Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

by John A. Byrne on

After a stint as a senior audit associate with PwC, she joined Warner Brothers where she is a senior analyst doing financial planning. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.75 GPA, this 25-year-old professional wants an MBA to help her transition into a strategy job in the entertainment industry.

She works in communications for a blue chip consumer packaged goods company with a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of beauty and personal care products. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average, this 24-year-old Asian professional wants an MBA to gain more business knowhow and enhance her career.

After earning a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, this 25- year-old female professional began work in strategy consulting for a Big 4 firm in India. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA from a top ten university in India, she hopes an MBA degree would allow her to land a job in consulting with McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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 an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

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 he has in the past, 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 (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:
Print

Ms. Entertainment

 

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business administration and economics from UC Berkeley
  • Work experience includes more than one year as a senior analyst doing financial planning for the corporate group at Warner Bros.; previously with PwC as a senior audit associate for two and one-half years
  • “High performer, promoted early, highly involved at PwC”
  • Extracurricular involvement mentoring under-privileged high school students on a weekly basis, non-profit involvement at Warner Bros.; had been highly involved at PwC in developing culture of my group
  • Goal: To transition from financial planning to strategy at a large to mid-sized entertainment company
  • 25-year-old woman

Odds of Success: 

MIT: 40% to 50%
London: 50+%
UCLA: 50+%
Northwestern: 50+%
New York: 50+%
Columbia: 40% to 50%
Duke: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: You did not list  HBS as a target school. Glad you wrote. HBS!
In case you did not get it the first time. HBS is not on your list of target schools and should be.

HBS and H/S/W in general have a real Jones for Hollywood, even for tools in the Warner’s corporate finance department like you.

Don’t ask me why, although I suspect the answer is some devil’s brew of glam, selectivity, and, hey, reading about financial planning for the next Harry Potter movie or how to compute tax residuals for Buffy The Vampire Slayer is more interesting than reading about similar finance and tax issues from someone who works for a leading maker of home insulation materials.

For our international readers who may not know the Warner Bros. brand, if there are any, try thishttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warner_Bros, a most excellent piece of Wiki writing, if I must say so myself.

You got a super solid GPA at a solid school (3.75, Berkeley), an OK GMAT (700)  and here is where it gets interesting. Your first job out of college was with PWC, which is one of the so-called Big 3 accounting firms.

However, while PWC may count the Oscar ballots some years (I am not sure),  a  more granular discussion of PWC for our purposes is that as a post-college job it is not usually the high road to H/W/S.***

***Accounting footnote here: PWC  is an acceptable place to start working right after college  for three classes of applicants: 1. Kids from Europe (where getting a Big 3 job is way more selective), 2. Go-getter, first- gen college kids from 2nd-tier schools, 3. Minorities (the Stanford “Big 3″  black woman admit is a trope that remains true, year in and year out, with some variants, e.g. sometimes a male).

None of which appears to be you. Soooooo, if you had stayed there, your list of target schools, excluding MIT, to wit, LBS, UCLA, Kellogg, NYU, Columbia, and Duke would have been spot on. But somehow, by hook or crook (and in your recs and essays I would present this as by merit) you managed to fly up to Warner Bros, and that, my dear, does make the B-schools, to invert the words of Rhett Butler,  “frankly, give a damn” — not a Warner product, alas, although “Jack Warner liked the story, but Warner Bros’ biggest star, Bettie Davis was uninterested.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind_%28film%29

Actually, you do present your success at PWC as merit — “High performer, promoted early, highly-involved for 2.5 years” — so right on.

Yup, a 700 GMAT is one of those borderline scores, but to the extent that it is a tad below the average at both HBS (724) and MIT (710), MIT is likely to care more! How come? Because Harvard is bigger and sorta cooler, well, in the arts of noblesse oblige and caring about 700 GMATs, if not cutting-edge tech developments.

HRH Dee Leopold, the Scarlett O’Hara of HBS admissions (well they are both part-Irish and volatile in a controlled way) has opined that “any ‘ol GMAT score 700 or over is fine with her” (I am paraphrasing), a remark that should not be taken literally, but is true enough for your purposes. Basically, your admission odds at HBS would not change much if you got a 720. On the other hand, your odds at MIT might. I am assuming that your 700 is not camouflaging some super low Q score.

As to your extras, “weekly mentoring to under-privileged high school students, non-profit involvement at Warner Bros, highly involved at PwC in developing culture of group, etc.” Sure.  Great.  Well, good enough for a busy corporate professional like you, especially if there are leadership elements in those stories.

You claim your goals are to “transition from financial planning to strategy at a large to mid-sized entertainment company . . . .” Yes, that is the right direction but you may need to flesh out this idea with some star concepts from the Politically Correct Studio, to wit, your story could use such leading players as Joe Leadership, Mary Impact, Irina Innovation, and talk more about your goals of becoming a transformative force in media, new delivery platforms, and events at the “intersection” of media and X, Y and Z.  (Note, “the intersection” is always a good place to be while creating these essays.)  MIT might like the corner of Innovation and Media a lot. As well other schools.

In short, this is pretty solid if correctly packaged and developed. MIT will probably go for this, if for no other reasons, and there are many,  just to land a Warner’s media gal. The other schools you mention should be in-line. UCLA certainly, and why not Berkeley since we are in Cali? “Been there, done that!” you say about California.   Get over it. California the second time beats most places the first time.  LBS? Why? You will probably get in, but last time I looked, media companies were not recruiting there in droves. NYU and Columbia, sure, if you want to be in New York. NYU touts itself as a school with lots of media contacts, and they do have a hot film school, but I frankly don’t know what the synergy of that is with the business school? Anyone who goes there or an alum want to chime in? Duke? I’m not seeing Duke as a natural fit, but yes, OK for back-up, you will just need to convince them you want to come.

