Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

female designerMs. PR Pro

 

  • 720 GMAT, 94 percentile (46Q- 71 percentile, 44V- 97 percentile)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in English from a top ten Ivy
  • Was pre-med for two years, completing substantial math and science coursework Work experience includes two years in communications at a blue chip consumer packaged goods company, managing communications strategy for product launches in a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of beauty and personal care brands “Led social media communication strategies for two brands, both of which have been recognized by senior management for best in class (externally and within the company) social media performance. Received highest possible rating for first-year employees”
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer for a literacy organization; now VP of marketing and communications
  • “I’m working to create a social media presence for the organization while also getting coverage in local news media to attract new volunteers and to increase donations. I just started in this position so I don’t have firm results yet, but it’s looking promising so far”
  • Other extracurriculars include member of three teams at work that aim to foster a positive company culture and supportive work environment
  • Short-term goal: To contribute more effectively to CPG marketing through a communications lens.
  • Long-term goal: To help emerging businesses or non-profits tell compelling stories and communicate effectively with their audiences
  • 24-year-old Asian female

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 30% to 40%

Northwestern: 50%+

Columbia: 50%+

New York U. : 50%+ (full-time), 95%+ (part-time)

Sandy’s Analysis: Ouch, this is getting boring, but you should consider HBS. Stanford is small and snotty, and a lot could turn there on the fact that both your GPA (3.5) and GMAT (720) are below their averages (3.69 and 729) and they might ask,  “with WHAT EXACTLY to tip the balance?” Let’s go to the tape?

  1. Ivy education–good
  2. 24 years old–primo
  3. Female, Asian–good
  4. Work experience–2 years in Communications at blue chip Consumer Product Group (CPG) –hmmm, maybe. Stanford is the biggest “brand slut” of all schools, see the statistics marshaled in the book Poets&Quants’ Editor John Byrne and I did, Handicapping Your MBA Odds by John Byrne and Sanford Kreisberg, advertised endlessly on this page, to wit, these statistics from page 30:  “roughly 34 percent of Stanford’s Class of 2013 boast one of just six firms listed on their resumes– McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman, Morgan Stanley or J.P. Morgan/Chase.”  Note well that those same companies provide only 17.8% of the class at HBS and 19.0% at Wharton. So what does that mean for you? It depends what they think of your actual employer, what its history at Stanford is, and what they think about working in communications in that company. Has anyone from your company or division ever applied to Stanford and what outcomes?  That is always a key question.
  5. Work Experience (detailed)–“Led social media communication strategies for 2 brands, both of which have been recognized by senior management for best in class (externally and within the company) social media performance. Received highest possible rating for first-year employees.” Good. The intersection of social media and some fuddy-duddy CPG company is a hot topic or can be made to sound like one, and it sounds like you got the real goods here. This is real solid, and the issue becomes, what do you do with it? How does it impact your future and how does it fit in the class mosaic?
  6. Stardust–“Started as a volunteer teacher for first-graders [of what organization??] , now VP of Marketing and Communications. I’m working to create a social media presence for the organization while also getting coverage in local news media to attract new volunteers and to increase donations.” High potential but as you note, you are just starting. Optimizing this gig, e.g., in an essay, could be more important than you think, since it provides a faint fingerprint of what you could become and it is at the “intersections” of volunteering, education, and social media, all Stanford hot buttons.
  7. Goals–Short-term: “Contribute more effectively to CPG marketing through a communications lens.” BARF. Long-term: “Help emerging businesses or non- profits tell compelling stories and communicate effectively with their audiences.” Well, right idea in the abstract but needs to be fleshed out by finding something a bit more concrete–and then you need to retrofit what came before it, in terms of jobs, volunteering, etc. to make it all seem like the Yellow Brick Road. The past and future will mediate each other in working out that idea. Just say you want to combine  social media, “big data,” and what you learned about consumer preferences at your CPG job with  your success with volunteer orgs.  The outcome, ta da,  to be a leader and innovator at a company with innovative, cutting-edge products, and also to continue your passion for helping volunteer groups. Plus, you  want to continue to be influential at increasing “quality of life” for peeps who work at companies, similar to what you have already done at your CPG company, to wit, “member of three teams at work [which] aim to foster a positive company culture and supportive work environment.” As I often note, it would help to find role models of leaders who have done, that or have taken a company halfway to the Promised Land in doing that, and say you want to continue that journey. You got a lot of “honestly-earned” buzzwords in your story. You have to use them as building blocks of a passionate and specific story (well, specific within limits, given we are talking about things 10 years out).

Ha, ha. And now the $64K Question. Would all that jive, even if correctly stated,  be enough at Stanford to overcome your whopping  nineteen basis points of a ‘sub-par’ GPA and nine COLOSSAL points of a sub GMAT??? (And, truth be told, a 71% Q score, which is actually a tad low).

Not to mention Stanford’s well-kept truth that dare not speak its name– their secret predilection for the fuddiest and the duddiest of Gold Plate feeder companies (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman, Morgan Stanley or J.P. Morgan/ Chase.)?

Too close to call, but, of course, I have called it above (admission chances 30-40 percent) based largely on the fact that your Stardust component at Stanford, volunteering with that education group, is not yet fully developed and sounds limited in scope (a lot will depend on the size of the organization) to begin with. You will really need great recommendations, recs which document your innovative successes (prepare your writers for this) and also project your impact as an innovator in social media (prepare your writers for this, too). A wild card is what Stanford thinks of your company. CPG is not a sweet spot for them but every school needs a CPG cohort and Stanford is so hidebound and traditional and elitist that they might get that full cohort (barring break-out exceptions, affirmative action, and development cases, none of which is you) from one or two favorite companies. Is your company on that list? What is application history of kids from your company? That could be a big deal in computing your odds, but there is nothing we can do about.

Phew, after this exhausting crucible of analysis (inspired in part by your full and detailed report, so profile wannabes take note) I am taking a deep breath and saying the lack of Stardust might in the end, sink you. You need to max that, both in the remaining time before applying, and also in how your talk about it. Have your Stanford peer rec written by someone on one of the teams you lead at  work which “aim to foster a positive company culture and supportive work environment” and have that person say, SURPISE, she  actually has changed the culture here,  in addition to walking on water while tweeting.

Well, as you can tell, I’m rooting for you for some reason, probably because your original profile request was in full English sentences and easy to read, well, among other reasons, I got a soft spot for Communications types (calling Dee Leopold) and if you really squeezed the lemon as suggested, it could happen. All that said, as with the first profile in this bunch, WHAT IS WRONG EXACTLY WITH HBS?????????

They are more friendly to CPG types, and, more importantly, have more room to begin with, even if, as one could argue, the filter is not all that different. You really need to apply there.

Other schools you note: Kellogg, Columbia, NYU Stern (full or part-time). These should be in-line if you can convince them you really want to come.

Kellogg would put you on the cover of their View Book (or whatever it is called), you are just about the Gibson girl over there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Gibson_girl

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About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.