton likes to tell stories like that.
Just execute on your powerful goals and do the diligence about what schools are looking for– you got a real chip on the table. As to explaining the GPA, I’d go with suggestion above (wanted to be normal for a change), which is what you seemed to say in the first place. Wharton, Yale and Kellogg go for outlier stories like yours as well, but you can never tell. Dude, you are in the game, but results could be random.