No, that’s not all folks, but that is enough. Try HBS!

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  • African Big 4 Strategy

    Hi Sandy
    I am a Cameroonian working and studying in North Africa, Morocco. Here is my profile

    GRE 167V 159Q

    2.2 GPA (GPA low because I was hired by Deloitte Central Africa out of high school from a selective Deloitte program. I worked while I was in school in Morocco where I was stationed by Deloitte)

    Al Akhawayn University Morocco (top tier university in Africa)

    4 years of work experience at Deloitte on a rotational program, Currently 3 in Strategy and Operation focusing on Telecommunications, Governments Operatons with Infrastructure development in Africa, Energy and Technology industries covering West and Central African countries, and 1 year as Human Resource Analyst. (I was awarded employer of the month 2 times)

    Extra Curric: Made a business plan to reduce famine in slums, it was nominated as one of the most innovative ideas by Time Magazine and Clinton foundation through the Hult Startup competition in Dubai. Set up a social entrepreneur scheme in North Africa which currently employs 16 women. Marketing officer for the International saloon for agriculture. Member of the Islamic Art and Culture where i lead students into enhancing a women’s cooperative, received the model UN Training award.

    Goal: (My father a minister of transport advised me to go for MPP so I could work with social clients) to get a dual Degree MBA/MPP to continue work in consulting with social industry clients

    Cameroonian 27 years (Central Africa)

    Target schools:

    MIT

    Cornell

    Kellogg

    Wharton

    Yale

    Darden

    Booth

    Ross

    INSEAD

    IMD

    LBS

    Haas(was given conditional admission at Haas because of my experience at Deloitte in Africa)

  • Rahim

    Hi Sandy,

    Mr. Man in a Woman’s World

    750 GMAT

    3.6 GPA in economics degree from top Australian University

    Work experience: Undergraduate internships at Chanel (merchandising) and Morgan Stanley (investment banking)

    2.5 years at MBB consulting firm, then moved to Fortune 500 beauty company (~$8b in revenue) as a strategy associate (in their Australian office) working across their portfolio of brands

    Extracurriculars: President of large Business Club at university, in charge of marketing for charity that provides art lessons to disabled children in Sydney.

    Short term goal: Go get a MBA to broaden skills and facilitate move into a marketing/P&L role, whilst remaining in the cosmetics world. Also use MBA as a chance to go international (i.e., move over to HQ in NY/London where the big decisions are made).

    Long term goal: Make women feel good. Make men man-up and take care of themselves.

    Target schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg (1Y)

    25 year old (at time of applying) male

    Cheers!

  • hbsguru

    Hey buddy, I’ll just knock this off right now and here. Anyone with a 3.6/750 and 2.5 years at MBB followed by Fort. 500 company strategy gig (in what seems to be big beauty company) has got a solid chance at HBS and Wharton on that alone, with just serviceable execution.

    You say, Long term goal: Make women feel good. Make men man-up and take care of themselves.

    Hmmm, OK for this jokey place, but I would be sure when the time comes to dress this up right, and expand the industry to include maybe innovative retail, new sales platforms, etc. Do not tie yourself into cosmetics so clearly or even ‘beauty’ –make it seem like you are a business person first and a glam lover second. Try to make goals broader and more innovative–health and fitness is a pssble take on this, or personal care, which can also include cosmetics, and can also include cruelty-free stuff, etc. etc. I don’t know the buzz words and you might not either, but some quick research–e.g. “Profile for exhibit at Health & Fitness Business Expo includes:
    chinese & western diet medicines, weight loss treatment, medical
    & fitness equipments & products, personal hygiene products,
    health therapies, beauty & skincare equipments, gym & fitness
    centres toiletries & perfumery, sports equipments & products,
    hair care products, nutritional products, foods health & nutrition
    centres.” Some business which is doing leading edge innovations in that, or using that as build out to a more tradtional business. For Stanford, this could be harder, but they are brand sluts, and you could be working for a brand they like, and a base of MBB is real a real solid foundation. For Stanford try to sound concerned about sourcing, enviro issues, employment equity all along the production chain, etc. International expansion, and being a 360 degree exec who can manage all that. etc.

    Guys like you should get into W fer sure, have a solid shot at HBS and can be 40percent plus at Stanford, depending a lot on what they consider your industry peer group, who else applies that year, and execution.

  • MBA2016

    Hi Sandy, as a prospective applicant, I just wanted to know why you view Fuqua in such poor light? From what I can tell, it is emerging as one of the best performing business schools. Why do you always assume that the applicant has a 50% chance of making it into Fuqua, but a worse shot at getting into a lower ranked and less selective peer school? I’ve been noticing this apparent bias for a while, and thought it would be appropriate to bring it up.

  • Jakiro

    Mr. Kreisberg, would really appreciate an assessment of my profile/chances at H/S/W

    Age: 31
    Citizenship: Azerbaijan

    WE: 1 year in United Nations (IT), 2 years in BP (Organizational Development), 2 years in management consulting. 5 years total.

    GMAT: 730

    Education: 1st degree in International relations in local university (4.4/5.0), 2nd degree Masters in Information Systems & management from George Washington University business school 3.5 GPA. Fulbright Scholar.First generation college degree holder.

    EC: Former professional chess player,4-time national chess champion and junior olympics team lead etc. Volunteer activities include participation in AIDS related events and educational consulting.Wide international experience (lived in 4 countries).

