Do You Have The Right Stuff To Get In?

Mr. Army Engineer Officer

  • 700 GMAT
  • 2.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Graduate degree in engineering management from Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Work experience as a U.S. Army Engineer Officer, Captain from 2005 to the present.. Deployed to Iraq in 2006-07 as an Infantry Platoon Leader, lots of great leadership stories. Selected above peers to take command of a company as a First Lieutenant (generally a Captain position). Work as an instructor at the Army Engineer School, honed leadership skills and developed solid mentoring and teaching skills. Deployed (currently) to Afghanistan as a long-range operations planning officer.
  • Extracurricular: Led the community service project while in my Engineer Captains Course. I chaired the committee and led the execution of a 5k fun run fundraiser that had over 400 participants, 15 sponsors, and raised over $15,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. Coached youth baseball for 4 years and volunteer occasionally with the boy scouts.
  • Goal: “Looking to get in to I-banking and Sales/Trading or M&A. Long term, I just want to lead people.“
  • 32-year-old, married white male


Odds of Success:

Wharton: 35% to 40%

Chicago: 30% to 50%

MIT: 20% to 30%

Northwestern: 30+%

Dartmouth: 25+%

Virginia: 30% to 50%

Duke: 30% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, I like you and so might your target schools, but you are not a typical Army applicant because you’re older (and not a pilot etc.  where a long-term  commitment prior to training makes you put in eight years, sorry if I am wrong) and because of your targeted interests in investment banking and finance. Some military wind up in IB and Sales and Trading but few state that so clearly as a career objective.

The recent course work with the 4.0 GPA will do a lot to get you some slack for low undergraduate grades, but that is still worth explaining in whatever way you can.  Aside from your age and low GPA issues, there is a lot to like, including current deployment to Afghanistan (everyone pulls for guys in a conflict zone) and history of extra-currics and leadership awards.

As noted prior here, war stories max out to adcoms (at some high level, but they max out) so having non-war stories is a big plus. Chicago seems a great choice since they are open to finance types and applications which seem to have a lot of heart, however defined.  Sloan is open to finance types but a bit tone deaf to “heart” and will be less impressed with war stories but might appreciate engineering background.  They are also more concerned about metrics like a low GPA (even though a long time ago) and they might scrutinize your GMAT Quant score.

Wharton is between Chicago and Sloan, but open to older military. On the other hand, they are just more selective, but it could happen. Kellogg likes guys like you but your interests in IB are not directly up their alley, although they are not closed to it. Tuck also likes guys like you, and you could maybe charm your way in there, if you visited and made friends.

Try to find vets at all those schools. This is not that hard to do because there is usually an Armed Forces club of some kind, and they are often pretty engaged in helping current military, esp. officers currently deployed in combat zones.   So bottom line is that you are in play at all those places.  Duke and Darden are both known to run older and like military. I think you’d stand a real good chance there.

You will be 35-36 by the time you graduate and ‘start’ your banking career, which is old for civilians but most banks are hyper-patriotic (you would be too, with all that bail-out money J). The banks may cut you some slack in that department but schools are very concerned about grads actually being employed after graduation, so if you can, explain how you plan to transition into banking or mention any buddies you know who have done so at your age, or allude to discussions with banker vets, etc. Military guys often do well in sales-and-trading, sort of the civilian equivalent of combat. So that is another plus in your favor.

Just FYI, although you did not ask, I’d say HBS and Stanford are marginal because of your age, low grades, Tier-3 schooling, and just being in the army for too long.  They like their military cohort to put in five or six years and then get out (unless pilots) and be  either service academy or ROTC at Tier 1 and 2 colleges.  Not impossible, but H+S would be long shots.

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