Handicapping Your B-School Odds

Mr. Green

  • 730-750 GMAT ((haven’t taken yet, but I teach test prep for a living)
  • 3.45 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in public policy from Duke University
  • 3.95 GPA Master’s
  • Master’s degree in creative writing from an artsy-fartsy East Coast liberal arts college
  • Work experience includes four years at a Bay Area think tank doing education research; one year teaching test prep in Bangkok for a major American company; after earning the MFA, became a hotel reviewer and photographer for a New York City web startup that went bust
  • “Couldn’t find another job, dabbled in editing, freelanced, tutored, Have had some things published in respected lit journals and websites, including The Huffington Post, but nothing major.
Eventually took a job as an instructor and curriculum-developer for a small American education company in Shanghai just to put an end to the growing black hole on the resume. “
  • Extracurricular involvement as a tutor for underserved local children in college; New York Cares volunteering in NYC; started playing chess and competed successfully in several local tournaments; various charity runs (with several high finishes, actually)
  • Goal: To get into the green sector, either via a for-profit (green energy consulting) or NGO (species or habitat protection).
  • “A you can see, it’s been a long strange trip, and I totally understand that when both prospective employers and B-school adcoms see my resume, fair or not they’ll see someone who hasn’t been able to commit to a career path. In short, I want to hit the reset button on my career and with my scattered history, I see B-school as the best way to do that.”
  • 33-year-old male

Odds of Success:

Duke: 20% to 30%
North Carolina: 30% to 40%
Michigan: 25%
Berkeley: 20%
Cornell: 35%
Carnegie Mellon: 35% to 40%
Notre Dame: 35+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, it’s a roll of the dice and hard to predict.  You need to

  1. Get that 730-750 GMAT
  2. Stress the one part of your career that is solid, “4 years at a Bay Area think tank doing education research . . .”

Saying you want to work in green energy is nuts and desperate, and not a “reset.” It is a reincarnation, which is something B-schools do not believe in. You have a solid enough ‘education’ theme, given the think tank and your volunteer work, to cook something up that is much more convincing, either online education (find out the major players and say you want to work for them), or educational technology, or educational consulting, not the lone practioners who help get kids into college (that would be me), but advisors to educational organizations on issues like government relations, technology, human capital. Find out if major consulting firms have educational focuses, and say you want to work for them. OK, I just did that, check out this, from McKinsey!


“We serve a wide range of education clients spanning school systems, vocational, and university education. In the past five years alone, we have worked on more than 400 education projects in over 60 countries.. . .At any time, we have over 70 consultants working on education projects around the world, many of whom have previously served as teachers, policy makers, institutional leaders, researchers, and education entrepreneurs.

“Our work focuses on the most pressing issues facing educators today:

–System performance transformation

–Education for employment

–Talent and performance management

–Administration and operations

–Institutional improvement . . . .”

Blah, blah, blah.

Dude, are they calling your name or what?????

The trick is to seem employable. Your biggest problem is not the periods of unemployment, it is your age. Thirty-three is pushing it, but it could fly at places like Duke, Darden, Cornell, Carnegie-Mellon, especially if you retool yourself along the lines above.

Scary, but getting that GMAT score will really make a difference–both for getting into B-school and getting a job at a solid management consulting firm.  Guys like you were meant to be consultants.

Once you feel the fire, and find out more, you can rev yourself up to submit a powerful and passionate application.