Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

Ms. Politician

  • 710 GMAT
  • 3.35 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in government and international relations from a small research university
  • Work experience as chief of staff for legislative committee (two years, supervising five staffers and up to ten interns. Campaign manager for state legislator. Was also a store manager during college
  • Extracurricular involvement as a local elected official for six years, with lots of political campaign volunteer experience (mostly local and state). Also active in party politics (elected town committee and state committee member and started a local organization for young Democrats, several years as board of director for state-wide young Democrats organization). Also volunteer speaker on being straight in gay rights movement
  • Goal: To transition to business as a consultant, potentially in sustainable corporate practices. Eventual goal is to run for major public office
  • 27-year-old white female adopted at age 10 by a lesbian couple

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%
MIT: 30%
Dartmouth: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: How come you are not going to law school or the Kennedy School of Government (or its sister public policy schools)?  HBS is open to political operatives and even elected officials. Those folks usually are federal level, White House staffers and congressional aides. I hope, at least, you come from a big and important state in terms of both population and impact. This story does not sell as well if it all happened North Dakota (not that there is anything wrong with ND,  or similar states). Anyway, I’m not seeing this as HBS, but Kennedy School does go for this, and HKS will give you the  silver plating  you need, and, dirty little secret, lots of kids who go to K school (and Woodrow Wilson etc) wind up working in the private sector, at least immediately post graduation.

Another huge suggestion concerns your stated goals: “Immediate goal is to transition to business as consultant, potentially specializing in sustainable corporate practices.” Huh? That is often done by lawyers and practiced lay people. It actually sounds a bit like burnout, so I would avoid it. You might say instead that you want to join regular consulting shop with public practice division, or whatever they call it, focusing on issues like the following (from this press release), advertising a government efficiency Pow-Wow given by McKinsey:

“The Summit focused on two important questions governments face around the world:

1. How can government do more with less in a time of great fiscal uncertainty—improving not just efficiency but also effectiveness?

2. How can government change under pressure and what can we learn from others’ experiences?”

That sure sounds like what you should be doing. And for more buzzwords and “best-in-class” BS on this topic see the whole agenda. It is linked to the above press release.

Once you get your story straight, you become a good deal more attractive to most schools, but I’m not seeing this as H or S because of your lack of college and work pedigree. Although being raised by a lesbian couple is summa cum laude on the PC-meter, it will only get you so far. It is hard to get a read on your extra currics, and political work, which sounds substantial, that and your academic and GMAT story (which is actually pretty good, once it gets explained), and those extra courses, could push you over the top at other schools. Sloan might be convinced to pick you in a wildcard round, and Tuck is pretty PC and cares about good government.  Saying you want to run for public office as a long-term goal is OK, just make it real long-term.

My question still remains: Why not try for Schools of Public Policy, which often send graduates to consulting firms?