Handicapping MBA Applicant Odds


Mr. Bio-Pharma

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, with a biological engineering certificate, which required extra coursework
  • Work experience includes three years in a rotational program through manufacturing and R&D at a top pharma company, with two years undergraduate co-op experience at Abbott Labs
  • Extracurricular activity is fairly weak; have done sporadic volunteering through career network; free time is spent playing sports or doing personal fitness; expect to be certified as a personal trainer within the next year
  • Goal: To leverage my technical knowledge of biotech and pharma to work in private equity or venture capital
  • “I have a much greater inclination for the business side of things and do not want to remain on the technical side for my entire career”
  • 26-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30+%

Stanford: 20%

Wharton: 50+%

Chicago: 50+%

Northwestern: 50+%

MIT: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: You got a lot going for you in terms of HBS bio-science sweet-spots. They claim to be looking for dudes like you, and to some extent they are.

Your grades are on the low side for Harvard and Stanford, although Chemical Engineering is a serious major. Did you get better grades in your certificate program? Or is that baked into your GPA?  If not, that could help and be part of an alternative transcript.  You say “undergraduate co-op at Abbott Labs for 2 years . . . . Post graduation work at top-level pharma company in a 3-year bio-pharmaceutical rotational program. Rotations in R&D and manufacturing.”

Jeepers  man, HBS admissions director Dee Leopold gets more excited reading that than the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.  If your rec writers are supportive but inexperienced in creating grad school “advert-mendations,” you may need to help them out by reminding them of the projects you have done, and looking up ‘emotional intelligence” on Google and editing a list of workable terms they can plug into your story. You might also find a pal with HR experience to help you vet the output.

Your lack of extras might be a small shadow at HBS, but given their new “two pic” application, you can do some work jive for what you do well and talk about how you  could have been a better innovator on projects where you did not go beyond the call of duty.  It sounds the right bell if executed well.  As to your plans of going into PE or VC, hmmmm. That may in fact happen, and in the real world, happens a lot, but on Planet Admissions a better story might be leading an innovative start-up or a happening division of an established bio-pharma company-–see the Stanford press release noted above — OK, here it is again–which seems to favor that kind of career versus finance or VC.  HBS and Stanford have plenty of guys who have already been doing VC and PE as applicants and are just checking-in to grad school  to get their tickets punched.  A role the schools are happy to play, in an elite and limited fashion. At any rate, they don’t need more people trying to do that.

Not a big deal, but my advice about how to project your goals at Stanford  is to think about being  a start-up innovator or new-wave “manager/mentor” in one of those flat environments they keep harping on. HBS would prefer that as well, they seem to now consider ‘leadership’ as a suspect category.  You say, “I have a much greater inclination for the business side of things and do not want to remain on the technical side for my entire career.”

Dude, hush your mouth about that. It sounds like burnout. You be loving tech and want to be a Ninja-mentor, super- innovator and a Post-Millennial Aunt Jemima in creating pancake flat environments for all that marvy voodoo to happen.

I think you got a shot at HBS, as noted, “a 3-year bio-pharmaceutical rotational program” might stop the doughty Dee in her usually forward-moving tracks, and you have a fighting chance at Stanford, especially if they like your current company.  Wharton, Chicago, Kellogg, Sloan—I’d say odds at those places are 50+ percent if you execute with sincerity on how they meet your needs. That should be easy with Wharton (HCM) and Sloan. Kellogg and Chicago don’t seem like natural fits, but everybody loves bio-pharma.

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