- 680 GMAT (57%Q/93%V)
- 3.81 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in political science and international studies from a respected liberal arts college in the South
- Work experience includes current position as the communications manager at a big K Street association representing a heavily regulated industry; had moved up the ranks on Capitol Hill, working as the press assistant, then deputy press secretary for a since retired but much admired Senator and as communications director for a House member
- “From my work on the Hill, I can speak extensively about positioning difficult issues, working with top tier media, and building social media infrastructures for a national figure at a time when the technology was new to politics. I can also talk about efforts to change the communications practices of a media-shy industry and demonstrate the value of engagement on social media.”
- Extracurricular involvement in college on student programming board, sorority, Mortar Board officer
- Short-term goal: To first work in consulting, “helping companies see the value of and create healthy working environments and capitalize on the technologies available to make that more accessible, even for smaller firms. I can connect this back to my work on the Hill (health care debate, witnessing the challenges facing Hill employees because of barriers to adopting new technologies) as well as my personal activities (running and yoga enthusiast).”
- Long-term goal: To start a business that would help companies adapt to the new digital culture and expectations of a new generation of talent
- 29-year-old Caucasian woman
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 30% to 40%
Sandy’s Analysis: Well, as they say, Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, and B-schools love both Hollywood and Washington because B-schools love POWER centers. They will credit your time in Washington so long as you have been successful, social, smart, and “managed up” with cranky power brokers. That seems to be your case:
“After undergrad, I . . . moved up the ranks on Capitol Hill, working . . .for a since-retired but much admired senator . . . then communications director for a one-and-done House member . . . Since then, I’ve been a communications manager at a big K Street association representing a heavily regulated industry, and have some good success stories to tell there about my work and involvement in high-level projects.”
That is a great career for a future B-schooler because it shows you can roll with the punches, get along with losers, and pivot to the safe harbor of K Street. For our international readers, K Street is an avenue in Washington, D.C. known for its brothels, drug dens, open toilets, and lobbying industry headquarters. So far, so good. Let me note, however, that working for a “single industry” lobbying firm, as you do, “representing a heavily regulated industry,”may not be as prestigious on the K Street food chain as working for a high prestige lobbying organization filled with ex-elected offiicials and government insiders, although I am no K Street expert.
If that heavily regulated industry is tobacco, well, you got some explaining to do, but my guess is, you are not doomed by that per se. If the industry is alcohol, well, everyone loves making booze companies more responsible, which is what you can claim you want to do. If it is trucking, well, we all love trucks.
As to your goals, “With an MBA, I’d like to first work in consulting, helping companies see the value of and create healthy working environments and capitalize on the technologies available to make that more accessible, even for smaller firms. I can connect this back to my work on the Hill (health care debate, witnessing the challenges facing Hill employees because of barriers to adopting new technologies) . . . .”
You got the right instincts here, including a career in consulting (always a good one thing to say as we have noted many times, and consulting shops like your type). You are also correct to connect that career, in however a spidery way, to activities you have already done.
As to the particulars of your goals, as you present them, I think promoting yourself as an evangelist for firms to create “healthy working environments and capitalize on the technologies available to make that more accessible” is too gauzy and unclear. Using technology to create healthy work environments? That could work if you were an environmental engineer but that does not seem to be the case. “Eventually, after getting more for-profit experience in consulting, I’d like to start my own business, so it’s important to me to go to a school with a strong entrepreneurship element.”
Well, starting your own business is an OK thing to say, but in your case, it would be after becoming a success as a consultant in some traditional setting, which is not entrepreneurship as that term is now being used. You would basically be forming a break-away firm. So you don’t need a school famed for start-ups. More importantly, your story has a lot of loose ends as presented, and entrepreneurship is another one. You need to tighten this, not make it more hairy.
You worked in Washington and you are now at an industry association, those experiences have given you an interest in ( or “passion” if you can muster the stories to support it) helping companies and organizations manage regulatory hurdles, expand etc. . . .especially companies which have lots of government engagement. What sub-sector of that pie works for you depends on your experience. You could also work for a consulting company which makes government itself more lean, mean and effective. Try looking at the resources of the McKinsey practice which does that. You’ll find this amazing piece of headline writing:
Hmmmmm, putting words like mojo and heavily regulated industry together in your goal statement is a useful exercise.
OK, let’s go to the tape: 30-year-old, female, with a 3.81 GPA from a “respected but not top liberal arts college” 680 GMAT (57%Q, 93%V) and “I’m studying to retake.” HBS is an acceptable reach if you get your Q score up and somehow execute in a way that leads them to think you are a hidden gem of some sort, full of insights in how government works, how regulated industries work, how you are going to be impactful leader in something as a consultant.
You were able to introduce social media to a tech-shy culture like Congress, but I am not sure how much mojo that has, given that Congress is a one-off, sink-hole. But yes, the idea of you as change agent is good. And getting results in a difficult environment is a good story for many schools. It is just not a defining story for HBS unless it deeply resonates with your goals and those goals, by themselves, are powerful.
As for INSEAD, Georgetown, UVA and UCLA….
You say you are leaning towards INSEAD? Why? You give up all your Capitol Hill advantages there, in terms of contacts, mystique, value-add to the class, and even getting a U.S. job, which is where I see this headed? Georgetown seems like a slam dunk here, given your D.C. connections, background and their own numbers (3.32 GPA, 683 GMAT, and an admit rate of 49.4%!!!). I’d say UVA goes for profiles like this as well. You will be employed at graduation one way or the other. You already know the South and have thrived there (to the extent that UVA is really the South) and you are friendly and popular.
At UCLA, you’d be a breath of fresh air although they may wonder about taking you so far away from your DC and Southern roots, where your heart and connections seem to be. You will need to make a solid California case in that application and I am not sure you easily can. Regulated industry association, K Street and The Hill — those are just about as Eastern and inside the Beltway as a story gets. I don’t know what you really want to do but for purposes of applying, I’d embrace the Eastern story. That is what you offer your class in terms of work background diversity and that is where you see yourself headed.