Predicting Your Odds Of Getting In

Ms. Sassy

  • 700 GMAT (Shooting for 700 but “standardized tests have historically not been my thing.”)
  • 3.3 GPA (I was young and slightly depressed)
  • Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the number one public university in the U.S. and California
  • Work experience includes three years managing over $3 million projects in product supply for the world’s largest FMCG company. Now taking a break to work as a volunteer with an oil company corporate social responsibility initiative in the Niger Delta and hoping to not get kidnapped.
  • Expect to return to employer and move to more early stage engineering work and contribute to company’s expansion plans in Africa
  • Extracurricular involvement teaching first-gen, low-income high school students how chemistry is used in the real world, outreach manager for AA theme house
  • Why B-school? “I am tired of Africa being referred to as the dark continent and feel like the best way to do something tangible is to help Africans make money on a very large scale. Ultimately I want to help engineer joint ventures between governments, non-profits and for-profit enterprises that will run large high profit margin businesses – think clothes, beauty care etc. The end goal of this is to build human capital in Africa, create jobs and sustainable socio economic development.”
  • Concerns: “I suck at interviews – I have no filter!”
  • 23-year-old sassy black female with “requisite tales of overcoming adversity – plane crashes, motherless babies, civil unrest, bombings, car crashes, jobless parents. I wish I were kidding but I’m not.”

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Stanford: 15%

Sloan: 25%

Tuck: 25%

Yale: 30%+

Cornell: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Are you a U.S. citizen? This is really important from a school’s point of view because if not, you are African, which is nice. But if you are a U.S. citizen, you are African-American, which is an officially recognized and counted minority.

Now that we got that out of the way: you got a real solid story, which as you note needs to be edited, for PC reasons and just to get it straight.

Immigrant engineer, overcame adversity, worked for FMCG giant (for our readers who are baffled, that is Fast Moving Consumer Goods, and major players include Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Unilever, Nestle, and Coca Cola) both as an engineer and now during a sabbatical as a volunteer in Africa.

I am not sure if you left first job and volunteered for the Oil Company, or were sent there by first job. It’s real important to make that clear and explain. Goals are, once again, some clear, and standardized version of what you got above, to wit, being an impactful leader in Africa, could take the form of doing 1 or 2. I admire X and Y and want to use those companies or those people as a role model.

Schools might blink at the 3.3 given engineering background and problems getting oriented to U.S. higher education, especially if high school was sub-par. As noted, schools do not like to blink twice, so GMAT becomes a bit more important for you. It would be worth really investing some time in that, both taking prep courses, and planning to take it more than once. Just get a 680 if you can. Applicants with stories like yours sometimes get into HBS and Stanford, but usually with one or two boffo accomplishments beyond just doing well at work or with some big shot pushing you. For example, someone in Corporate Social Responsibility at the oil company you are now with who has contacts at those schools who can say, “This gal is really special.”

You might get in based on story alone, but that is going to be iffy. Sloan does not go for do-gooders with low GPA’s and GMAT’s, but they are always on the look out for minority women (assuming you are a U.S. citizen, they care, but less, about International Minority Women. Sloan does not seem your kind of place anyway, and you might think Chicago or Wharton or Columbia, where chances might be better and the MBA brand is just as good.

As to not interviewing well, dunno, a lot of that is getting your story straight and internalizing it. If you can put up with kidnappers in Niger, you should be able to deal with a 30-minute interview, although I realize the skill set is nominally different. My guess is, your interviewing problems are just based on not installing the right filters, not so much producing the words or thoughts.

Filtering is something that can be learned. Being a “sassy black female” is great on paper, less so if you are half sassy and half trying to be something different in an interview. Try being a focused and passionate black female instead.

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