Your Chances Of Getting A Top MBA

sales guyMr. Insurance


  • 163 V; 157 Q GRE
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in history from UC-Berkeley, earning degree in three years “because I was completely self-supportive in college”
  • Work history includes six years of experience at four different insurance companies; currently an underwriter at AIG for the second time
  • “I first joined AIG from 2008-2010, left for a couple years and went to see “what’s out there” in the world of insurance (I did a bit of soul-searching to see what I really wanted to do insurance and where exactly I wanted to work). After realizing that there wasn’t much out there, I rejoined AIG in 2012.”
  • Extracurricular involvement as a member of the CPCU Society Diversity Committee (an insurance organization for holders of the CPCU designation) and the LGBT employee resource group at work; enjoy running and do at least one marathon a year
  • Short-term goal: To join a fast-track Leadership Development program, preferably at AIG.
  • Long-term goal: To become CEO of a major insurance company
  • First generation college student, born and lived in Vietnam under the age of eight
  • Bilingual in Vietnamese and English
  • “Difficult upbringing – family lived in a housing project and on food stamps for most of childhood”
  • Interested in Wharton, UT Austin and Wisconsin due to their strong insurance programs
  • 29-year-old gay Asian male from the U.S.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 5%

UT Austin (strong insurance program): 25%

MIT: 10%

Duke: 10%

Michigan: 10%

UCLA: 10%

USC: 15%

Yale: 10%

Columbia: 5%

Cornell: 20%

Kellogg: 10%

Wisconsin (strong insurance program): 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, we have several compelling elements here: 1st generation college student, immigrant (lived in Vietnam until 8), family lived in U.S. housing project on food stamps, and  left Berkeley after three years to join workforce because college was self-financed. Your work history also has some compelling issues, including working for AIG as an insurance underwriter, and then leaving AIG to look around, and then returning to AIG!!!

On the other hand, you have some  hills to overcome: a 3.2 GPA,  working in Insurance underwriting (not a favored field at top B-schools) and six years of experience at four different insurance companies.  Also, age 29 is not a plus.

You suggested retaking the GRE to get a better Q score and I agree. Your current Q GRE is 157 (~70 percentile) which is not a disaster, given that what you do at work as an underwriter is probably nearly as quanty as most business schools need to get, but it would show effort and make it easier for schools to give you a break.

I do not think you are getting into the full-time MBA programs at Wharton, HBS, Columbia, MIT, Kellogg, USC or UCLA. Those schools do not see themselves admitting 29-year-old insurance guys to transform them into 32-year-old insurance guys, which is what you say you want to do, en route to being an insurance company CEO.

Any former  insurance underwriters at those schools, and they are not plentiful, probably has  really solid stats.

I think the comment I posted in the last profile, about the guy with the 3.0 and 690 GMAT is relevant here: he got dinged at Duke, Darden and Ross, and admitted at Cornell, Tepper and Georgetown.

Your story is, on balance, less powerful than his because he was younger, had a solid GMAT, and was in a more selective field. I’m no expert on Wisconsin and UT-Austin, the schools you note with strong insurance programs, but those are worth trying as reaches. Both schools have average GPA and GMAT scores higher than yours, although your strong insurance background and success may help.

Because you are already six years into your career, at a leading insurance company, and you want to return to insurance, and because you are 29, have you thought about executive education programs? Once again, I’m no super expert, but this Wharton program which advertizes itself as the (Wharton) AICPCU: Insurance Executive Development Program (IED) seems like a possibility  (ahem, once you get past the IED part).

That program says that their typical candidate “is an executive in claims, insurance underwriting, information technology, or human resources at the vice president, manager, or director level.”   Don’t let the vice-president stuff throw you. When those programs list who they consider to be the ‘average’ candidate, well, take it with a grain of salt. There have to be lots of other programs like that, and they seem tailor made to your story and desires. I’m not sure you need the full Monty two-year program.  You said your short term goal was to  “join a fast-track Leadership Development program, preferably at AIG.” How hard is that? Wont some Exec-Ed program, like the Wharton one above, do that?

Comments or questions about this article? Email us.