Handicapping Your Shot At Getting In

Mr. Middle East

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate Degree in biomedical engineering from top public engineering program (Cal Tech, Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Michigan)
  • Work Experience: One year of healthcare consulting (for providers) at boutique consulting firm, then three years of marketing/sales at large but not commonly known medical device company.
  • Extracurricular involvement as president of fraternity, student government committee chairman, campus orientation leader, one research publication, and regular volunteer experience.
  • Extracurricular involvement after college: tutor for refugee organization, recently appointed director of strategy at sports non-profit, rec league basketball, pre-MBA course
  • Goal: To leverage my experience in the health care industry to transition to a business development/corporate strategy role in a small to mid-sized biotechnology company. Longer term: To join or start a life science start-up
  • 27-year-old male of Middle Eastern descent, fluent in Farsi

Odds of Success:

Harvard: -20%
Stanford: -20%
Wharton: 20% to 30%
Columbia: 50+%
MIT: 30% to 50%
Berkeley: 50+%
Northwestern: 50+%
Chicago: 50+%
UCLA: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmm, just for the record, since this comes up a lot:

-Extracurricular Involvement in college: president of fraternity, student government committee chairman, housing RA, campus orientation leader, one research publication, and regular volunteer experience.

-Extracurricular Involvement after college: tutor for refugee organization, recently appointed director of strategy at sports non-profit, rec league basketball, pre-MBA course, and occasional volunteer experience at a couple organizations

Those college extras, to adcom way of thinking, especially adcom at Harvard and Stanford, are pretty dull. It’s all inside college baseball, although you allude to regular volunteer experience. We get the picture: You liked college, and being frat president, RA, and campus orientation leader, well, that is leadership, but schools like to see an impact beyond yourself, most of all, and well, they don’t consider your frat brothers as being too, too beyond yourself.

Now being tutor for a refugee organization, that’s MONEY!

I’m not seeing this as a Stanford admit unless you can leverage the Mid-East background and refugee stuff and there is more like that at home.

How come? For them, you have a lowish GPA as well as no-name and slightly off-the-grid jobs (“large but not commonly known medical device company . . .”) Has anyone from there ever gotten into Stanford? That is a real important question. If not, I’m doubling down on my hunch.

Your goals are excellent and in-demand. For a guy like you, that works, but goals never got anyone into Stanford. Your background in marketing/sales at a medical device company is okay, but not as good as business development. Amazingly, Harvard and Stanford have a residual prejudice (albeit small) against folks, especially non-female folks, with sales backgrounds, despite the documented history of CEO’s coming from sales. They will deny that, but I know better. The admits they will point to from sales backgrounds are, in most cases ‘asterisks’ of one kind or another, e.g. minorities, women, or military.

OK, that was the bad news. There is plenty to like here, to wit: Your solid GPA, a 740 GMAT, an engineering degree, medical devices, and refugees. That should be enough for all the other schools on your list: Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Berkeley, Northwestern, Chicago, and UCLA. Just convince them you want to go.

MIT will like all of this, just don’t screw up the cover letter. Wharton will think they like guys like you, and you are over-qualified at the other places.