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Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Mr. 780

  • 780 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA at a Top 20 undergraduate institution
  • Transfers out as sophomore to a Mid-Ivy (think Columbia or Penn)
  • 3.0 GPA at Mid-Ivy “due to a personal family issue”
  • Work experience at a large commercial bank in credit underwriting and risk management (Think Chase, Citi or Bank of America)
  • Received three promotions in two years, becoming the fastest rising member of the analyst class to gain a promotion to vice president
  • Top employee rating firmwide (top 5% of the workforce)
  • Extracurricular involvement for one year as a mentor to underprivilged high school students to get them ready for college
  • Expects excellent recommendations
  • Goal: To pivot industry, function and location to work in corporate strategy for a tech or Fortune 500 company; potentially considering consulting as well
  • “May apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton”
  • 25-year-old American white male, LGBT in New York

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 30% to 40%
Dartmouth: 30% to 40%
Michigan: 50%+
Virginia: 50%+
Duke: 50%+
Harvard: 20%
Stanford: 20%
Wharton: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: You are a guy who is capable of running super hot. That is the say, you can score a 780. You can get a 4.0. And you can then join a large commercial bank and win really unbelievable exceptional medals. Getting promoted three times and the highest analyst score nationwide. Those are real accomplishments. So you are clearly capable of doing incredible things amidst of a number of stumbles. To wit, working for a boring bank that is not selective and screwing up your GPA.

You get a 4.0 at a top 20 school and then as a sophomore you transfer out to Columbia or Penn and your grades go down dramatically to 3.0. That is a little more than a hiccup. That is a big but. In our world getting a job at a large commerical bank is another but because it’s not a selective job and it’s not a job that people like. And then you give us another but with your performance at the bank.

As to your goal, I think you need to tell schools that you want to become a management consultant. You need to follow one of the 15 commandments of applying to business school: Thou cannot go wrong, claiming you want to be a consultant.

You ask if you should apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. My advice: Apply to Harvard and Wharton. This is not a Stanford app, despite your one year of mentoring people. You are not a classic do-gooder. Their mouth would water over your 780 GMAT. Stanford is as big a GMAT sucker as exists on the face of planet earth. Stanford would shake this guy up and down and say, ‘Can we make this happen? Can we make this happen?’ But there is too much here that they won’t like: You’re white, you’re male, you work for a commercial bank. I don’t think your LGBT status is going to get you a halo effect at Stanford. The mentoring is too little, too late. You don’t seem to have do-gooder DNA. Stanford has a lot of people with a 760 GMAT and the rest is totally fine. That’s how they get their storehouse of high GMAT scores.

For you, Wharton is more interesting. The 780 would be irresistable. it would get you back in the Ivy League. But I don’t think there are many American white males at Wharton from commercial banks. I think it could be zero. Still, I have a feeling that you are an unbelievable performer given the right circumstances and the right mindset. You got that 780. You had a 4.0. You proved you could excel in this boring, frozen number-crunching bank where you have racked up great accomplishments. If you got to Wharton and things aligned for you there, I could see you as the valedictorian at graduation.

Harvard, Stanford and Wharton all like 780s. But Harvard likes it the least. They are not entranced by it. When Stanford and Wharton see a 780, they go into a trance. They are ga-ga over a 780.

Just reading the tea leaves here. I don’t think you are a Kellogg or a Tuck type. You strike me as an individualist, not a collaborative team player. I respect you. You are a real smart, tough, slightly screwed-up guy. You are the kind of boss who is really smart but considered a pain in the ass. I view you as someone with slightly sharp elbows, a real performer who likes to perform alone. There is nothing here, nothing, that reads teamwork, clubs, and collaboration. Your 780 gives you a chance, but I think you are a likely admit at almost all the other places you’re targeting: Michigan, Duke, Virgina.

Bottom line: If you get your act together, you are a high potential leader. It’s possible that a guy like you can get real value out of an MBA program. Business school could round you out in an important way as a leader.

  • believeland

    Sandy – Any chance you could take a look at my bio below and briefly assess my chances? I have somewhat of a unique background, so it’s tough to find a lot of input on the web. Thanks!

    Demographics: 24 year old white male

    Education: Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a Specialization in Economics from The Ohio State University (3.84/4.00)

    GMAT: 720

    Work Experience: Though I graduated in 2017, I have worked full time for four years. My background is primarily in political campaigns, where I have managed data/analytics operations for multiple campaigns. I started at a statewide campaign organization, where I essentially built the entire organization’s technology infrastructure from scratch. Then, I used the data that I collected and compiled to revolutionize the way in which the organization contacted voters. I held a similar data/technology role for a Presidential campaign in 2016. During my time on these campaigns, I began formulating the proprietary voter targeting and fundraising models that I use for my current job as a campaign data and technology consultant, a role which I carved out for myself at a top government affairs firm in my home state. I currently provide consulting services for a number of high profile campaigns.

