Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Mr. China

  • 740 GMAT
  • 2.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a local state school with study at a top five university in China
  • Work Experience includes six years working for Pearson Education as a general sales manager with a staff of 40 people, 85% of which are Chinese nationals who do not speak English
  • Extracurricular involvement as an avid member of the Black Student Union and a member of the Presidents Society
  • Background: “I come from a single-parent home. After the first six months of university, my mother lost her job. She and my brother was homeless and lived in a shelter for two months. Instead of quitting school; I worked two jobs while studying full time–the reason why my grades are low.
 I have been in the states for 9 months with out working due to the fact I was studying for the GMAT:
  • Goal: To work for a “consulting firm teaching American Business how to do biz in China, and doing a start up.”
  • 34-year-old African American who is fluent in Chinese

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10% to 20%

Chicago: 30%

Wharton: 25%

Duke: 30+%

Michigan: 30+%

Columbia: 20%

Sandy’s Analysis: You’ve got two problems: 1) getting a school to blink about your GPA, which is possible, given your high GMAT score and story and fluency in Chinese, and 2) getting a school to blink about your age and need for an MBA versus an Executive MBA or some kind of other business degree, given your age (34) and goals, which you state as “consulting firm teaching American Business how to do biz in China, and doing a start up,” which I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and conclude, means, ‘possibly starting such a firm myself,’ rather than some random start-up.

Phew. You will be 36-37 by the time you graduate B school, and that is a bit late to start working at most McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group-type consulting shops, which usually hire generalists right out of top MBA programs. If you want to work at a specialist consulting firm which focuses on doing business in China, well, you might get that job right now, given your experience and language skills.  If you do apply, be sure to identify actual firms which do that kind of work as places you could begin, and at places like Columbia, note explicitly that you have shared this plan with people at those firms, and they have supported your plan to seek MBA training.  Columbia especially, but all schools, like to know you have a plausible job waiting.

Let me say, while we finish with the negatives, that quitting your job to study for the GMAT, if that is what happened, is mildly incredible, and if true, was ill advised. Although, I am not sure how else to spin it myself.  Just some general advice to readers, don’t quit your job to study for GMATs. All the other GMAT takers have jobs, so adcoms prefer a level playing field.

OK, flipping the coin, the story you spin about overcoming obstacles is powerful, Pearson is a solid firm (which sells a lot of crap IMHO but who cares about that, so does Pepsi and Kraft, and B-schools {HEART} them!) and not many black American males have a 740 GMAT and Chinese language fluency.  Some top 10 school might buy that package, if put together with extreme care, and backed by solid recs. I don’t think you are getting into H or S because there are too many questions about age, and quitting job, and they would only take a guy with a 2.4 and 34 years of age if everything else perfectly synched up, which it does not in your case, and that would include powerful and sustained job success, so we get back to not having a job.

As to other top 10 schools, I would apply to as many as you could manage, since basically, you just need to get lucky once and you are a risky admit. But as noted, you have a lot going for you. High risk special cases — you do qualify as that – can sometimes get lucky at Booth and Kellogg. Just put as many chips on the table as you can.

You’ve got an odd and powerful story but it has two major holes in it: 1. Low GPA and 2. No current job.  You need to submit an application that is forthcoming, serious, and detailed.  A lot will turn on what your supervisors from Pearson say, since they can confirm your story about leaving on your own will to study for GMAT.  If you cannot marshal strong support from Pearson, I fear this app goes in the “Whaaa?????” file.

Handicapping Your MBA Odds–The Entire Series

Part I: Handicapping Your Shot At a Top Business School

Part II: Your Chances of Getting In

Part III: Your Chances of Getting In

Part IV: Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

Part V: Can You Get Into HBS, Stanford or Wharton?

Part VI: Handicapping Your Dream School Odds

Part VII: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part VIII: Getting Through The Elite B-School Screen

Part IX: Handicapping Your B-School Chances

Part X: What Are Your Odds of Getting In?

Part XI: Breaking Through the Elite B-School Screen

Part XII: Handicapping Your B-School Odds

Part XIII: Predicting Your Odds of Getting In

Part XIV: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part XV: Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

Part XVI: Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

Part XVII: What Are Your Odds of Getting In

Part XVIII: Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

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.