    Languages: Besides my native language,I speak Russian fluently.

    Goals: Internet/tech startup or PE/VC area.Back up plan to get back to consulting.

    Schools: H/S/W, MIT,Haas, maybe Columbia.

  • hbsguru

    Well, I might be guilty of something, could you cite an example. As a rule, most of my analysis is done for people applying to to top 10-12 schools, and of those, Fuqua has the highest admit rate (27.5), so me saying chances there are best is not a surprise. To the extent I ever said that getting into Fuqua is easier than getting into Ross, Cornell, or UT-Austin (ranked 14-16 USNEWS) that was probably misguided. Do I do that on a regular basis??? I don’t think it comes up that often. Fuqua along with Darden also has the rep. of running older in the top -12, something I believe is true, and may color my predictions, if candidate was older, e.g. more chance at Fugua and less chance at e.g Berk. on that sub-issue alone, but we are getting pretty granular. What is your main beef, happy to chew it over and maybe adjust. Predicting the odds of admission, once you pass out of the top 6 i is harder. IN top 6 the air is real thin, and some real separation exists, (and I have, to be honest, a stronger internal data base),it gets less refined as the baseline numbers become more common and ways to sort out pack become more generic. That is why I may overvalue age at Fugua.

  • Early Applicant

    Hi Sandy

    I have been following poetsandquants for a while, and would really value an assessment of my profile. I am a little skeptical of my chances, because of my little work experience. Moreover, I am most interested in Wharton because of my inclination towards their analytical approach. But what I keep hearing is Wharton prefers a mature crowd as compared to HBS and Stan. Wharton doesn’t have any 2+2 program either. I really want to know your views on the same.

    Below are the details of my profile:

    Indian, Male 23 years
    - working with tier 1 consulting firm (Big 3), starting Summer 2012. Will have two years of experience before joining the B School.
    - 780 GMAT 51Q,46V
    - 3.5 gpa, B.Tech, Engineering, IIT
    - President gold medal for Best All rounder student (batch of 800)
    -Best sportsman of the year award for all consecutve years, with a record number of medals
    - Under 19 sports champ, held national records
    - Led and participated in various student organization. For example, founded the first student-Alumni Cell in my institute.
    -had secured an Internship at one of the top FMCG firms in India, that was converted into a pre-placement job offer.

    - Goals post graduation: transition into starting a consulting firm focused on needs of small and medium sector companies or work with a SME unit founded by my dad (primarily focused on manufacturing)

    – Schools of interest: Wharton, HBS, Stanford, Sloan. (class of 2014-16).

    Thank you

  • Rahim

    Hey Sandy,

    Really really appreciated. Thank you for your insights and the valuable steer about framing my long term goal. Certainly I tossed it out a bit flippantly. My long term ambitions would include some nuances around e-commerce/channel innovation/emerging markets/corporate reponsibility that I’m still working out but will make sure to bring out more in a B-School application

    Cheers Sandy thanks again!

  • MBA2016

    You did actually say that an applicant had a 40% chance at Ross and a 50% chance at Fuqua which is why I brought it up (considering the fact that Ross is significantly less selective than Fuqua). Thank you for your prompt clarification though, it was helpful.

  • amit

    Hi Sandy,

    My neice is prepping for her final undergrad year for interview and wanted to help her plan out her MBA goals. She is looking at working at either Dubai, India, or here in Toronto. I know you mention the usual suspects (MBB, P&G, GS, MS, JPM) as feeders for good programs, but what are lesser know companies in Canada (or the other places) that also shine through for adcoms in HSW?. I know you mentioned Teachers (OTPP) as a good place. Are there any other companies that come to mind in these places that stand out?. Thanks!.

  • hbsguru

    Well, this dude passed on HBS this summer to become a model instead, dunno his GMATs but his 6-pack score is 800. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130414/out/out3.html
    I think Dee, and many classmates, might be a bit sad at not having this cat in case discussions.

  • hbsguru

    I’m not sure about actual names of Canadian companies but what B schools look for in terms of just beauty contest names are jobs that are selective (hard to get) and after that, and often the same things, jobs w. Brand companies, Fortune 500 or leaders in banking or consulting or finance. A list of the top 25 feeder companies to HBS is here http://poetsandquants.com/2011/08/15/top-feeder-companies-to-harvard-business-school/ [you can fish around PQ for similar lists to Wharton, Stanford, etc. but you will get the idea). If she is not going to work for one of those companies, which include World Bank, UBS, Accenture, Shell, Lockhead, Booz, Deloitte, Amex, and of course MBB, she should get a classy sounding job which supports her goals. The top25 list is just one metric, and easier to create, another metric are boutique specialist companies which often only send one 1 admit to HBS etc a year or less, but where the odds would be good, depending on your personal story. That company wld be judged by mission, history, and general rep. And sure, my guess is Any Top X list of Canadian banks, consulting shops and financial firms would be an acceptable work spot for a kid with solid scores and a story. Those are easy to find, e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_%28banks%29 + http://www.forbes.com/2007/04/05/canada-public-companies-biz-07forbes2000-cx_0405canada.html

  • Anon

    @hbsguru:disqus

    Just returned from Johnson accepted students weekend. If it’s helpful, pretty much every prospective who was there was on the fence between Johnson, Fuqua, NYU, Ross or Yale. It seemed like every student who wasn’t sure yet was deciding between Johnson and one or more of those schools.

  • hbsguru

    Thanks, admit week-end stories are always helpful. If anyone else has any, please post.

    What was your impression of J.???

