What Are Your Chances Of Getting In


Ms. Sales

  • 700 GMAT
  • 2.89 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from a top 35 liberal arts college
  • “In my sophomore year of high school, my brother was killed in a car accident, at which point my father had a heart attack and declining health. During my sophomore year in college, my father died and it was really tough to concentrate on school.”
  • Work experience includes four years at an asset management firm, working as an internal wholesaler; promoted several times and won several contests for productivity and highest sales, including bringing in more than $200 million a year; currently work in sales, managing a territory, for a small market research/consulting firm; also help run a dessert catering business on the side
  • Extracurricular activity includes volunteering for an organization that runs charity races; also work with elderly, helping them with personal finance matters
  • Goal: To work for a startup or possibly start my own business someday (have proven success at delivering results and turning small territory into something bigger)”
  • 27-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 15%

MIT: 15%

Tuck: 20%

Yale: 20%

New York: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: I’m not seeing this as HBS or MIT. You have too many weaknesses, in terms of both low GPA, and what appears to be sales jobs for little-known “asset management” shops doing something I confess, ‘internal wholesaling” that I do not fully understand. But I got a picture of it being convincing existing clients to buy stuff they may or may not really need.  The fact that you were super successful at it, and won contests, can come back to bite you in the odd world of Elite Business School admissions: those schools don’t usually go for candidates whose jobs are subject to contests in the first place–or commissions. It sounds too much like Glengarry Glen Ross. You second job, “in sales at a small market research/consulting firm . . . manage my own territory . . .” is similarly infra dig at most elite schools.

Sorry, giving it to you straight. I’m as impressed by your overcoming adversity, volunteering, and sales successes as all our readers will be, but some things weigh more on Planet Adcom than others, and your real-world pluses don’t fully get the value they deserve.

You say, “Goal: work for a startup or possibly start my own business someday, have proven success at delivering results and turning small territory into something bigger.” Yup, all that is true, but that is not what most business schools want to hear, since you are positioning yourself as a super, and generic, sales gal. In this context, the word “territory” has negative overtones. We begin to think of Death of a Salesman, and while Willy Loman has become the most famous literary character in 20th Century American Literature, and an award winner for the many fine actors who played him over the years, he is not headed for a Top-10 business school.

My cold-shower suggestion is to say you are interested in being a consultant to boutique firms who advise banks, financial service firms, etc. on marketing, and you got the natural skills and work history to wrap around that story. That won’t get you into HBS or MIT, but it may give you a fighting “reach” chance at places like Chicago and UCLA in the Top 10 and a solid shot at schools like Ross, McCombs, Darden, Tepper, and Johnson, where your energy and sales mojo could actually get that job (consulting at boutique firms often involves, horrors, selling).  And who knows, going to one of those schools might get you in a mix with classmates who do, in fact, start a business, so your original dreams can come true. I’m rooting for you.

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