Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

Mr. Black Belt

  • 680 GMAT (Estimated)
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Dual French and American citizen. Undergraduate degree in finance from a well-known state university
  • “Not good at standardized tests so this will be my weakness”
  • Work experience includes four years as a financial analyst for a top tech company (think Apple, Oracle, Microsoft), with three promotions since starting; led Lean Six Sigma project saving more than $300K, involved with other projects and mentoring new comers
  • Extracurricular involvement includes having served as student body president for the college of business, ran student run programs for mentoring, founder and president of the only school investment club; now an active member of College of Business Alumni club, alumni mentor to current students, regional representative, Black Belt in a martial arts discipline, 
previously competed nationally in the sport
  • Goal: To work in corporate development M&A for a tech company
  • 27-year-old white male with dual citizen in the U.S. and France

Odds of Success:

Dartmouth: 35% to 40%

Northwestern: 35% to 40%

Cornell: 50+%

Yale: 50+%

Michigan: 50+%

Virginia: 40% to 50%

Georgetown: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: This is a tight package since it all lines up: A 3.6 GPA from a solid state school, four years as financial analyst for a leading tech company, real good extra-currics  (student body president of some kind, founder of investment club, mentoring) and finally your goals, which is “to work in corporate development M&A for a tech company.”

The dual French-American citizenship and your martial arts Black Belt are nice window dressing.  If you get that 680 you should be a strong contender at your target schools–Tuck, Kellogg, Cornell, Yale, UVA and Georgetown-–because your goals build out from what you are already doing, and GPA is fine, and you have better than average extras.

You seem to have your head screwed on right and to be a guy who can get that job in a corporation. I’m not sure you need to say “to work in corporate development M&A” for a tech company. Just say you want to take a leading corporate finance role in a tech company, and name  finance leaders at your company and its peers—Apple, Oracle, Microsoft—as role models of the type of impact you want to have. “M&A”  is only part of that role and you calling it out reveals, just a little bit, some lurking IB/PE itch which– while certainly OK to keep in your pants, and even try to execute once you get on campus –should be considered an uninvited guest at the party you are attempting to throw here with the adcom. To wit, a party for a solid, employable, likeable, mentoring Corporate Finance Type, not a Jet-Set fete for Masters of the Universe.

FYI, and for the information of our general readers, at places like HBS and Stanford, some of the extras you list– like starting an investment club and being an active member of the College of Business Alumni club —  are considered self-serving (although still box-checking) versus doing extras which have an impact beyond yourself, for example, starting a club which tutors poor kids about money.

All schools respect student body presidents, mentorship, and your other extras.  You seem pretty Tuck-y to me. They like student body presidents (even if, in your case, student body president of the business college) and hyper-active types like you. Your entire story will also go down well at other schools you mention. If you do get that 680-700 GMAT, you might also think about HBS and Wharton as reaches. You’re a totally solid guy with a blue-chip employment history and an acceptable GPA, lots of extras, and a clear idea of what you want to do—that is sometimes enough at HBS and Wharton. With serviceable application execution, you should be a solid candidate at the other schools you list.

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