  • Anon

    I was a very big fan. Due in part to the small size and location, it’s a very tight-knit community. Students are far more collaborative than competitive, and I heard numerous stories of students doing mock interviews and prep for their classmates who were applying to the same job. You get to know pretty much every single person in your class, and a lot in the class above/below. Alumni are very, very responsive to Johnson students, and many people told me that current almuni had mentored them through the entire job application process and advocated for them at their firms. And while the school may not be on the level of HBS, MIT, etc, the brand is strong enough that Johnson students are competitive at every company (MBB, BB banks, CPG, etc).

  • Ms. PR Pro

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for the detailed analysis. I am considering HBS but feel that GSB is a better fit for various reasons. To answer your questions…

    –My volunteering organization is pretty small, which could work against me but I think its size will enable me to make a big difference fairly quickly.

    –My company definitely has “brand name” recognition. To my knowledge, nobody in my department has gone to b school. We have a big promote-from-within culture, which I think encourages people to stay vs. leaving/paying to get an MBA.

    One last question– do you think I should retake my GMAT to even out my score/boost my Quant score? The thought of studying again kills me but I’d do it if it’d boost my application significantly.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25503923 Bruce Vann

    LMBO!! That picture is hilarious. I’m over here crying.

  • Mr Commercial Finance

    Hi Sandy. Really enjoy reading your blog and would appreciate a profile assessment.

    25 year-old biracial male (half-Japanese / half-English)

    GMAT: 770 (50Q / 46V)

    GPA: 3.6 / 4.0

    Education: Undergraduate business degree from a well-respected non-Ivy (UVA, Berkeley, Georgetown, Michigan)

    Work Experience: 1.5 years in a financial advisory (non-audit) group at a Big 4 firm. 1.5 years at a middle-market commercial finance company in an underwriting role (current job). Promoted after one year. Will have 4 years of work experience at planned matriculation date (Fall ’14).

    Extracurricular: Business team mentor for a non-profit that works to keep disengaged high school student in school by teaching them about entrepreneurship. Writing tutor for a youth leadership development program. Spent a summer in college teaching English in China.

    Languages: Japanese (spent 10 years growing up in Japan)

    Certifications: Passed all three levels of the CFA exam (first attempt for each level).

    Goals: To transition into investment management and eventually start my own investment management firm.

    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago, M.I.T., Yale, NYU

  • CPAguy

    Hi Sandy,

    Please help me evaluate my chances:

    720 GMAT, 3.1 GPA (Major in Finance & Accounting) from Rutgers Business School.

    Work experience : 1 year at regional public accounting firm in financial services audit focusing primarily on alternative investment clients, 1.5 years at Ernst & Young focusing on same industry , and 1.5 year at large global PE shop (think KKR, Warburg Pincus) doing accounting & some valuation work for the PE funds. I am a CPA and a CFA level 2 candidate. Long term goals would be to get into equity research. The schools I am looking into are NYU, Darden, Columbia, and Booth. I haven’t had the opportunity to do much extracurricular activities but I am involved in an organization that helps/teaches small business owners core business skills as well as soft skills so they may grow and expand. Also, involved in recruiting efforts and volunteer events through my job. Thank you for all the help Sandy!!

  • hbsguru

    Well, a higher GMAT would not help much at HBS where if they otherwise liked you, they would admit and put you in Math Boot Camp which is often a good deal of fun, and the basis of lifelong friendships.

    At Stanford, retaking GMAT becomes a tuff call. If you got a 740 with 80+Q, dunno, I could see a set of circs where that might make a diff. Altho peeps with your stats and elevated GMAT get dinged all the time. Basically, why should they take you, in light of fact that stats are sub-par? What is driving you in? Fact that volunteering org is small, etc. means it is going to be hard to leverage that into Stardust (the X factor you need to get in). So an elevated GMAT might make you an average applicant (by their baseline) and your likeable but not compelling X factors might tilt you in. That wld be the argument for a retake. How valid each leg of that argument is, is a tuff call. Added to fact that you may not increase score, hmmmmm, you could make a case for chance of retaking GMAT resulting in a changed outcome is small. On the other hand, not retaking makes chances unchanged.

    All of which leads me to say, APPLY TO HBS VS RETAKING THE GMAT.

    FOR SURE> after that retake the GMAT if getting into B school is the most impt thing in the world to you at this point.

  • Mr. Hedge Fund

    Hi Sandy,

    Fall 2014 applicant this upcoming summer, and I would love to get your opinion on my chances:

    740 GMAT
    B.S. in Accounting (3.83 GPA) from large state school in the Southeast.
    M.S. in Accounting (3.65 GPA) from same school.
    CPA
    2yrs with Big 4 firm
    2yrs (3 at marticulation) with $2B HF in a research role.
    Expecting very good recs.
    Prior analyst in my role have attended programs such as Wharton & UCLA.
    Underrepresented U.S. minority group
    First Generation College Grad
    Decent College Extras

    Considering: Wharton, Stanford, Columbia, Booth, and UCLA.

    Thank you very much.

  • Ms. Entertainment

    Thank you so much for the assessment Sandy! Gives me a lot of confidence right before applying so I appreciate it. Definitely going to take into account your advice.

  • PoliticotoBizPro

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate your take on my chances at INSEAD, Harvard (because why not? Won’t know unless I apply), Georgetown, UVA and UCLA or maybe MIT. I’m leaning toward INSEAD right now.

