Handicapping Your B-School Chances

Ms. Surf Diva

  • GMAT: 710
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in humanities from top University of California school
  • Work experience includes four years in marketing (and four successive positions) at a nationally successful and sustainably minded natural products company (sold at Whole Foods and every major grocery store); Currently head of digital marketing, managing a small team of five that executes web and graphic design, social media and content creation.
  • Extracurricular activities include an impressive travel record, active in surfing, rock climbing and photography, just joined the board of directors for a surf film non-profit, but otherwise minimal volunteer work at a local organic farm
  • 26-year-old, half Jamaican female who was homeschooled until high school
  • Goal: To strengthen existing career track in marketing with an MBA

Odds of Success:

Stanford: -20%

Berkeley: 30%

MIT: 30%

Kellogg: 40%

Columbia: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: I’ve seen kids with your work background get into HBS, although they had better stats, and better extras. Working at a brand name food company in marketing is okay, and a welcome relief in some cases because you actually sell stuff that folks recognize and deal with supply chains, distribution, competition, advertising, and sales teams. REAL STUFF. Now obviously business schools don’t want too much of that. Because, well, they are elitist and by nature opposed to the reality of dealing with delivery trucks, the teamsters union, price discounts to large stores, sales quotes, and Super Bowl tickets to high performing sales personnel.

Just for the record, consumer product majors like P&G, Kraft, Nestle, Budweiser (or whatever it’s called now) Coke, and Pepsi are fine places to apply from. The elite B- schools respect those firms the way an aristocratic family respects an uncle who made a lot of money selling zippers. I mean the money is nice, but it’s a zipper!

Your problem is your extras don’t seem to add up to much, and the bar for that is a bit higher for kids who don’t work in investment banking, since presumably you only have a 40-50 hour week job and time to do stuff.

I’m not sure what 1/2 Jamaican means in terms of qualifying for minority status. Are you a US citizen? If so, you might be considered Afro-American, and that could help.

Home schooling can be a plus if you spin it right as being an important part of your upbringing which created values that lead to your extracurricular activities. The trouble is your extras are all rich kid’s extras (“Impressive travel record, active in surfing, rock climbing and photography, just joined the board of directors for a surf film non-profit”) so you are, ahem, wiping out with that list. Surf film non-profit?

OK, I don’t see this as Stanford, you are just not interesting enough to overcome low-ish grades, unless you do have some kind identity politics story you are 1. not aware of, 2. too lazy to write about in your note. Haas, maybe, given that on stats alone you are not a super reach and there is a lot to like, and maybe even more to like.

MIT? Always hard to say there. They won’t swoon over digital marketing background. They might go for a minority woman (they don’t get flooded with apps from that group) with a 710 GMAT, if you are indeed a minority, but my guess is, the GPA will be deal breaker. Ditto Columbia. Kellogg is a maybe if you can put together a story. Kids like you get into Cornell, Michigan and pretty much stand a real good shot at places 10 through 20 on the U.S. News list.

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