Do You Have The Right Stuff To Get In?

Ms. Private Banker

  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from a university in Singapore
  • 3.98 GPA (Masters)
  • Masters’ degree in economics from a university in Singapore
  • Work Experience includes five years in private banking at a U.S. bulge bracket firm, working as an investment adviser and more recently as a relationship manager.
  • Also own my own social media/marketing firm for small businesses and individuals. It’s been profitable for 3 years now.
  • Extracurricular activity includes learning Chinese over the past five years and teaching domestic migrants computer skills and financial literacy for three years
  • Goal: “I want to do an MBA to break into investment banking in Asia, and to build a solid global network in the field.”
  • 26-year-old Indian woman

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%

Stanford: 15% to 25%

Wharton: 30% to 50%

Columbia: 40% to 50+%

Dartmouth: 50%

Chicago: 40% to 55+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, let’s begin with the obvious. If you were in investment banking and not private wealth, you’d be a totally in-line HBS candidate. And if you built out some do-gooder story about teaching migrants computer skills and financial literacy and mixed it up with your social media skills, you might crack Stanford as well.

The issue becomes what is the difference between Private Banking (helping rich people stay rich, for those of you who don’t know) and Investment Banking (well, some cynics the same, but  . . . ) from the school’s perspective. As a rule, IB is just harder to get into, and the schools use that as a proxy for some filtering process already done by the banks, a process they deeply respect (they care less about what you actually do in each gig, although IB has a slight edge there, I think, but happy to listen to contra point-of-view.)

In your case, going to school in Singapore, you may have been out of the normal IB recruiting channels, and gotten the Private Banking job based on super talent. So that is a slight edge for you–similar to how getting a job at Big 4 firm is much more impressive in developing countries and Europe than it is in the U.S.  You were never actually filtered by the IB’s the way U.S. kids routinely are. Given that, and given a lot of other assets in your story, if shaken together properly, you got a chance at Harvard and Stanford. At other schools, I’d say you are really on solid ground, given the usual ‘execution.’ You need to explain why you want to go there, and what your goals are.

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