    I am a 29 y/o (will be 30 at matriculation) Caucasian female in Washington, DC. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a respected but not top liberal arts college in the South with a 3.81 GPA and a degree in political science and international studies. After school, I set off for DC and moved up the ranks on Capitol Hill, working as the press assistant then deputy press secretary for a since-retired but much admired senator (he was short list for VP not long ago), then communications director for a one-and-done House member who lost to a Tea Partier. Since then, I’ve been a communications manager at a big K Street association representing a heavily regulated industry, and have some good success stories to tell there about my work and involvement in high-level projects. From my work on the Hill, I can speak extensively about positioning difficult issues, working with top tier media all the way down to local dailies, building social media infrastructures for a national figure at a time when the technology was new to politics

  • PoliticotoBizPro

    (sorry for the cutoff message before, full text below)

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate your take on my chances at INSEAD, Harvard (because why not? Won’t know unless I apply), Georgetown, UVA and UCLA. I’m
    leaning toward INSEAD right now. I’d also appreciate any recommendations for schools you might have based on my profile.

    I am a 29 y/o (will be 30 at matriculation) Caucasian female in Washington, DC. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a respected but not top liberal arts college in the South with a 3.81 GPA and a degree in political science and international studies. My GMAT currently stands at 680 (57%Q, 93%V) and I’m studying to retake.

    After undergrad, I set off for DC and moved up the ranks on Capitol Hill, working as the press assistant then deputy press secretary for a since-retired but much admired senator (he was short list for VP not long ago), then communications director for a one-and-done House member who lost to a Tea Partier. Since then, I’ve been a communications manager at a big K Street association representing a heavily regulated industry, and have some good success stories to tell there about my work and involvement in high-level projects. From my work on the Hill, I can speak extensively about positioning difficult issues, working with top tier media, and building social media infrastructures for a national figure at a time when the technology was new to politics. I can also talk about efforts to change the communications practices of a media-shy industry and demonstrate the value of engagement on social media.

    I have a good story to tell about working my way up the Hill will no political connections, having never even been to DC before and quickly becoming a go-to resource in my offices and earning the trust of the elected officials. I have also had great success in my current position and can count on excellent recs from both the former House member and my current boss. Working on the Hill for so long means my extracurriculars are somewhat lacking (your extracurricular is your boss’ re-elect when you work on the Hill, or just, you know, trying not to crack). But I have joined a volunteer organization and am getting more involved in that, and have some alumni organization activity to cite. I have lots of collegiate activities–student programming board, sorority, Mortar Board officer–but not a consistent narrative with extracurriculars overall.

    My weaknesses are, most obviously, my GMAT score, but I’m working on that, and my lack of direct business experience. I’m definitely a career change candidate, and I’d really appreciate your thoughts on how that is received at these different institutions.

    With an MBA, I’d like to first work in consulting, helping companies see the value of and create healthy working environments and capitalize on the technologies available to make that more accessible, even for smaller firms. I can connect this back to my work on the Hill (health care debate, witnessing the challenges facing Hill employees because of barriers to adopting new technologies) as well as my personal activities (running and yoga enthusiast). Eventually, after getting more for-profit experience in consulting, I’d like to start my own business, so it’s important to me to go to a school with a strong entrepreneurship element. I think one of my key narratives is wanting to help correct the course for firms that are slow or unwilling to adopt to the new digital culture and expectations of the new generation of talent. One of those big expectations is a workplace that makes a healthy lifestyle possible.

    I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts, Sandy. Thank you very much!

  • hbsguru

    two takes on Indian Philanthropy:

    Many believe that Indian businessmen have cash registers for hearts.
    Their philanthropic contributions are believed to be insignificant in
    comparison to their wealth. According to the 2012 Forbes list, the
    wealth of the 100 wealthiest Indians is around $250 billion—13.89 per
    cent of India’s GDP. But, according to the estimates of a 2010 report of
    Bain Company, the charitable donations of Indians is only 0.6 per cent
    to 1 per cent of the GDP, when the charitable contribution of Americans
    is around 2.2 per cent of the GDP.

    But, before one jumps to a conclusion, there is the other side of the story as well.

    more at http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/cash-registers-for-hearts-113042000463_1.html

  • Mr. Overrepresented

    Hi Sandy,

    I was hoping you could help profile my chances to HBS, Wharton, Stanford, Booth, and Kellogg. I feel like my application is similar to many out there.

    Mr. Overrepresented
    26 yr old white male

    3.6 in engineering from 2nd / 3rd tier private university (Northwestern University)
    750 GMAT

    Work experience: Currently 3 years of work experience at a 2nd / 3rd tier management consulting firm (Deloitte, Booz, Oliver Wyman level). Have worked mostly with IT clients and healthcare clients. Above average performer but not at the top of class.

    Extras: Work keeps me busy. Have been involved in my firm’s philanthropy committee and have led some small events. Involved in recruiting efforts to grow our firm. Financially support a few healthcare related charities.

    Goal: Increase the quality of healthcare delivery in the US – whether by continuing consulting work, working in industry, or starting own company.

  • John Smith

    Hi Sandy,

    Can you please help me decide on where to apply?

    760 GMAT, 3.45 GPA (Double Major in Business & Information Systems) from Carnegie Mellon, 27 Year Old Male, US Citizen

    Work Experience:
    -2 years revenue / cost reporting at a small agency brokerage
    -6 months revenue reporting at a mid-major investment bank
    -3 years as a junior research analyst at mutual fund (Over $200 Billion Assets Under Management).

    Post-MBA goal: Hedge fund analyst / PM. My field is *extremely* specialized. For example, over $300 Billion of investment grade bonds were issued during Q1 2013. In my field, less than $2 Billion! (That’s less than 1% if we’re keeping track). So a positive is that there is tremendous room for growth. A negative? Perhaps not many positions available after graduation, which might hurt job prospects –> school ranking (I wonder if the ad-coms dig this deep).

