Dream Schools: Handicapping Odds

Ms. Half Minority

  • 760 GMAT
  • 2.5 – 2.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from non-Harvard/Yale/Princeton Ivy
  • Have valid medical reason for low GPA
  • Worked for four years at a small-by-design market consultancy
  • Half minority and dual citizen of a country that will likely have no other applicants to top MBA programs
  • Extracurriculars include advising a college women’s group and alumni involvement
  • “Is the GPA a non-starter for every school?”

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: 20%
Stanford: 15%
Wharton: 30+%
Columbia: 30+%
Berkeley: 20+%
Duke: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: For a moment I read 2.5-2.7 GPA non-HYP Ivy (with valid medical reason) as meaning you had a valid medical reason for not going to H-Y-P. Hmmmmm, allergic to clam chowder, bulldogs and the colors orange and black gives you vertigo (me too!).

But I get it now. That valid medical reason, which somehow got cured by the time you got the 4.0 in post-college coursework, better be a doozy, and if not, you might just say you were immature or probably some combo of the two, e.g. had some substantial medical issues, also did not get help, also was uncertain about academic motivation (made worse by condition), blah, blah.

I don’t mean to be flip about any serious medical condition, but I caution you that schools have high defenses about this, since, alas, we live in age when many parents can get doctors to say anything and stories abound about holding kids back from kindergarten for one year so they can be the biggest and smartest in their class. It’s step one on a 12,000-step program to get Adrian or Kitten into, ahem, H-Y-P.

The 4.0 is some mitigation but that depends on what courses, how many, and just for the record, I hope none of that 4.0 was “online learning baloney,” because adcoms prefer applicants who attend learning events in 3-D, week after week, at some appointed time, and then swallow hard and extrude the material back on a ‘curated’ (proctored) exam. How come? Duh, ‘cause that is exactly what you will be doing when you arrive at business school. You are not applying for the paintball team.

The 760 GMAT might be the wind beneath your Hail Mary pass. For our International and secular readers, a Hail Mary pass is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hail_Mary_pass.

Hard to get a read on your job: “Four years at a small-by-design market leader niche industry consultancy (run by an alum of one of the top-5 MBA programs)” but I salute your jam-packed writing style. Seriously. As noted prior, questions to ask in this case is what track record does that firm have in placing folks into schools. Sounds like a serious place but if schools have no track record there, you need to make clear its virtues and exclusivity.

Half-minority? My dear, when it comes to minority status, as with medical conditions, we round up. Especially if you have real ties to a minority community in terms of activities, etc. Dual citizen of bizarro country, “that will likely have no other applicants to top MBA programs?” Hmmm, that could be an attraction all by itself, especially if you have your own Internet domain (hbsguru.:-$) But more importantly it could support your half-minority upgrade if you are half-White and Half-Kirabiti. OK, ABOUT YOUR GPA BEING, AS YOU SAY, “A NON-STARTER.”

Hard to say, it is not a non-starter, but it is a real, real issue because you are otherwise silver and not gold in terms of employment pedigree, extracurriculars, and anything else they care about. I will revise that if the half-minority issue is actually powerful, if your firm has connections or visibility with schools, if you have some documented heart-breaking medical condition, which is now no longer an impediment to doing good work, as 4.0 indicates, and if your admirably terse prose is also reflective of your focus.

But this is an interesting exercise. Let’s say you had 3.6, you’d still be a longish shot at HBS and Stanford because there is nothing driving you in, no stardust, no powerful one extra or set of extras. Lots of people from H-Y-P with 760 and 3.6 with the rest of your stats do not get into HBS or Stanford so why are they going to take you, even if they accommodate the medical issue? Columbia is pretty number focused, although one number they may focus on is the 760.

So, I’m calling that a reach. Wharton is not known for taking off-the-grid cases, despite what they claim, so I’m calling that a reach plus. Duke and Haas, that might be possible. Once they blink at the GPA, everything else is up their alley. I’m being speculative here, so feel free to write back after you get into all those places, and call me whatever you want.

A lot will turn on how compelling your medical story is, and to some degree, how juiced-up any adcom in a daring mindset will be, especially if she dreams of using you as teaser bait at Future Forums where she proudly proclaims to the goober wannabes, “We took a kid last year with a 2.5 GPA! See anyone can get in.” And believe me, the adcom will say that, and not mention the medical condition or the 760 or 4.0, and she will be fibbing through her teeth, but nonetheless, you will be in.