Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

Geeky GuyMr. IT Director


  • 750 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in information technology from Capella University online
  • 4.0 GPA (Master’s)
  • Master’s degree in IT management from Capella University
  • “I graduated with an associate’s degree from a community college and started working full-time at 20”
  • Work Experience includes two years as the IT director of a community college in a mid-sized agricultural community in California, seven years as a lower-level IT manager and four years as a software developer
  • “I stayed in the area a lot longer than I wanted for family reasons but am now trying to move upward and onward. I started at the college as a software developer, left for a year and a half to a private company and came back to take a management position”
  • Extracurricular involvement in cryptography (code breaking), 5th/6th grade basketball coach (one season) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Goal: To eventually move up into a CIO position in a Fortune 500 company
  • 34-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10%

Stanford: 5%

Wharton: 15%

MIT: 15%

Berkeley: 30%

Michigan: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, I like you a lot but HBS, Stanford, Wharton and Sloan probably will not although why exactly is worth teasing out.

1. You are too old, at 34 with seven years of work experience, you would be heading into EMBA territory, even if you had a GPA from a non-online university.

2. You do not have selective jobs: Being the IT guy at a community college is an important job in the real world, and might register as a passable one-off job if presented correctly, but your trajectory of doing this, doing a private job, and coming back to this (even if sympathetically explained as some family emergency) supports the view of you of smart, ambitious, non-traditional, and un-pedigreed (in both schooling and jobs!). A woman or minority with your story + a 750 GMAT + capstone job at Google, could be in the running for H/S/W, but you are not a woman and do not work at a GOOG-type company. If you did, you might even get by as a male!

3. Extras: code breaking, Jiu-Jitsu etc. are stuff I enjoy hearing about but the ladies on the adcom may score that as yet several more odd mosiac tiles in a picture which is becoming increasingly odd and risky. Non-traditionals, like you, need to work every normal angle they have and not shove more potentially weird stuff in the adcom’s faces.

4. “Future plans: I would like to eventually move up into a CIO position in a Fortune 500 company.”  That is sort of OK although where you get Fortune 500 from given that most of your work experience has been in community colleges could raise a flag: adcom ladies may read you as just some out-of-it weird case  too busy in his basement working with code-breaking, Juiu-Jitsu, and probably porn (code breaking may be read as a semi-proxy for that, or ways to get into restricted sites).

Advice: Drop the code-breaking and Judo, normalize this profile as much as possible, say you want to go into IT management, which means consulting (possibly for non-profits) or sure, helping innovative and growing companies (not only Fortune 500) deal with IT.  You will still need to address the age issue, since getting a job at a consulting company at age 37 or so when you graduate, will be difficult. It could happen if you have IT skills. They often blink over IT. If you get that 750 it may help since that may open doors for top consulting companies. If you got a 750, you might have an outside shot at Sloan with perfect execution.  Haas and Ross are good picks, as would be UVA and Duke, especially if you nail that 750.

My guess is, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton are open to some applicant from Capella U and its online peers, just to show that they admit some of everything. But I don’t think that poster boy will be you–too old, too boring, two many testicles (altho it is mostly age and boring). What you need to focus on in any case is not how different you are, but what impact you have made at jobs, especially recent ones, and how that impact is the foundation for a career that envisions using IT to make life better, make your company better, make customers happy. If you get that jive down, and apply to schools ranked 6-15 in P&Q or US NEWS, you may find success.

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