Calculating Your B-School Odds

Mr. Corporate Development

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from Ivy League school
  • Work experience includes two years at a bulge bracket investment bank (Lazard/ Credit Suisse/JP Morgan); worked in Latin America M&A team; and two years in corporate development for a large west coast consumer/retail company (Levi’s/ Nike/Starbucks).
  • Extracurricular involvement in minority business programs; led team of students in a consulting project for economic development; alumni interviewer for undergraduate school
  • Goal: To work for a consumer/retail focused private equity fund
  • 25-year-old Hispanic male and first-generation college student from South Central Los Angeles

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 35%

Stanford: 25%

Wharton: 35-40%

Berkeley: 50+%

Dartmouth: 30-35%

Yale: 35+%

Columbia: 35%

Sandy’s Analysis: The 720 GMAT may help soften the 3.2 (as will the fact the 3.2 was in economics at an Ivy) and the Hispanic-South Central-Ivy personal story is solid. The move from IB to corporate development might be suspect to cynics (and adcoms are cynical) as representing a slower track, and such a move is unusual. The fact you seem to be at brand-name company is a plus.

Soooooo, in total, we got a good ‘identity politics’ story, a low-ish GPA, a good GMAT, a good first job, a maybe 2nd job, and real strong extras. Phew, hard to know how that all pours out of the cocktail shaker.

I’m not sure your saying you want to focus on consumer/retail private equity is the right goal. It sounds like you are trying to prove something to the guys back at the IB. You might do better saying you want to go into strategy consulting as a gateway to running such a company, or starting one focused on ethical trends in retail. The way guys like you get into Stanford is if your company has connections (calling Nike!!!!) and that tilts you over, e.g. a real powerful recommendation and maybe a phone call from someone who is a player at Stanford. That, plus solid execution. Guys like you get into and dinged at HBS based on execution, connections, luck, recommendations. Ditto Wharton, but that 3.2 may hurt you more there, they are picky about core numbers. Other schools you mention should be in range if convince them you want to come.

You’re a volatile case, and could go either way, the real key for you is to somehow reposition the second job as an opportunity and not a come-down. In order to do that, you need to show that 2nd job is gateway to goals, and I don’t mean ‘retail’ private equity. Execution for you really matters (e.g. more than for most people who have more simple stories to tell) because of the 3.2 and 2nd job, so we gotta wind up reading your app, and liking you, and understanding why experience so far, and projected goals, and extras, all support each other.

One unknown for applicants in Round One next year will be the “Romney-effect” on private equity (assuming Mitt is the candidate vs. Obama). My guess is private equity will always get a fair-to-mildly-pro-biased hearing in B- schools, but there will be a residue negative effect, viz, that many private equity wannabes (that is YOU) vs. seasoned practitioners, are just looking for a quick payday and a low tax rate.

That is part of the reason I advise strongly against saying private equity. That might be an OK thing for a current PE guy to say, but you are a wanna-be, and subtly, that changes everything.

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.