    Extracurriculars
    -CFA Charterholder (Passed all 3 levels)
    -President at Toastmasters Club. Managed to procure a $2.5K yearly budget and got our club a cost center. (This is a corporate club)
    -Mentor high school student (2 years)
    -In 2012, I used “Nate Silver” like techniques (statistical modeling) to successfully predict movie box-office results and winners of political elections. Returned over 60% on initial investment and gave interviews to media.
    -Currently run small business buying and selling electronics. Started business in college, took a 18 month hiatus for CFA preparation, continued business afterwards.

    Extras:
    -Played sports in college but had to quit due to health issues. To pay for medical bills I had to work as a telemarketer (sales skills) and start my own business (entrepreneurial skills). Grades suffered in Junior year but learned much more than I ever could in a classroom.

    Target Schools:
    -Harvard
    -Stanford
    -Wharton
    -Columbia (Possible early decision, depends on H/S/W chances)
    -MIT
    -Chicago
    -NYU

    Please note that I have never received an internal promotion (however, career wise I did manage to move from a field that I wasn’t interested in to a field that I am interested in pursuing)

  • Mr African

    Hi Sandy
    I am a Cameroonian working and studying in North Africa, Morocco. Here is my profile

    GRE 167V 159Q

    2.2 GPA (GPA low because I was hired by Deloitte Central Africa out of high school from a selective Deloitte program. I worked while I was in school in Morocco where I was stationed by Deloitte)

    Al Akhawayn University Morocco (top tier university in Africa)

    4 years of work experience at Deloitte on a rotational program, Currently 3 in Strategy and Operation focusing on Telecommunications, Governments Operatons with Transport Infrastructure Development in Africa, Energy and Technology industries covering West and Central African countries, and 1 year as Human Resource Analyst. (I was awarded employer of the month 2 times)

    Extra Curric: Made a business plan to reduce famine in slums, it was nominated as one of the most innovative ideas by Time Magazine and Clinton foundation through the Hult Startup competition in Dubai. Set up a social entrepreneur scheme in North Africa which currently employs 16 women. Marketing officer for the International saloon for agriculture. Member of the Islamic Art and Culture where i lead students into enhancing a women’s cooperative, received the model UN Training award.

    Goal: (My father a minister of transport advised me to go for MPP so I could work with social sector clients) to get a dual Degree MBA/MPP to continue work in consulting with social industry clients

    Cameroonian 27 years (Central Africa)

    Target schools:

    MIT

    Cornell

    Kellogg

    Wharton

    Yale

    Darden

    Booth

    Ross

    INSEAD

    IMD

    LBS

    HBS

    Haas(was given conditional admission at Haas because of my experience at Deloitte in Africa)

  • Research Guy

    Hi Sandy,

    I will appreciate your feedback (looks like I’m the only Russian guy so far)

    3.4 GPA from major tech university, Masters of Economics (closer to math/statistics/modelling though)

    ~710 GMAT (not taken yet, but I will score 750+ or die trying)

    Work experience:

    prior to my graduation 1.5 years in a top commercial bank (started as a retail specialist, after a few months promoted to a senior role, supervising a team of approx. 10 salesmans)

    One year at a well-known financial multinational company (financial adviser to high net-worth individuals)
    Yep, I had a 2.5 years of full-time work while still in college, that’s why my GPA is low..

    After my graduation – top-tier market research firm where I am now (4+ years atm), responsible for data flow management,reporting, analyses and methodology in Russia, coordinating some multinational research projects (more than 15 countries and 30+ colleagues involved). Our clients are well-known FMCG companies and some tech/IT firms.

    Goal: to switch into management consulting (consumer goods preferably) in the US

    Schools: Northwestern, Wharton, Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Michigan, Cornell

    25-year old Russian male, first-generation college student

    Thanks in advance, Sandy!

  • Brazil IB

    Hi Sandy,

    Love the advice you dish out, have recently discovered this site and became a huge fan!
    Would really appreciate your input regarding my chances. I’m a 26 year old white male, born in Brazil, lived most of life in Brazil except for 6 years living in England (part of my family is British).

    Education:

    3.2 GPA from top 3 business school in Brazil (equivalent to a B/B- student, wasn’t really as focused/ambitious as I am today)

    720 GMAT (not yet taken, but will aim higher if it makes any difference)

    I am taking the CFA Level 3 exam in June and have a reasonable expectation of passing.

    Work Experience:

    Worked for 2 years as a client service analyst at an american financial services firm’s local offices, explaining methodology, interpretation, and usage for risk models and financial indices, to brokerage and asset management clients.

    Spent 2 months at a US$500million Brazilian hedge fund which went broke in my 3rd week there (amazing life experience), then moved to a boutique middle market M&A firm (no-name, but working directly with a senior partner who is quite influential locally). Closed, practically by myself, a US$5million investment in a up-and-coming loyalty points business.

    Extras:

    Part of my family is from the UK, and I have lived there for 6 years.
    In university, I was part of the student association, where among other things I helped start a summer internship program.
    I was also part of the volleyball team and once a year, competed in an inter-university tournament (we never won anything).

    Objective:

    My life goal is to work in M&A Investment Banking in the US (for a top-tier bank), and in the long run open up my own hedge fund, either in Brazil or the US. In light of this, I am focusing my efforts on Wharton, Columbia and Harvard (in that order). In your opinion, are there any other schools I should consider?

    Would love your feedback on my chances, and any suggestions you might have!

