Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Mr. Software Engineer

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.74 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in computer engineering from Arizona State University
  • Work experience includes a two-year service mission to Argentina; three years at General Dynamics as a software engineer, leading several technical teams
  • Extracurricular involvement organizing weekly activities for singles; Eagle Scout who led an activity group and scout troop for teenage boys; volunteer with an international rescue committee
  • Goal: To transition into high tech consulting
  • Long-term goal: To become a high-tech entrepreneur
  • “My wife is finishing school over the next two years so I want to apply first round in October 2013.  Should I switch jobs to Intel, or another company for two years or should I aim for more leadership roles in my current job with General Dynamics?  Is there anything else I can do to improve my odds of getting in over the next two years?”
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20%
Harvard: 30%
Wharton: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: One thing you can do to improve your odds is to apply this year and not in two years, especially if you stay at GD. Applying from the fifth year at the same company is not as much in the sweet spot as applying from the second year of a second company (ideal) or the fourth year of first company.  Adcoms have also said, e.g. at recent forums, that three jobs can smell fishy, just some general info for our readers, although there are exceptions.  Also, you want to be 28 at matriculation and not 29. It makes a small difference for techies. Schools wink at 29-30-year-olds for exotics like Mr Ex-Pat above.

But in your case, well, it begins to smell old, and why not, they think, hang on for another bit and go for an EMBA. That is the general thinking if all things are equal. You note that your wife is finishing grad school next year, and I assume you don’t want to uproot yourself while that is happening. The “penalty” of being 29 is probably not going to flip an outcome in your case, so you might take this small bullet for the good of family harmony.

Given that, as to staying at General Dynamics or moving to Intel, that is a tuff call. If you could establish yourself at Intel and get great recs, well, Intel is a great brand, although so is General Dynamics because they actually make stuff with the logo on the outside. My guess is Intel sends more kids to H/S/W than GD, but that could help you. Not sure there is a bottom line here. My gut reaction is for you to stay at GD where you know the terrain. Intel is a volatile and intentionally “paranoid” environment and you can get slimmed there by not fitting in or being unlucky despite all your best efforts.

As to your other story, 3.7 in Computer Engineering and 720 GMAT are serviceable but not barn burners, and what seems like your strong Mission to Argentina (I am assuming LDS) is alas, processed by adcoms as a fine LDS mission but it is hard to get extra traction out of that. Adcoms respect LDS missions but they see a lot of them  Guys like you get into HBS and Stanford but they usually have some X factor I may not be seeing here, some accomplishment set or extracurriculars, which make them stand out.

You say: “Organized and implemented weekly activities for singles (1 year);  Lead and organized an activity group and scout troop for teenage boys (300+ hours yearly;  I am an Eagle Scout);Volunteer with the International Rescue Committee helping refugees write resumes and improve interview skills (1 year).”  Pal, I would stress the rescue committee work, and if that is significant, you got a fighting chance, especially if you can link it up to language skills or interests you developed in Mission. Scouting is not a preferred extracurric among B-schools adcoms, although, sure they respect it.