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Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Ms. Russian Consultant

  • 720-730 GMAT expected
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in international business from a top Russian university
  • Master’s degree in management from HEC Paris
  • Work experience includes two years for a top-tier consulting firm in Dubai, working on projects in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Moscow and Kazakhstan; internships as a data analyst at a Russian investment bank and an internship in the strategy department of a financial services provider in Paris
  • Extracurricular activities include working as a volunteer for Aiesec Moscow as project manager, one of the founders of an Aviation club at university; presenter in ERASMUS conference; second place winner at the nationwide case competition in Russia
  • 24-year-old woman from Russia

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 30% to 40%
Columbia: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: What you bring to the table is the consulting experience in the Middle East as a Russian-born young woman. That could be very valuable to a business school. The question is how valuable? Let’s say you get a 710 or 720 GMAT. The median GMAT at Wharton is 730. Does working in the Middle East as a female Russian overcome 10 to 20 GMAT points? It could for you, but it’s really hard to say.

But the fact you founded an aviation club at your Russian university and then went to Paris to earn a master’s degree from HEC makes you stand out. I don’t think a lot of Russians do that. So you present as someone who is sophisticated, exotic and possibly wealthy.

I think Wharton gets a lot of consulting and finance people and the bottom half of those cohorts are probably not as interesting as you are as a candidate. In fact, I would say you are much more interesting than the bottom half of their admitted finance cohort. What is heart breaking is that the GMAT becomes real important because Wharton might fall in love with you but they then have to ask themselves if you have the horsepower to make it there.

That question comes up because you didn’t include your GPA for your undergraduate degree and your GPA in your masters isn’t all that high when grades tend to be higher in master’s programs. That is where the GMAT is important. They may look down on the 3.4 GPA at HEC Paris and wonder if you were on vacation. They could think you either don’t have the horsepower or don’t like to turn the engine on. That is why the GMAT in your case is critical. At Columbia, it’s the same analysis but somewhat easier.

You only mention two schools but my advice to you would be to cast a wider net. Your career dreams can come true at a lot of schools, not only Wharton and Columbia. I would look at schools ranked five through 15. There s no telling what could happen once you set foot in America and you have your pilot’s license.

  • 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!