Matt Saucedo was in a Los Angeles gym, practicing his climbing moves, when his cell phone rang with an incoming call from Palo Alto. The Deloitte consultant hustled out of the gym that Tuesday night to take the call from Derek Bolton, the admissions director of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
It was good news. Bolton told Saucedo he was accepted for admission. “It was a really good conversation,” recalls the 23-year-old Saucedo. “He did a great job of really tailoring the whole Stanford experience to me. He talked about why I was a good fot for Stanford and he brought up a couple of things I wrote in my essays.”
The next day, Dec. 12, brought still more good news from another famous area code: 617 for Boston. The Harvard Business School admissions officer who interviewed him on campus told Saucedo that he also was accepted into Harvard.
THE ODDS OF BEING ACCEPTED TO BOTH STANFORD AND HARVARD WERE 0.9%
Saucedo, who graduated magna cum laude from UCLA with a degree in communications only two years earlier, had applied to only two business schools in the first round and was accepted to both of them. His odds of making the cut into two of the world’s best MBA programs, he calculated, was something like 0.9%.
So after a celebratory dinner in L.A. with his family, it was not surprising that friends and colleagues at Deloitte would ask him for guidance on how he cracked the code to get into both Stanford and Harvard. After all, he beat the odds without being a legacy at either school and without hiring an admissions consultant to help him with his applications.
Instead of just talking about it, Saucedo decided to create a side business on it. He put up a website, ClimbingMBA.com, and has begun selling a 12-page guide filled with advice for $19 as well as one-on-one strategy calls for $299. “After I had gotten into both schools, I learned a lot from the experience, especially how to package yourself,” he says. “If I had found a guide written by someone who had gotten into both Harvard and Stanford, I would definitely be interested in hearing what that person had to say. I tried to keep it all brief. When I was going through the application process, I didn’t have the time to read a 300-page guide.”
‘I’M NOT IN THEIR HEADS’
How does he think he actually got into both Stanford and Harvard on the first try? “I wish i could give you a straight answer,” he says in an interview. “But I’m not in their heads.”
Ultimately, however, he thinks what sealed the deal was his development of an Android app, outsourcing the work to India, and then his experience as a technology consultant for Deloitte. The app is a grocery list that updates itself when you are running low on groceries. He’s still working on a couple of ways to integrate coupons into the application.
His GMAT score was over 700 and he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA. “That whole package probably had a lot to do with it, and my interviews went really well.”
A UCLA FENCER, A TUTOR AND MENTOR, AND SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST FOR DELOITTE’S IMPACT DAY
It also didn’t hurt that he was a fencer at UCLA, a member of the team that won the Southern California championship in his junior year. Or that he has worked with children in North Hollywood as a tutor and mentor. Or that at Deloitte, he did the social media strategy for his office’s participation in Impact Day, when the firm’s consultants set aside a day for social good.
The most difficult hurdle in the application process? For Saucedo, it was the essays. “That is your biggest chance for you to really flex your muscles in the application,” he believes. “Everything else is pretty much basic information and raw stats. The essays are really where you get your foot in the door. and it’s where I was able to distinguish myself.”
For Stanford’s essay on “What Matters To You and Why?,” he used his experience fencing–a sport he picked up on during his senior year in high school–as a metaphor for business and for life. “I wrote about how different parts of fencing remind me of different parts of business like attacking and defending, and then gave examples of how I defended my ideas and convictions and tied all of that together,” he says.