Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

Mr. Big Four

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting and economics from Washington University in Saint Louis
  • Work experience includes three years in the valuation and mergers and acquisition groups of a Big 4 accounting firm
  • Extracurricular involvement as president of the university dance club; also founded a non-profit to provide scholarships to students and launched a successful urban apparel company while an undergraduate student
  • Competed globally as a professional dancer during a break year from Washington University
  • 28-year-old white male, first generation college student
  • Goal: To go into strategic consulting and later pursue an executive role at a Fortune 100 company

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 25+%

Stanford: 15+%

Wharton: 30% to 50%

New York: 50+%

Columbia: 40% to 60%

UCLA: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Washington U. in St Louis is a respected school in the B- school universe and is often thought of as a collecting point for bright kids, often first gen college, like you, who somehow did not have the pull, savvy, or network to get into Ivies, Near Ivies, etc. A 3.9/740 is a plus anyplace, obviously. The issue becomes what H/S/W thinks of your Big Four experience, and what groups you belonged to while there, and what you did.  The usual path from Big 4 to H/S/W is usually a second job with the corporate office of a Fortune 100 company or some accounting/valuation type gig with a hedge fund or private equity shop. As also noted, Big 4, especially at Stanford, is a fertile feeding ground of minority applicants. You might qualify as some kind of ‘White Ethnic’ given your background, especially if you can spin it that way.

Your attractive extras and dance skills will be some small halo on this app, and who knows, could tilt you in, given how impressive the rest is. I’d say you got a shot at Wharton, just on the stats alone and their interest in your goals. At HBS and Stanford, you may need to organize some really strong recommendations from the biggest hitters in your firm you can manage. This might take a phone call beyond just the ordinary great rec.   If Stanford, ever took a non-minority from a straight Big 4 background, I’d like to know about it.  That last sentence is not a rhetorical flourish, if anyone has ever heard of this, let me know. And when you do, see if you can sniff out some ‘wire’ in the package of some kind.

At HBS you could get in through the front door — maybe. There is lots to like here, and it could depend on recs and how you execute extras and come across as a package . They got no shortage of candidates who want to do exactly what you do—viz. “Take quantitative skills and apply them to strategy consulting…Pursue executive leadership within Fortune 100” and many of those other candidates have equally impressive stories and stats and often better, more selective, jobs. So it becomes a roll of the dice there to some degree with execution and recs really counting more than usual.

NYU, Columbia, and UCLA should be doable if you can convince them you want to come.  I’m seeing you at Wharton. Which is not a bad outcome, especially for your goals.  If what you do at the Big 4 is more akin to consulting than accounting, this all gets a little better. And as always, how many kids from your group have applied and been admitted to H/S/W in the past three years? That is the telling question: If one or two every year, well, it could be you this year. I just don’t have a fine tune on what you actually do.

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