Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

Ms. I-Banker

  • 730 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate and master’s degrees in economics from top Chinese universities
Work experience includes two year in investment banking in Hong Kong, mainly doing IPOs; also starting up a small business with friends in parallel to the full time job
  • Extracurricular involvement in a leadership position for a university volunteer association; competed on national TV for the university
  • Goal: To start my own financial consultancy company

27-year-old Asian female

Odds of Success:

Stanford (dream school): 10% to 20%

Harvard:  30+%

Wharton: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis:   As to Stanford, your dream school. A lot depends on what bank you work for and if they have any Stanford contacts. Stanford has the biggest “side” and “back” doors of any B-school in the world, especially compared to the righteous and grandstanding BS on their website about sustainability and transparency and  saving the planet and Derrick Bolton’s (the adcom director) protracted and misleading  and faux-authentic sermonizing about what they look for in each essay.

AS IF . . . . If Stanford ever published a collection of the entire set of any year’s WHAT MATTERS MOST essays, Bolton would not be able to appear in public for about decade without having tomatoes thrown at him.   A great number of those admitted essays, pace the heavy-breathing advice on the Stanford website,  would be strung together and obvious clichés from kids who were otherwise working for “connected firms.” This point has been confirmed, albeit indirectly, by Poets&Quants tabulations of feeder firms to Stanford which shows that the top firms feeding kids into Stanford are more concentrated than at any other top B school.

You got a nice story and acceptable stats and have a real chance through the front door at HBS and Wharton.  At Stanford, if you are applying as an outsider, what the rest of the world calls a regular candidate,  1. You don’t have any real “save the world” BS which they seem to like from people who are not connected to important firms and donors, and 2. While all your accomplishments are fine they are not startling.  Starting a small business with friends is not something they are interested in, unless the business was selling products made by lepers.  Appearing on TV is a good item for Stanford (and every other school) but unless you won the Chinese equivalent of The Idol, it is not going to break down the front door at Stanford, which unfortunately is where you seem destined to be knocking.

“Goal: starting my own financial consultancy company.” Hmmm, that is also,  not by itself, a “Stanford-y”  idea. You might say leading a company that offers financial advisory services to under-served groups. Or sumpthin’ like that.

At HBS and Wharton, although you did not ask, this will play much better, and to be fair, both of those schools have more spots to give away. Solid execution and some more focused goal statement would put you in the running at those schools.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.