    Caipirinha Cheers,

    Mr. BR M&A IB

  • Brazil IB

    forgot to mention, have been in the current M&A job for 1.5 years

  • http://twitter.com/chilledfire cmoney

    So I have been reading through all these columns and it final clicked. Sandy is the Mel Kiper Jr. of MBA admissions. Editing Mel’s ESPN column every so slightly: “Fair warning at this slot — [Harvard] could certainly trade down. It makes a ton of sense if they do. They don’t have a second-round pick, and any [program] that wants that [780 GMAT] knows this is the spot to get to. That said, if [Harvard] stays here, [the applicant] makes a lot of sense because of his versatility, potential and high ceiling. Given that it’s not exactly set which [cases] [Harvard] will [instruct] out of in 2013, adding versatile to [the class] talent also adds scheme flexibility. This is a max-effort [applicant] who can power through [job interviews] and has enough quickness to [reach long term goals], disrupting [industries].”

  • hbsguru

    ;-) Well done!!!!

    for another laff, check out this, 70 Columbia College Essay mash-up.

    http://gawker.com/this-personal-essay-will-get-you-into-columbia-478217730

  • hbsguru

    :-) check back for a mock HBS interview.

    http://www.hbsguru.com/prices.html#4

  • hbsguru

    This is doable on the fly. What kind of minority? If Afro-Am, well, as noted, Stanford has a standing invite for A-A accounting/Big 4 types,esp. first gen with your stats. If Asian, Left-handed, one brown eye/one blue type minority, well, Stan. will be harder. As to other schools you note, given that “Prior analyst in my role have attended programs such as Wharton & UCLA, ” well, with a 3.83 and 740 GMAT, you should too. Finally, as with Ms. Entertainment above, THINK HBS!!!! as well.

  • EntCre

    Hey Sandy, wondering if you could give me your thoughts on my chances:

    760 GMAT, 3.5 GPA at a midwest liberal arts college, majored in film studies

    have worked for last 7 years in the film business, most recently as a creative executive at a film financing and production company.
    Grew up in China, while my parents worked there as expats, and speak/write it fluently.
    extracurricular activities have been mostly around volunteering with film festivals, but also tutoring homeless youths.
    Goal is to transition out of film business, into international business strategy.
    looking to west coast schools – Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, USC
    much appreciated

  • Mr. HF

    Thanks for the assessment Sandy. Has far as minority group,mixed race heritage of caucasian and african (Creole).

  • hbsguru

    That sounds solid and similar to ‘minority statuses’ they have liked a lot in the past –a lot may turn on further facts and execution of your app, but worth a shot.

  • insuranceguy

    Sandy

    It would be much appreciated if you could evaluate my chances:

    26 year old male born in Hong Kong but grew up in UK
    710 GMAT (Q50, V36) – I am planning on retaking to hit 750-760
    GPA: 2.1 in Maths (Top 5 Uni in UK non-Oxbridge) – I believe this equates to 3.2-3.3 GPA

    Work
    experience: 4 years in insurance: Promoted twice. Underwriting
    financial institutions. Due to a flat structure no direct reports but
    was the only person selected to lead a new product development project
    in a rapidly growing space. I was also responsive for formulating the
    budget and forecasts for a team of ~20.

    Extracurriculars:
    Accomplished musician, played a team sport in University and continued
    after University, captain of a small sports team in University,
    occasional volunteering organising sports events for disadvantaged
    children (but no leadership role)

    Short term goal: To move into strategy consulting preferably specialising in financial services. Looking to improve my knowledge about market positioning, entering new markets and new product distribution.

    Long term goal: To start a JV with a multi-national insurance company in China providing niche insurance products. Due to the high barriers of entry and low penetration in that market, it is an area that can provide a multi-national insurance company with real growth.

    Schools:

    HBS (long shot)
    Booth/Wharton
    Kellogg
    Tuck
    Duke
    LBS

    Many thanks in advance.

    This would be to gain additional knowledge about marketing positioning,

  • Mr. Treasury

    Sandy,

    I am considering applying Round 1 2013/2014 to the “usual suspects” (HBS,Wharton,MIT,Booth, Columbia,Tuck, Kellogg, YSOM). I would greatly appreciate your insight into my chances currently at any of those, along with possible ways to strengthen my biggest weakness – extracurriculars/social work – given time constraints as married with child and full-time (60 hr/wk) job.

    720 GMAT (V 45, Q 44, 6.0 AWA, 8 IR)
    3.2 overall GPA (3.5 before senior year), Honors in major of English/American Literature from H/Y/P

    Work Experience:Spent two years after graduation in a business process role at a small ($80MM revenue) teleconferencing company owned by a private equity firm I had interned at in college; role entailed some hands-on, self-taught software engineering (SQL/VB.NET) and project management. Left to pursue finance-related job (more in line w/ goals) and worked two plus years in treasury at a publicly traded mid-size industrial manufacturing firm (Think Dover/Harsco Corp). Promoted in one year from Analyst to Sr. Analyst.

    Extracurriculars: Interview undergrad applicants for placement at H/Y/P with the alumni association

    Goals: Enter investment banking and longer-term specialize/live in East Asia, as wife from there.

    Intangibles: First generation college grad from single-mom welfare family; Married with one child; white male, age 27 living in NYC metro area

  • Mr. HF

    Thanks again. I do plan on applying to HBS!

  • GatorGrad

    Hey Sandy,

    I’m an avid follower- thanks for reviewing.

    -27 Year-old white male

    -3.5 overall GPA from the University of Florida as a
    Business Administration major with a focus in Marketing. I attended UF because
    I received a full scholarship to go there (plus, I’m a huge Gator fan).

