Your Chances Of Getting A Top MBA

creditcardguyMr. 2+2


  • 720 GMAT (expected)
  • 3.85 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree will be in engineering and political science from a public school in the Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Work experience includes internships at a boutique operations consulting firm and as a consultant at a large global firm (think Deloitte/Accenture/Booz)
  • Extracurricular involvement working with administrators to improve student projects on campus and allocating millions of dollars to student groups; peer advisor to incoming freshman engineering students; treasurer for a fraternity, managing a $50,000-plus budget; held a leadership role at an educational non-profit coordinating a staff of 80; co-founder of a group that helps students connect with local non-profits
  • Short-term goal: “It’s hard to get attention at a non-target public school from the likes of Bain/McKinsey/BCG. I’d like to use an MBA to open the door at one of these firms.”
  • Long-term goal: “I’d like to work at one of the big 3 for several years, and then jump over to private equity a la Mitt Romney. Using my engineering background, I want to work for a firm that has operations specialists like TPG Capital.”
  • Plan to apply to Stanford and Harvard 2+2 programs in the fall of 2014
  • 21-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard (2+2): 20%

Stanford: 15%

Sandy’s Analysis: Can you do me a favor and let me use something you wrote to  give you and anyone else reading this a billion dollars of free advice?

Here is a quiz.  Name five things wrong with the following sentence.

I’d like to work at one of the big three for several years, and then jump over to private equity a la Mitt Romney. Using my engineering background, I want to work for a firm that has operations specialists like TPG Capital.

Answer, especially for 2+2 kids.

1. Mitt

2. Romney 

3. Jump over to private equity 

4. “Use my engineering background” in the same sentence as “TPG Capital.”

5. Not only uttering the words “Mitt Romney” but preceding “Mitt Romney” by the INCREDIBLE phrase “a la.'” 

Don’t get me wrong. I personally like Mitt Romney and so do a small minority of leading business school professors. It’s not a Mitt Romney problem, per se. It’s your Gee Whiz and naive plan to follow in the footsteps of Mitt Romney and use your engineering and MBA degree to get into a Big 3 consulting company as part of a premeditated plan to “jump” over to private equity, which for the record, was not exactly what Mitt Romney did. He was told to help begin the private equity arm of Bain Consulting, by Mr. Bain himself, and by all accounts of it (well by Mitt’s account of it, when he was  running for President), he was none too pleased with the assignment and spent the first  years at Bain Capital having nervous fits and wondering why he just could not return to being the very successful consultant he had been.

OK. point made. Nobody really cares about whether Mitt really enjoyed making millions at Bain Cap or, “aw shucks” wished he were back just shooting the breeze at Bain Consulting. What we do care about is having your otherwise pretty solid story become shipwrecked with what appears to be a goal statement that both in content and tone is damaging.

For openers, 2+2 programs, especially the HBS 2+2 program, LOVE engineers and other STEM types. They do not love financiers, or future financiers, or PE guys, or a la Mitt Romney guys.  But, yes,  even if HBS does not love 2+2 finance types, when the smoke clears, some big chunk  of the 2+2 cohort are kids with Wall Street-type work experiences. But those kids are there not because HBS loves them per se, but  because many of those kids are extraordinary high performers and charming and smooth talkers from H-Y-P-S who often say they are actually interested in making the world a better place somehow and they only took those nasty Wall Street summer jobs to find out how icky they are. Like getting vaccinated against The Crud. They certainly do not say they want to do anything “a la Mitt Romney.”

Remember that the original purpose of the HBS 2+2 program was to find college seniors who otherwise might go to law school and sew them up for HBS instead, have them work two years wherever, and then capture them for B-school.  As the program developed, it pivoted (my favorite word although it is becoming over used) away from saving law students from the law into a new mission: attracting STEM-major types who otherwise might do something productive with their lives, like oh, build a highway, or design a water treatment plant, or create an iPhone app to keep Beer Pong scores.

Over time, as law became toxic,  STEM became  the dog and all the rest is the tail, viz.,  miscellaneous disillusioned pre-laws, confused liberal arts majors and some oddball scrum of do-gooders.

Got that? If not, don’t worry. Just take your 3.85 GPA, your 720 GMAT, your parade float of extracurriculars (Student Government, working with administrators, peer advising incoming first-year engineering students, frat  treasurer, member of  educational non-profit which serves over 5000 students internationally, and co-founder of a group on campus which connects students with local non-profits) and organize them in some plain and simple way.

Just say loudly and clearly, that YOU WANT TO BE A CONSULTANT WHO USES ENGINEERING SKILLS TO HELP REAL COMPANIES DO GOOD THINGS, or that you WANT TO LEAD SUCH A COMPANY YOURSELF. Give examples of MBA engineers who have done that.

As to attending a public, out-of-the-mainstream ACC school, an issue you raised, well HBS loves that too, provided that you are a real hick or can pretend to be one.  What they don’t want is a hick who has spent his college years  using a  Mitt Romney poster as a substitute for Playboy centerfold. Love engineering, love operations, love real centerfolds, and love leadership. Keep it that simple. No need to talk about the centerfolds in your app, however.