Assessing Your B-School Odds


Mr. Sociology

  • 700 GMAT (Q42, V44)
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in sociology and philosophy from non-Chapel Hill UNC campus
  • 3.8 GPA in graduate school
  • Two years of graduate study in sociology from a middling program (left before earning MS)
  • Work experience as project manager at a research institute for the trucking industry; four years as a senior project manager for a travel behavior data collection consultancy
  • Extracurricular includes lots of small things, but nothing demonstrating leadership
  • Goal: To start consultancy “at the nexus of government and private sector with a focus on shaping industry regulatory rule-making’
  • “Handsome, personable 29-year old white guy from modest means (first-gen college)”
  • Would love your perspective on:
  • 1. The impact of the abandoned earlier graduate study (essentially, the program was ridiculously poorly run and I realized too late that I didn’t want to be an academic).
  • 2.  How far does GMAT go as you move down the rankings?  At what differential between a program’s mean GMAT and a candidate’s high score does the prospect of raising the mean compel a program to overlook everything else?
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3.  How much does current employment influence adcoms?  I feel there is about a 50% likelihood my firm will have gone bankrupt before the time adcoms are reviewing my app.  What would look best on the resume?  Finding another job in current field or something unusual (Americorps, teaching English in China, etc.) for the year before enrollment?

Odds of Success:

UCLA: 30% to 35%
Cornell: 40% to 50%
Texas: 40% to 50%
Carnegie: 30% to 40%
Emory: 30% to 45%
USC: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Dude, you are a solid (my view), handsome (your claim) guy with a tight story about how your career and major in sociology (both at the B.A. and “A.B.D” grad levels) feeds into your post-grad work as researcher, think-tanker, and consultant for the past six years and how that, plus an MBA could lead to some gig in a transportation-focused consultancy.

We got a 3.4 from satellite UNC campus, a 3.8 grad GPA and a 700 GMAT.  You say “reach” schools are UCLA  (3.5/710), Cornell (3.3/697), UT- Austin (3.339/681), Carnegie-Mellon (3.35/690), Emory (3.40/680), and USC ((3.32/690). But as you can clearly see, on stats alone you are in-line for those places, and I think the maturity of your story and its connectedness would be a plus. Six years of work experience (on top of two years of grad school) makes you pushing 30 by my calculations, which may be a small negative.

But I would say your only “reach” school is UCLA, which is the highest rated of your selections (by U.S. News’ ranking) and the only school where you marginally fall below the average on both GPA and GMAT. I think with solid execution and good recommendations, you have a chance at all of those places. And a very good chance at the ‘let’s hope schools you list –Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rice, ASU, Texas A&M, and UC-Davis.  I agree that you should get into Boston College, Boston University, Rochester, Irvine, and UT-Dallas, if you can convince them you want to come.

Be sure to be specific about how hirable you are and note your contacts in the field. The fact that you are not a job switcher and not a dreamer should make you attractive to them. Basically, you are getting your ticket punched to move up the status pole, which is the “secret sauce”  and hidden motto at most of those places.

Someone want to do the Seal with the Latin subtext? What is “Up The Greasy Pole” in Latin, anyone?

As to your specific questions:

1. The impact of the abandoned earlier graduate study . . .

That means zilch. Join the club. Lot’s of folks do that for many reasons. The real important thing is that you got the 3.8 GPA in grad school, which shows them you can 1) Sit still.  2) Eat s**t. Those are the two most important traits (to an adcom) of a successful student in any program, B-school being no different.

2.  Does a GMAT premium set in as you go down the rankings? Does the prospect of raising the mean compel a program to overlook everything else?

A new GMAT for you that is 20 to 25 points above a school average, in your case, would allow you to get into most of your reach schools. If you got that 720, it’s nice and again, in your case, solidifies the case that you are a solid dude, and that is more important to schools per se in making a decision about you  than you raising their average GMAT score by some .1 or .2 percent. In your case, the difference between a GMAT of 700 and 720 would not be so big a deal. But it would be nice, because they are not going to have any doubts about your basic smarts or student aptitude and attitudes (see above about the 3.8 grad school record).

3.  You asked: “How much does current employment influence adcom?  I feel there is about a 50% likelihood my firm will have gone bankrupt before the time adcoms are reviewing my app . . .but what would look best on the resume?  Finding another job in current field or something unusual (Americorps, teaching English in China, etc.) for the year prior to enrollment?”

Hmmmm, being unemployed is often bad luck and schools do not like unlucky students because they have a fear that they will be unlucky in the future.  Given the fact that one of your biggest assets is a ‘tight’ story, I would suggest getting a job in your current field, even if it is part-time or nominal. I would NOT join Americorps, etc. We all like those organizations, but that is just off-message for a guy with your history.