Handicapping MBA Applicant Odds

Mr. Systems Integration

  • 710 GMAT (Should I retake?)
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Work experience includes two years with Deloitte Consulting as a systems integration consultant after college internships with Amazon, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble
  • Extracurricular activities include being co-founder of a non-profit in Baltimore to create policy debate programs for public inner-city high schools; also started an alumni branch for the organization and continue to judge tournaments; volunteer at local soup kitchens; policy debater in high school and college.
  • Short-Term Goal: To shift from technology to management and strategy consulting
  • Long-Term Goal: To shift to industry general management role in the tech sector
  • Concerns: “Most of my projects at work have focused on systems integration which isn’t perceived as a sexy field. GMAT score is lower than the median at some of my target schools.”
  • 24-year-old, African-American male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%

Stanford: 30% to 35%

Wharton: 50+%

Northwestern: 50+%

Berkeley: 50+%

MIT: 50+%

UCLA: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: What we got here is a AA-M-STEM (African-American Male STEM) with a 710/3.6 which is a very strong profile indeed, including your internships at blue chip firms and what sounds like some solid if boring years at Deloitte (no one cares how boring it is, and some kids at M/B/B and Goldman will be happy to match you hour for hour, spreadsheet box for spreadsheet box in the World Series of boring gigs). Plus you have some super-duper community service  extras, including actually working in a soup kitchen.

The trick in making systems integration sexy is to go lite on the tech stuff and just focus on solving problems by  working with different groups (techies, clients, non-techies in your firm, and any other group that comes to mind), and if you are rolling your eyes and saying that 99% of your work is you spitting on plugs and kicking mainframes while alone in a jungle of code and hardware, well, my friend, just take that one percent which is not that, or even the .01 percent (what I am earning on many of my cash investments, not kidding) or even the two times in your work life you actually interacted with other humans, and talk about that.  Many applicants with overwhelming people stories often get overwhelmed, so consider yourself lucky.

A 710 GMAT for an African-American male is rare, according to rumor and lore, if anyone has stats on that or other rumors, let me know. There are lots of AA females with 710+ GMATs but the whispered truth is that guys are hard to find.  All that being said, if you think you can do better, sure, take it again, it’s a pain in the butt, but so much in life is a pain, and the payoff is rarely that high.

You say, as goals, “Shift from technology to management and strategy consulting  . . . Long-term – Shift to industry general management role in tech sector. Want to be at intersection between technology and business.” Bingo.

Just make that case. It is right on the money. For HBS you could tell two stories: 1. I’m good at working with the many parts and personalities and diverse people in computer integration projects—and give examples, even if based on ‘nano’ evidence.   Then say you could have done better in building out your non-profit if you thought more like a manager, concerned with getting others to help you versus  operating like a passionate do-gooder  and doing too much yourself. You can also flip those stories.

For Stanford, just find the key growth, failure, learning moments in your Nabe work and hit on those as to what matters most. Don’t do a victory lap, do a learning lap.  We implicitly get the major good stuff. They like to see growth, setbacks, lessons and personal value creation. I’d say your chances at other schools you note, Wharton, Northwestern, Berkeley, MIT, UCLA are real solid, given the above. You just need to take a hot tub or have a few drinks or whatever you do to get real relaxed and convince yourself about how challenging and humanistic your job is.

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