Handicapping Your Personal MBA Odds

Mr. Physics

  • 750 GMAT
  • 3.65 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in chemistry and physics from a tier three U.S. school
  • 3.40 GPA (master’s)
  • Master’s degree in physics from a top ten U.S. school
  • Work experience includes more than one year as a business analyst at Accenture, working mostly in pharma; more than two years as a research assistant/research fellow in physics
  • “I was a doctoral candidate during this time, but never defended my dissertation bc my adviser kept moving the goal post once I told him I was leaving academia to go into business”
  • Extracurricular involvement includes mentoring students in math and science
  • “I lived in a housing project as a kid, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. Many of my family members on my mother’s side still live in that neighborhood. Both of my parents are immigrants and I am the first in my family to graduate from college.”
  • Goal: To join a biopharmaceutical company, preferably a small to midsize biotech, working in portfolio planning; and eventually reach a director-level position
  • “My fiancée is also looking for post-doc or lectureship positions and of course we’re trying to end up in the same city.
  • 29-year-old Hispanic American

Odds of Success:

Dartmouth: 50%+

Harvard: 30% to 45%+

MIT: 50%+

Columbia: 50%+

New York: 60%+

Duke: 70%+

Stanford: 30%

Chicago: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we got here is an Hispanic dude (29 years old) from a deprived background, with a 750 GMAT, 3.65  GPA from a tier-three school in science, lower grades in tier-one physics PhD program (try to explain what your grades were vs. department average, re: your note “The physics department grades very hard and has the lowest average GPA in the graduate school . . .”), a bunch of pre-Ph.D. research gigs, a couple of publications, and then a shrewd move to Accenture where you do (for the past two years, at matriculation) mostly pharma, including product launch, clinical development, and lifecycle management i.e. minimizes sales lost when a blockbuster goes generic. . . . .”

Sounds solid to me, man. The only small glitch is your low graduate school grades (which you can explain), backed up by a 750 GMAT.  Most grad school GPAs are high because, well, you’re supposed to be an expert by that point (if anyone has MY grad school transcript, well, stop smirking but English Lit is way harder than physics. It’s way more complex than physics. It’s meta-physics! Ever try threading your way through a poem by George Herbert?).

I don’t have a granular understanding of your goals, “I want to join a biopharmaceutical company, preferably a small to midsize biotech, working in portfolio planning” which you explain later as,
 “a great area to gain useful knowledge about all aspects of a pharma company . . .[it]  requires knowledge of R&D, sales, marketing and analytics . . . .” Well, I still don’t know for sure but it sounds like brand management, and a good choice. You don’t have to be that precise about the size of the company or the function, although you should mention portfolio planning as one road to your ultimate goal: to be leader of new developments in pharma such as blah, blah, blah (whatever they are—cost containment, generics, research initiatives, new regulations, aging population, etc. (Not a bad set of guesses from an amateur, see below.)

Read an annual report and do some Google work to get the right buzzwords and concepts. It is amazing how many industry insiders cannot clearly articulate the big picture challenges facing their own industry (not saying that is you, but just saying). Here is what you get after 3 minutes of Googling:

A 2011 Wakeup Call for Pharmaceutical Companies

Today’s Pharma: Big Challenges, Big Expectations

and many more, usually presentations, with power point slides, by consulting companies.

This phenomenon (of actually doing research as part of your business school application process)  is also worth keeping in mind as you do interview prep, which often (especially at HBS) asks you “What problems are facing your industry?” I often do a better job improvising on this than the kid who is getting a mock interview and actually IN that industry. HBS also often asks, “What do you want your classmates to know about [your country]?” and, again, I can often do a better job of listing macro problems facing China, Germany, Brazil, etc. than the natives I am mock-interviewing.

OK, back to you –your entire story synchs up, go lightly on reasons for dropping out of the PhD program. Just say you got more interested in business applications of science  than in research.

As for your target schools, Hispanic male physics majors with 750 GMATs are pretty rare, and you have a shot at all those places, especially when we add in your background and extracurriculars.  At Stanford, the trick will be to make your goal statement more do-gooder tilted –which should be easy in your projected line of work -– and crafting a “What Matters Most” essay which leverages your “for-real” identity politics strengths..

HBS takes kids like you all the time, it is “just” a matter of execution and recommendation massaging (if your rec writers have not done this before) and not blowing the interview. Other places should be in-line.  MIT will take ANY minority with a 750 GMAT (barring something very, very odd) and at other places, it is just a matter of convincing them you want to go. You don’t seem like a natural Fuqua applicant, so that could be an issue.  If it comes down to you wanting to attend  an unintuitive school like Fuqua because of issues with your fiancé, it might help to mention that directly in some way.

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