Dream Schools: Handicapping Odds

Marathon Runner (Mr. CPA)

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting from a top-ranked business school
  • Senior associate for a Big Four accounting firm in New York for five years
  • Just accepted into an internal mergers & acquisitions tax program
  • Extracurricular involvement on the board of the entrepreneurial society at school, ran New York marathon, skydive, ski and snowboard, started a personal finance blog, and built several computers from scratch
  • “I don’t fit the stereotypical “CPA” mold of a desk-ridden bean counter”

Odds of Success

Harvard Business School: Less than 10%

Stanford: Less than 10%

Wharton: Less than 20%

Dartmouth: Less than 20%

Columbia: Less than 30%

Berkeley: Less than 20%

Yale: Less than 30%

Duke: Less than 30%

NYU: 40% to 50%

Virginia: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: “I don’t fit the stereotypical ‘CPA’ mold of a desk-ridden bean counter.” On the contrary, many sky diving groups are full of accountants, not kidding, and accountants often build computers from scratch and play the guitar. What they don’t do often enough is lead organizations for battered women, start boycotts of companies that make toxic products, and lead their college alumni group, or give class day speeches.

I am assuming you are an accountant and not a consultant at that Big Four firm (big difference and you are better off being a consultant, although I realize the consulting wings have broken off and have different names. Just making this clear for our listening audience). The question is, How come you want an MBA? Given all that, what is your long-term goal? Accountants often get MBAs but usually at regional schools. Unless you have a compelling answer, I am not seeing this as an HBS, Stanford, or Wharton admit, although your chances will be better at Wharton, where they give lip service to finance.

Stern, to the extent it is a regional New York School (something it is in part but does not like to think of itself as), is probably your best bet. They probably have a cohort like you who are either upgrading skills or dreaming of crossing over into banking. Your stats (ok GMAT, lowish GPA) are sometimes okay for Duke and Darden. But getting in there will require a real explanation of why you need an MBA from them and why now. I don’t see this as a Columbia admit. What you need are not more ‘un-geek’ activities, but more activities where you have an impact beyond yourself and more of an explanation of why, given your history, you need an MBA. If you can deliver on that, maybe you can get into Haas, Duke, or Darden.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.