Getting Into Your Dream School

Mr. Boy Scout Master

  • 770 GMAT
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a top-50 ranked school
  • Work Experience includes three years in the finance department of a mid-size software company. Started as an analyst and was recently promoted to a managerial role and have 10 direct reports. Also spent two years in Japan on a Mormon mission
  • Fluent in Japanese and comfortable with written Japanese
  • Extracurricular involvement as a Boy Scout Master for a group of more than a dozen 12- and 13-year-old boys. Actively involved in church community.
  • Goal: “I would like a career change (maybe I-banking or consulting), and am very interested in opportunities where I could use my Japanese-speaking ability.”
  • 25-year-old white male.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10% to 20%

Wharton: 30% to 50%

Berkeley: 50+%

Duke: 50%

UCLA: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: This will be a tough call for you at HBS for reasons you note: three years in no-name software company is off their radar and they will have nothing to compare you with in terms of job selectivity or other applicants from the same firm.  I take it that not many from your firm apply to B-school and that is another issue.

The LDS mission, especially to Japan, where the language is remote (vs. Europe or even English-speaking countries) is a plus but not a dealmaker. Being a Scout Master is another small plus, but it’s not going to change the outcome. There is nothing really driving you “in” to HBS, and they prefer finance guys to work for finance companies, like banks, or Fortune-100 companies in rotational roles,  not medium-sized  software companies.   I would stress any strategic role you have at your company and its growth– the fact you have been promoted so fast and now have 10 direct reports is a plus but adcoms  may be  saying to themselves,  the equivalent of “that’s Chinatown,” e.g. that is what happens in spiking software companies with a hot product.

Chances at Wharton, Duke, Berkeley, and UCLA are on the solid side because of real solid stats and OK work pedigree with some success there. (Your job is not “Chinatown” to them, but try to make bona fides of your company in terms of size, revenue, publically traded, etc.  real clear and be especially clear about what you do there, and how that is a foundation for your goals and your need for an MBA.

You’d be better off saying you want to do consulting rather than I-banking, and with 770 GMAT, you will have a door opener at most consulting shops, who tend to put some real cred on high GMAT scores, assuming you pass the sniff test. I-banking is not a beloved goal at most B-schools, and it just makes you sound predatory and eager to catch-up on the earnings curve. Stick to talking about strategic advice and management consulting. Transitioning into I-Banking is not a smart goal for (almost) anyone, IMHO. I’d be happy to hear from applicants who said that is what they wanted to do, and succeeded, and how.

About The Author

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.