Handicapping Your Odds Of Getting In

Ms. Project Manager


  • 660 GMAT (61%Q/84%V) second attempt
  • 3.67 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in liberal arts from New York University, graduating cum laude a semester early
  • Work Experience includes one and one-half years as a project manager in a New York City government agency and currently two years as a project manager for a well known non-profit in New York City
  • “Had worked in a male-dominated field, managing men 4 to 40 years older than me”
  • Short-term goal: To work as a non-profit consultant at an organization such as REDF, CRE, TCC group, which prize previous work at a management consulting firm
  • Long-term goal: To launch my own environmentally-focused social enterprise
  • “I know that I can handle the quantitative side of the program, but I am taking Accounting and Finance Math/Statistics to prove my quantitative chops”
  • 25-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Yale: 20%
Berkeley: 40%
Northwestern: 30% to 40%
Dartmouth: 20%
Texas: 50%
Georgetown: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Some of this may turn on what your target schools feel about your current job as “a project manager for a well-known non-profit in NYC.” I personally have never really understood what a “project manager” title means although I get the idea of project management generically.   Has anyone from your current organization applied to B-school? Is that a common career path?

That is an important line of inquiry because adcoms are trying to figure out how selective the job is as an easy filter to judge your application. Your first job, “1.5 years working as a project manager in a male dominated field and managing men 4 to 40 years older than me for an NYC Govt. Agency,” sounds really grim, and one asks what kind of job is it where a recent college grad gets to do that??? For application purposes, I would describe both jobs in ways that short-circuit such (obvious) thinking.

“Short Term Goal: To work as a non-profit consultant at an organization such as REDF, CRE, TCC group, etc. which prize previous work at a management consulting firm.”  Fair enough but make it clear that those firms also hire people like you with MBAs because you will not, at the point at which you enter the job market, have management consulting experience? Or am I missing something?

As often noted here, you can never go wrong by stating as a short-term goal that you, in fact, want to enter management consulting for a couple of years. You can even pick some MC shops, which have a focus or practice area on non-profits.

“Long Term Goal: With the skills and connections obtained through my MBA program and consultant position(s), I want to launch my own environmentally-focused social enterprise.”

It would help, just for optics, to name some role model firms or to pick an area of practice. You say “environmentally-focused” but does that mean something like the Environmental Defense Fund or the World Wildlife Fund or are you using the word ‘environment’ as a placeholder for generically do-gooder goals to be decided later? Given that a good deal of the story you present (project management; managing older men in NYC; low-ish GMATs; goals) is on the ‘soft’ side of things. It will really help you to sound focused and tough.

You said, with respect to your low Quant GMAT score that you took,  “Accounting and Finance Math/Statistics to prove my quantitative chops.”  Talk more like that in your real application. I think your target schools will forgive the low-ish Quant score on your GMATs quicker than a general impression that you are not focused or serious.

Yale used to be the default choice for applicants with your social enterprise goals but the school is trying to toughen up its stats and reformulate its rep into more mainstream general management. See Can “Ted” Snyder Work His Magic On Yale’s School of Management?, a Poets&Quants article about its new dean, who wants to  “better promote the school and dispel enduring perceptions that SOM is a non-profit school, largely focused on soft skills.” Yale’s average GMAT score in the recent past is surpassed only by HBS and Stanford (and barely). So for those reasons, I think chances there are remote.

Dartmouth has high average GMATs as well, and won’t see any clear reason to make an exception in your case. You are not in their bread basket. You would fit in better at Kellogg, just based on experience and goals, but they will get to choose from similar do-gooders with better stats and more selective work experience. Georgetown might prefer to take risky cases like you from different industries. Berkeley is an acceptable reach, UT-Austin and Georgetown are OK maybes.

If getting in is super important, I would look at schools ranked 15 through 25 in U.S. News and see which of those is congenial and likely to lead to a consulting gig.

I might change my mind about all of the above if you current job is more selective and well known than I imagine and if you toughen up your entire approach to goals and job descriptions.