Can You Get Into A Top MBA Program?

Mr. Accountant

  • 720 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting at a large state school
  • 4.0 GPA (Master’s)
  • Graduate degree in accounting at a large state school
  • Work Experience includes one year in a Big 4 accounting firm and currently two years in investment management at a large institutional mezzanine debt fund
  • Extracurricular involvement in multiple leadership roles at college fraternity; competed in triathlons and several sports teams; competed in case studies winning best on campus and top ten in country
  • Goal: To transition to a strategy/corporate development position in a Fortune 100 corporation
  • 26-years-old

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%

Stanford: 10%

Wharton: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: I’m assuming you are a white male. As often noted, accounting majors are not a favored group at HBS and Stanford, although you could help answer the question, “What does a white, male accounting major, with a masters in accounting no less, who worked for a Big Four accounting firm, have to do to get into HBS or Stanford?” Well, you need really good stats, and your 4.0 (twice) and 720 GMAT are that, you need to get out of that Big Four firm and get a way better job, and here you appear to have done that (”2 years in investment management at a large institutional mezz debt fund”) and you need some X factor, to which you say, “Multiple leadership positions within fraternity at school. Compete in triathlons and on multiple sports teams (both during and after school). In school, competed in multiple case studies (winning best on campus, Top 10 in country).”

Hmmm, we are going to call that X-1.

Sports and case study comps are fine, but they do not engage the magic lever, “having an impact beyond yourself. ” What would that mean in your case, well, for example using your accounting background to teach bookkeeping to those recently flush guar farmers in India featured in this wonderful story in The New York Times, “Halliburton’s loss was . . . a rare victory for the littlest of the little guys in global trade. The increase in guar prices [a necessary additive in fracking] is helping to transform this part of the state of Rajasthan in northwestern India, one of the world’s poorest places. Tractor sales are soaring, land prices are increasing and weddings have grown even more colorful. ‘Now we have enough food, and we have a house made of stone,’ Mr. Singh said proudly while his rail-thin children stared in awe.”

I think helping Mr. Singh understand double-entry bookkeeping (not to mention helping me understand that!) would get you further with Derrick Bolton at Stanford than your exploits with your Rugby pals, although let me say, I like you fine. So, a good deal at HBS and Stanford may turn on how you can spin your leadership and extra-curriculars and also just what you mean by, “2 years in investment management at a large institutional mezz debt fund . . .” and what its pedigree and record is with adcoms.

As noted frequently, the most important element for high-performing Big Four types is how prestigious a gig you managed to hustle busting out of there. What is record of your firm sending kids to HSW? If strong, well, you are an attractive particle coming out of that explosion (the one that saw you leave the Big Four, sorta like Superman’s parents leaving Kryptonite, sorry if I got that wrong, but you know what I mean).  Your chances at other schools, including Wharton, are real, real solid depending on serviceable execution.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.