    Extracurriculars: I had very little availability outside of work and class during my undergraduate studies, but I found the time to spearhead the founding of the first data and analytics student organization at my university.

    Goals: I do not intend to make politics my career, and I would like to transition to the private sector, preferably to a management role at a technology company, where I can leverage my unique skill set. An MBA will provide me with the knowledge and network to facilitate this transition.

    Target Programs: With Boston and the Bay Area being the hotbeds for technology companies, I would like to go to a school in these markets, though M7 is the general goal (with the addition of Haas)

  • hbsguru

    but the analyst I was hired to replace is now at Kellogg.–
    WELL WHAT WAS THAT PERSON’S STORY VS. YOURS?
    ANYWAY, JUST A REALITY CHECK. YOU SHOULD APPLY TO HBS, JUST
    DONT PUT ALL EGGS IN THAT BASKET.

  • Pia

    Thanks for your feedback, Sandy.
    I agree, my current firm isn’t a sexy company, but the analyst I was hired to replace is now at Kellogg. Not sure about anyone else in the past. Almost everyone on my team currently and in the past have MBAs from top programs including HBS, Booth, and Columbia. I think I can get some strong recs from my manager and colleagues.

  • hbsguru

    AS TO YOUR STORY: we got boutique IB and then this current job–

    current job is in global M&A / corporate development at a
    well-known market research/information services company. I assess
    potential acquisition and divestiture opportunities and work with the
    business teams to execute M&A transactions.

    A lot will depend on what HBS etc. think of that company. Market research/info services in USA is considered a ‘silver not gold’ job in terms of selectivity and feeding ground for admits.

    Has anyone in your peer group there applied to top B schools in past 3 years and what outcomes???

    This company may be considered a better gig for Internnational applicants, same way Big 4 is.

    – I am also the founder of a global initiative to raise awareness about
    poverty and suicide among Indian handloom weavers. I am currently in the
    process of setting up an e-commerce platform to sell the the weavers’
    fabrics and clothing.
    Calling STANFORD GSB, well, to the extent that this is an established, impactful gig, that is impressive. If you actually set up that e-commerce, that would be impactful and convincing of your bona fides. Also post the link here so our readers can check it out.

    Sounds like great gift buying opportunities, where buyer can signal good taste and virtue!!!
    As to you retaking the 720—-grrrrrr, I don’t think your outcome wld be super diff w. 740 etc. altho given the narrow mindedness and hypocrisy of most adcoms (a theme of my Centre Court presentation) you can never be sure.

    You got good grades, a 720 is pretty good, and you got a good story.

    As to waiting a year: if you can get more traction w. your NGO and maybe more experience and powerful recs, maybe. A lot of answer could depend on how long you already been there and state of recs at this point.

    Getting promotion is not going to be deal maker, altho doing good work and getting good recs are impt.

  • hbsguru

    Hi Sandy! I heard you speak last weekend at the Centre Court MBA Festival and wanted to hear your thoughts on my profile:
    GREAT THAT WAS A BALL, AND IF ANYONE WHO WAS THERE WANTS ELABORATION ON MY MINI LECTURES ON GMAT, RECS, SCHOOL SELECTION, AND ESSAYS, JUST POST ON THIS THREAD.
    ————————————

  • Pia

    Hi Sandy! I heard you speak last weekend at the Centre Court MBA Festival and wanted to hear your thoughts on my profile:

    Applying for Fall 2018

    24-year-old Indian-American female
    GMAT: 720 (Q: 49 // V: 39 )
    GPA: 3.6/4.0 at a top undergrad business school. I graduated in 3.5 years and also co-wrote a case study which was published through INSEAD.

    Experience:
    – My first job out of school was at a small boutique investment bank where I worked for just over 1 year
    – My second (and current) job is in global M&A / corporate development at a well-known market research/information services company. I assess potential acquisition and divestiture opportunities and work with the business teams to execute M&A transactions.

    Extracurriculars:
    – I do a considerable amount of community service with a couple Indian non-profit organizations.
    – I am also the founder of a global initiative to raise awareness about poverty and suicide among Indian handloom weavers. I am currently in the process of setting up an e-commerce platform to sell the the weavers’ fabrics and clothing.

    Post MBA Goals: Social entrepreneurship or management consulting

    Schools: HBS, GSB, Booth, Sloan, Haas, Columbia

    Do I have any chance of getting into these schools? Should I wait another year before applying in order to retake the GMAT, get another year of work experience (hopefully a promotion), build up my extracurriculars, etc?

    Any guidance would be much appreciated! Thank you!