    -(If it matters, I received a 3.72 GPA in my major)

    -700 GMAT

    -Very involved in undergraduate: member of student
    government, President of a large, 100+ member Fraternity, voted as Brother of
    the Year in my fraternity, member of Florida Blue Key, member of the Order of
    Omega Honors Society, and founded a philanthropy on campus that still exists
    today

    -Work experience includes:

    -1 year in a corporate development program working with the
    CEO and CFO of a small(ish) public company shortly after it made its IPO

    -2 Years at a middle market investment bank as an analyst
    (think Baird, Harris Williams, Raymond James, etc.)

    -2 Years as a venture capital analyst at a middle market
    shop

    -During my work tenure I volunteered in a program that sent
    young financial professionals in to middle school classrooms to help children
    in lower socio-economic areas gain fluency in personal finance before they went
    to high school and presumably got jobs to help support their families

    -My goal is to work in either private equity or business
    development for a company in the Southeastern U.S. I believe there is a lack of
    private capital in this region of the country and there is a large upside to
    investing or expanding here. I also believe a lack of capital saturation has
    kept regions of the Southeast financially depressed and I want to be a part of
    growing the region of the country I came from. I believe an MBA would help
    expand my business acumen in both management and operations- two areas I would
    need to improve in vastly before making an impact at a PE firm or in business
    development.

    Target Schools:

    -Harvard

    -Wharton

    -MIT

    -Columbia

    -Northwestern

    -Chicago

    -Duke

    -Virginia

    -Cornell

    Thanks in advance, Sandy.

  • Tx2

    Hey Sandy, I’d greatly appreciate your insight on my admissions prospects for the fall of 2014 – as you will see I have taken a non-traditional route to b-school.

    I will be 27 – white male from South Dakota.
    3.8 gpa undergrad from a selective midwest liberal arts school (econ & internat’l affairs)
    6 months working for a US rep
    Studied Australia’s monetary policy abroad
    3.7 gpa graduate degree in public policy at the University of Texas at Austin (GRE: 600 (V) 660 (Q) 5 in writing
    studied public-private partnerships abroad in Beijing & Shanghai
    12 months research analyst for a non-trad financial education non-profit
    2 years with a small, federal lobbying firm (about $8M revenues/yr) as a research analyst/junior lobbyist (turned down a job with Deloitte as a Public Sector Consultant)
    I would like to jumpstart a career in international business strategy, so the Lauder Institute/Wharton MBA is probably my top pick…though obviously, Stanford and Harvard would be more than welcome as well. My second tier would be Stern and my hometown school, McCombs.
    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!!

  • Hadi AR

    Hello Sandy,

    Please see my profile below, let me know if it interests you for an analysis.

    - GMAT: 740 (80th percentile in both)
    - GPA: 2.5
    - Electrical Engineering with Minor in Economics from University of Waterloo (Pathetic GPA I know from a top tier school I guess)

    - While in school internships at Provincial ministry of Health and Long term Care, Federal Government of Canada, Alcatel-Lucent and BlackBerry.

    - Landed a full time job at Sony Ericsson in Montreal, moved to Bell Canada for 2 years and now working in a senior strategy and technology development role at Rogers communication. Have an interview lined up with Apple in California.

    - Hobbies include performing arts at a professional level. Always thought arts and business could some how merge. Theater work in school and in Toronto. Professional training as an actor at Armstrong acting studios (Yes, Miley Cyrus went to my school). Credits include a few short films and commercials. Still doing this part-time.

    -Some Volunteer work at local MP`s office as well as Cure for Cancer society volunteer.

    - Passed CFA level 1 since was interested in finance and used that knowledge to make investments and generated over 100K in profit. Used to payoff my undergrad loan and save for business school.

    - Pathetic GPA because of severe financial problems, always worked 30 plus hours while in school full time.

    - First in family to go abroad for undergraduate education.

    - Minority group as well Pakistani Canadian.

    - Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Tuck, Ross, LBS, INSEAD, Wharton, Cornell

    - Goal: To get into Investment Banking for the Media/Technology sector companies leveraging my engineering and arts background, eventually make radical changes to the world of arts/movie making/theater by introducing new technologies and business strategies.

  • Corporate Development Guy

    Hi Sandy,
    I have searched a lot of your posts, but wasn’t able to find one that matched my background. Your insight is greatly respected and I would appreciate it if you can consult me.
    730 GMAT, 3.4 GPA, 3.8 Major GPA, Major in Finance (minor in Economics) from University of Massaschusetts Amherst.
    Work Experience: Elite two-year financial leadership/development program at a fortune 50 company in the Aerospace/Defense industry and is well respected on wall street (think GE, UTC, Raytheon, Boeing, etc.). After completing this two year program, I became an analyst in the company’s Corporate Strategy and Development department. I worked there for 1.5 years doing mergers and aquisition valuations, financial modeling, buisness development, and company stategy. As a Corporate Stategy and Development analyst, I gained consulting experience (strategy), investment banking experience (M&A, Valuations) and operational experience (business development). Also, I tutor high school kids that are interested in corporate finance.
    My aim is to get into private equity and the mindset of starting a non-profit on the side aimed at helping the poor.
    I would like to know what my chances are at a top 10 school. Historically, in the last five years, there have been two analyst in my department that have gone on to top 10 schools. If not top 10, what schools would you recommend?
    Again, thanks for all your reports throughout the years. I have been on reading your reports over the last three years and they have given me a lot of insight and motivation.
    Thanks for your help Sandy!

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